2018 Midwest Ukulele & Harmonica Camp Review

by Jim D’Ville // Photos by Steve Szilagyi

It was a stroke of genius, akin to first introducing peanut butter to jelly—a ukulele and harmonica camp! And, the relationship between these two diminutive instruments seems to be working, as nearly 200 ukulele and harmonica players overtook the campus of tiny Olivet College in south-central Michigan the weekend of June 22–24, 2018 for the Midwest Ukulele & Harmonica Camp. This was the third such event hosted by legendary music emporium Elderly Instruments of Lansing and Michigan ukulele ambassador Ben Hassenger.

Pucker up! Victoria Vox teaches her mouth trumpet workshop.

The all-star cast of performers and instructors was a virtual Who’s Who of ukulele and harmonica luminaries including Neal Chin, Craig CheeCathy Fink, Lil’ Rev, Sarah Maisel, Marcy Marxer, Gerald RossMelissa Sigh, Heidi Swedberg, Victoria VoxDaniel Ward, Sandy Weltman, Andy Wilson, Frank Youngman and this writer. With this many talented teachers the sixty classes presented covered the full spectrum of ukulele and harmonica instruction with a mouth trumpet class thrown in for good measure.

Neil Chin encouraging a student.

According to co-organizer Hassenger, “Each year at Midwest Uke and Harmonica Camp, we look to the ukulele and harmonica instructors from across North America to teach our campers new techniques and inspire them. Our 2018 camp was the best one yet, with the attendees soaking in everything ukulele and harmonica, and enjoying the workshops, faculty concerts, open mic, group strums, and jams.”


Late-night jam session.

Classes and performances were self-contained in the main campus building while meals were served in the college’s beautiful dining hall. On-campus accommodations were also available which made the event a total immersion experience. Hassenger continues, “One of my favorite things about camp is the camaraderie that develops between the campers. New friendships are established and collaborations abound throughout this immersive musical experience.”

Next year’s camp will be held June 21–23, 2019 at Olivet College in Olivet, Michigan. For more information visit midwestukecamp.com.

Group shot on Olivet College campus.

Jim D’Ville is the author of the Play Ukulele By Ear DVD series and hosts the Play Ukulele By Ear website PlayUkuleleByEar.com.