With a growing number of great ‘ukulele instructors wanting to come teach at the West Coast ‘Ukulele Retreat, it gets tougher and tougher every year to narrow down the field and make sure we have a team that will deliver just what you want: excellent instruction, engagement, variety, and a rip-roaring good time.
Dave Egan, has become indispensable as our sound man extraordinaire and his “recording studio” was such a hit last year, it’s a West Coast keeper, for sure. Not only that, he’s a great instructor for players of all levels and plays all kinds of instruments! Known for making explanations clear and logical and making the entire retreat experience fun, Dave’s goal, always, is to make sure you play and sound your best.
Jim D’Ville, too, the “Energizer Bunny” of the ‘Ukulele World, has, over the years, helped define the West Coast ‘Ukulele Retreat with his energetic, paperless string-alongs and his passion for saving our trees by encouraging and teaching us all to Play By Ear. Last year he also took on managing the camp store, selling lady’s panties (ala Victoria Vox), ‘ukuleles, coloring books, and CD’s with equal enthusiasm. And who else but someone with Jim’s talent and crazy energy could create such fabulous camp videos in such a short time? And do you want to know one of the best-kept secrets about Jim D’Ville? He is an amazing musician. We’re keeping him.
It was James Hill who first told us we needed to bring Kevin Carroll, from Austin, Texas, on board and are glad we did. He has been dazzling us these past two years with his enthusiasm, skill, generosity, and teaching style. The only folks who were disappointed were the ones who didn’t take any of his workshops. His talent and breadth are phenomenal: everything from Texas-based music, blues, soul, funk, slide ukulele, family music facilitation, ukulele ensembles, in addition to teaching beginners of all ages! And he is always bringing us something brand new, which helps make each of our retreats the best retreat we’ve ever had. Along with his terrific credentials (which include being a professional educator), Kevin, who has been called the “Pied Piper of ‘ukulele players by the Austin-American Statesman, has recently launched an ukulele-based, music education charity called edUKEcation.org which brings lessons and instruments to schools and students with limited resources. Need I say more? Kevin is another keeper and a perfect match for us.
Gerald Ross has always been another one of our favorites, but last year he outdid himself. Not only were his workshops top-notch, but he led an amazing band with some of our instructors and a couple of participants for a night of crazy 1950’s Rock ‘n Roll. Poodle skirts were swirling, bobby socks were high-stepping, duck tails were bopping, and girl groups were singing in and out of key. And if that didn’t secure his spot on the staff for this year, Gerald sealed it by leading the “Flea by Night Band,” giving everyone who attended the retreat (and could write a chart) an opportunity to get up on stage and play and sing with professional back-up. It was killer. Don’t ever leave us, Gerald.
And then there is Phil Doleman. He’s practically a household word in the UK–well, some households, anyway–but hardly anyone at last year’s West Coast ‘Ukulele Retreat had even heard of him! He soon got their attention! As an instructor Phil brings incredible experience, skill, knowledge, and charm and has the ability to reduce even the most advanced concepts into terms we can all understand. And as a performer, he is just plain fun. Even so, it turns out that we, apparently, exceeded all of his expectations, as well! Phil was stunned by the skill and musicianship of many of our more advanced students, and jumped at the chance to come back this year (in a lifeboat, if necessary) and is bringing with him a boatload of new and more advanced material, and a few other “ideas.” Blimey, Phil. I can’t wait!
So, who could we possibly add to this fabulous core of instructors who are tried and true and continue to deliver the very high standards in all the areas that our participants expect: professionalism, musicianship, teaching ability, and humor? And who would be able to fill a couple of gaps in the overall experience?
In the end, the end, they weren’t too difficult to find.
Last summer we had the extreme pleasure of working with Rhan Wilson and Rick Zeek at Camp Oo-Koo-Lay-Lay and knew in a heartbeat they’d be a fabulous addition to the West Coast ‘Ukulele Retreat. Well-known throughout the West for their increasingly popular “Matthew, Mark, UKE and John” gospel sing-a-longs (a good reason to hang around Asilomar on Sunday morning this year), Rhan and Rick are going to help us continue to deliver, among other things, a flash mob that will bring the entire Crocker Dining Hall to its feet. (After all, Heidi Swedberg left some pretty big shoes to fill.)
Plus, Rhan, recently voted the “Best Music Instructor” in Santa Cruz County, brings nearly 50 years of music study and passion to the party, along with a desire to make sure that everyone plays and performs to their top potential and everything and everyone meets his exacting standards….me included!
And Rick is a man of so many talents, we lost count! Not only is he song-leader extraordinaire, as a professional stage manager, he will give our evening performances an even more dazzling ambiance. And, he will be teaching a song-writing workshops, as well, for all you Nobel laureate wannabe’s.
We’re also delighted to introduce to you a guy who just knocked our socks off at the Santa Fe Uke-Culinary Fiesta a year ago, as a performer, instructor, and all-around-terrific-guy to spend some time with: Craig McClelland!
Craig is another professional musician (bass, guitar, ukulele, and tuba) and instructor with over 30 years’ experience and a couple of degrees in music to back him up! Plus he has a lovely, relaxed, and informative teaching style that earns top honors from his students.
But wait! There’s more! Craig also has extensive experience in live theater (both on and behind the stage and in the orchestra pit) and has been a member of numerous bands playing any number of instruments, sometimes more than one at a time. Past attendees know what that means: Nothing but fun, fun, fun at our evening events!
The latest addition to our staff this year is very dear friend of mine whom I’ve known and admired for more than ten years, master luthier (though he’d be the first to tell you he doesn’t build lutes) Dennis Lake.
“A giraffe walked into a bar…….” At some of our week-long events in Hawai’i, where we have more time, Dennis often takes a group of students through the process of building their own cigar box ukulele. And at those events we discovered that Dennis’ workshop soon became a favorite place for builders and non-builders, alike, to simply hang-out, talk story, talk ukuleles, and repair instruments (and shoes!)
So, we are excited beyond measure to have this wonderful luthier (Po Mahina Ukuleles & Guitars) join us at the West Coast ‘Ukulele Retreat this year as our “Luthier-in-Residence.” Dennis will be on hand, at his work bench, through-out the retreat to answer questions, tell jokes, make repairs, and at the same time, will attempt to build a complete cigar-box ukulele for us! He’ll also be available for free consultations, action adjustments, and strap button installations. (He can also install pick-ups and replace tuning machines for an extra fee.) Hawai’i’s loss is our gain.
And that’s it. Though I’m never 100% sure, right now I am thinking, “that’s a full lid.”