Olivet College recently hosted a very unique set of visitors — the Midwest Uke and Harmonica Camp. The camp, now in its fourth year, has grown to include almost 200 ukulele and harmonica musicians, instructors and enthusiasts.
The camp is produced by Ben Hassenger, organizer of the Mighty Uke Day festival, and Stan Werbin, owner of Elderly Instruments in Lansing. Ben and Stan were inspired to create a camp modeled after the longstanding Midwest Banjo Camp, also regularly held at OC. The Uke and Harmonica Camp includes immersive workshops at all levels, instructor concerts, open mic events, group strums, and plenty of time for informal get-togethers and jams.
“Ukulele musicians are a community of people who want to be together,” Ben said. “They are a really supportive group of people. The ukulele is the most ‘folk’ of folk instruments — it brings folks together! We like to call Michigan the ‘Great Uke State.’ There are at least 10-15 ukulele groups based in Michigan, and the camp draws participants from the whole country and even Canada.”
Ben emphasized that the camp is designed to be a communal and fun environment. Of the 185 participants, approximately half have attended a previous camp and half are first-time attendees. According to Ben, this dynamic makes the camp feel like a class reunion, paired with many opportunities to make new connections as well.
“The camp offers over 64 workshops from beginner to advanced levels, and also includes topics like music theory and singing,” Ben said. “This creates a community that lends to collaboration. The camp is growing all the time thanks to word of mouth and the instructors we welcome each year.”
The fifth annual Midwest Uke and Harmonica Camp is set for June 19-21, 2020, at Olivet College.