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Six years ago, it started with a movie — “Mighty Uke: The Amazing Comeback of a Musical Underdog.” “The movie had just come out, and since we had grown our Lansing Area Ukulele Group to quite a big membership, I thought that they ought to come and show the movie,” said Ben Hassenger, founder and organizer of the Mighty Uke Day festival. Since then, Mighty Uke Day has grown into a weekend-long festival with performances and workshops all over in Old Town and beyond. Every year, Hassenger has tried to add new components and improve on the previous festival. “Mighty Uke Day 3 we added Friday night concerts to the mix, just as an experiment, and that went over well." Hassenger said. “Mighty Uke Day 4 we added Friday afternoon workshops and a flash mob to kick it off on Friday, and Mighty Uke Day 5 was the first time Gary Stump brought the Guinness Book of World Records giant ukulele to the festival. Mighty Uke Day 6 we moved it to Dart Auditorium, because LCC radio is helping to sponsor that.”
This year, Mighty Uke Day 7, will offer more activities for children, including a ukulele puppet show, a ukulele “petting zoo,” where children can try out a variety of instruments, and beginner ukulele lessons. The weekend also offers nine featured performers, as well as over 20 free and paid classes, performances and activities. Profits from the Mighty Uke Day Festival support Music is the Foundation, a nonprofit that funds music programs in local schools. The weekend, Hassenger said, is a chance to share his love of the instrument. “My experience with the ukulele is some people kind of pooh-pooh it,” Hassenger said. “When people put those preconceptions aside and they actually experience it and see how much joy it brings to everybody, they really get into it. There’s just such a variety of music that can be played on the ukulele, from jazz to classical to hip hop to whatever else,” This love is shared by ukulele teachers and performers Heidi Swedberg and Daniel Ward, who headline Saturday and Sunday and will direct some of the workshops. “I love that Mighty Uke Day utilizes the talents of the people who are within the ukulele community in Lansing,” Swedberg said. “When people make the effort to learn to play, we can join in a much deeper way. Anyone who’s ever picked an instrument up, they then listen to people perform it with completely different ears.”
Mighty Uke Day 7
May 12-14T (See website for prices and locations) mightyukeday.com