TEACHING ARTISTS

We’ve got an amazing group of teaching artists on board this year to lead you through fun and challenging workshops at Royal City Uke Fest. Check out our roster of ukulele goodness. *Workshop descriptions and schedule to come by late spring/early summer, stay tuned.

Neal Chin

Award winning artist and Maui, HI native Neal Chin, has been both an ‘ukulele educator and performer over the course of his musical career of 20 years. His clear and direct enthusiasm for music has come to life in countless workshops, concerts, and private instruction. While his heart is in jazz, Neal has played with many musicians of different genres including Hawaiian, folk, rock, and hip-hop. His contribution to the collective The Akira Project, won his first Nā Hōkū Hanohano Award in 2014 before moving up to the Pacific Northwest. Since then he has been nominated for the Nā Hōkū Hanohano Award for ‘Ukulele Album of the Year two years consecutively for ‘Ukulele Paintings and The Spotless Mind in 2017 & 2018, started his own ‘ukulele practice in the Pacific Northwest, and has toured across North America and even back to his home state, Hawai’i. Neal currently lives, teaches, and performs in Seattle, WA. www.nealchin.com/

 

Ukulenny

Lenny San Jose, aka Ukulenny, is a performer/educator based in Oakland, California. A music addict from the beginning, he grew up playing piano and guitar and eventually expanded his musical skills to over 14 instruments. He received his B.A. in music from UC Berkeley, participating in the Cal Marching Band on alto saxophone, and singing in the Gospel Choir, and moonlighting on the cello in the UC Berkeley Summer Symphony. Shortly thereafter he earned his teaching credential at CSU East Bay and taught in Oakland and Berkeley public schools for 5 years. During that time he fell in love with the ukulele and practiced nonstop during his daily train commute, sometimes teaching ukulele to random commuters. 


Since 2011 his YouTube channel has gained over 70,000 subscribers and countless ukulele fans around the world, and he has performed and taught at the San Francisco Summer Uke Fest, Los Angeles International 'Ukulele Festival, Mighty Uke Day and Midwest Ukulele Camp in Michigan, and workshops nationwide. As an endorsed Kala artist, Ukulenny creates content for the Kala website and app, and travels with Kala and NAMM Foundation for trade shows, workshops and ukulele circles throughout the year. He also teaches 6-week ukulele classes in Albany, CA and makes the occasional library and school assembly appearance as well. www.ukulenny.com

 

Aaron Keim

Aaron Keim is a historian, banjo picker, ukulele ambassador, old time songster, luthier and author. Aaron has been teaching ukulele and banjo techniques and performing at festivals since 2004. As an educator with a bachelor's degree in Music Education and a master's degree in Musicology, his true talents lie in his ability to adapt instruction to fit a wide range of learners and learning styles. Aaron is an ambassador for old time folk music in the ukulele world, adapting banjo and guitar techniques to the ukulele (including playing in the "clawhammer" tradition). His YouTube instructional videos have gained a worldwide following and have led to teaching and performing opportunities in N. America, Europe and Australia.  Aaron is also a luthier, building as Beansprout Musical Instruments since 2007. www.thebeansprout.com He plays in a duo with his wife Nicole called The Quiet American and a string band called The Junebug Boys. www.quietamericanmusic.com

 
 

Diane Nalini

Diane Nalini is an award-winning jazz singer and songwriter. She has released four critically-acclaimed albums, with a fifth album, “Future Perfect”, out this year. Diane has performed at jazz festivals around the world, and given gala performances for President Bill Clinton and Sir Paul McCartney. She was nominated for the Grand Prix de Jazz at the 2002 Montreal International Jazz Festival. An accomplished songwriter, composer, and lyricist, Diane has written or co-written songs that have been used in films, television shows and video games. After misadventures on the nylon string guitar, she discovered her “Goldilocks” instrument: the ukulele! Since then, she’s been studying with ukulele maestros Sarah Maisel and Craig Chee, and has also taken advanced workshops with jazz ukulele legend Benny Chong. Diane recently launched the website Ukulele For Jazz Singers (ukuleleforjazzsingers.com), a free online resource for people who want to learn jazz chords on the ukulele. Diane gives workshops in songwriting, jazz singing, vocal improvisation, and jazz and bossa nova ukulele. She has over 20 years’ experience as a classroom educator, including at the University of Guelph and Carleton University’s Learning In Retirement programme, where students have commented: “Diane’s enthusiasm for her subject was infectious.” “She is very approachable… I would highly recommend her to everyone who loves music.www.dianenalini.com

Ben Hassenger

Ben Hassenger is well-known across North America as "Michigan's Ukulele Ambassador" and carries out his important duties with an enjoyable mix of expertise and positive energy. He teaches ukulele to students and teachers in Michigan school systems, seniors at Prime Time in East Lansing, as well as group and individual ukulele lessons at Elderly Instruments, Interlochen Center for the Arts, and Michigan State University’s Community Music School. With a degree in Special Education, he has worked as a music facilitator with special needs children. Many of these programs are sponsored by the Music is the Foundation 501(c)(3) non-profit that he runs. 

 

He plays ukulele solo and in The Ukulele Kings and is the co-founder of the Lansing (MI) Area Ukulele Group, the founder and organizer of the Mighty Uke Day festival (Lansing, MI), Interlochen’s Uketoberfest (Interlochen, MI), the Upper Peninsula’s Yooper Uke Week (Marquette, MI), and Midwest Uke & Harmonica Camp (Olivet, MI), as well as the Music Coordinator for the Ashkokan Uke Fest (Olivebridge, NY). He has traveled across the United States, Canada, Mexico, and various Asian countries; teaching ukulele and English as a Second Language at various festivals and schools.


Ben is also a prolific songwriter, with two of his songs about the Detroit Tigers enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. Ben’s a fun and involving performer with a variety of original songs about dogs, food, love, Michigan, and the other important things in life. www.benhassenger.com

 
 

Cynthia Kinnunen

Cynthia is a music educator, researcher, songwriter/arranger, performer, advocate for music education and community music. A Level 3 James Hill Ukulele Initiative teacher, Cynthia currently wears many teaching hats, including providing private music instruction in ukulele and piano; ukulele community classes and workshops locally and internationally; the Royal City Ukulele Ensemble adult learning program; has been a sessional lecturer at the University of Guelph; and is a member of the James Hill Music Team. In the last year, she’s gone back to school to pursue a Masters in Community Music part-time at Laurier University and has a strong interest in adult learning and community music making. You may also know her as the founder and director of the Royal City Uke Fest!

 

Influences have ranged from early 20th century big band to 80s one-hit wonders, baroque chamber works to the rhythms of world music, renaissance folk songs to 70s punk. She is also a solo performer and half of the bass/ukulele duo Transit Lounge. Passionate about the role that music can play in our lives, our homes and our communities, she encourages everyone to learn and make music, no matter their age or ability. www.cynthiakmusic.com

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