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Hiawatha Music Co-op hosts 5th Annual Yooper Uke Week

From left, ukulele enthusiasts Ben Hassenger, Michigan's ukulele ambassador, and Jeff Krebs, co-owner of Yooptone Music and "leading champion of the instrument in the area," will perform a kickoff concert from 6-8 p.m. today at Blackrocks Brewery as part of Yooper Uke Week. (Courtesy photo)

MARQUETTE — The Hiawatha Music Co-op will celebrate its 5th Annual Yooper Uke Week today through Saturday.

Programs are free to all participants and are made possible through the generous support of the Hiawatha Music Co-op, Ben Hassenger Music, Music is the Foundation, the Peter White Public Library Carroll Paul Memorial Fund, Blackrocks Brewery and a grant from Arts Midwest, organizers said.

Today, Yooper Uke Week brings two of Michigan’s ukulele enthusiasts — hailing from downstate and the Upper Peninsula — together for a fun outdoor concert from 6-8 p.m. on the new stage at Blackrocks Brewery in Marquette. The event is open to those 21 and older.

Ben Hassenger is known as “Michigan’s Ukulele Ambassador, bringing the joy of the uke to classrooms and communities across the state,” according to a release from organizers. Jeff Krebs is a co-owner of Yooptone Music in Marquette and has been “the leading champion of the instrument in the area for years,” the release states. Both are accomplished musicians and songwriters and are teaming up to provide the community with an enjoyable evening of original music along with a selection of popular covers.

Joining them will be local musicians Brent Graves and Doug Kitchel.

For those interested in attending virtually, the concert will be live streamed as part of the Hiawatha Music Co-op’s “Live At The Fold” concert tonight on the Hiawatha Music Co-op’s Facebook Page.

“I was born and live in Lansing, but I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for the U.P.,” said Ben Hassenger, Michigan’s ukulele ambassador, in the release. “My father’s side of the family is from Ishpeming and I now own the family home on Deer Lake Road.

“I was looking for ways to bring the aloha spirit of the ukulele to the Marquette Area and teamed up in 2016 with folks at the Hiawatha Music Co-op to found Yooper Uke Week. Over the years, we’ve worked with various classrooms, libraries, senior centers, and other facilities across Marquette and Alger counties conducting workshops, leading group strums, and performing in concerts. Two-thousand-twenty has presented some special challenges, but I’m happy that we can keep the Yooper Uke Week tradition alive. The Uke is small but mighty and can overcome whatever is thrown at it.”

Wrapping up events on Saturday will be a series of uke workshops for a variety of ages. Programs will be offered in the open-air tent at Blackrocks Brewery. This includes a Ukulele 1-2-3 beginning workshop for all ages from 11 a.m. to noon; Too High? Too Low? Transpose! (a next level workshop for all ages) from 12:30-1:30 p.m.; and a Community Strum (open group community strum — 21 and over only) from 2-3 p.m.

“We are excited to have the opportunity to share Yooper Uke Week with the community again this year although it may look a little different,” said Sue Bertram, Hiawatha Music Co-op events chair and board of directors member, in the release. “To ensure that everyone feels safe and comfortable, we have taken extra COVID-19 safety precautions, are hosting all in-person events outdoors, and have virtual programming available for those who would like to participate from home.”

Participants attending the in-person activities are asked to only attend if they are feeling well, to wear a mask when not seated at their table, and to respect social distancing guidelines outlined by Blackrocks Brewery, which donated space for the event.

The Hiawatha Music Co-op is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing and promoting traditional music and dance; educating and informing society on traditional American music; and encouraging the appreciation of traditional music through the offering of its annual traditional music festival and other traditional music programming throughout the year.

For additional information on Yooper Uke Week activities, visit the Hiawatha website at www.hiawathamusic.org or Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/HiawathaMusicFestival. Blackrocks Brewery COVID-19 policies are available at: https://www.blackrocksbrewery.com/covid19

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