Announcing our 2019 AV Uke Fest Artists

We’ve pulled out all the stops for our fifth annual ukulele festival, bringing some of the biggest names in the uke world to our desert. Check out the bios below and listen to the Spotify Playlist above to get to know them a little better.

Craig Chee & Sarah Maisel

Even though Craig Chee was born and raised on Oahu, he matured as an ‘ukulele player and musician on the mainland. Throughout attending and graduating from the University of Oregon, Craig focused on teaching a myriad of different styles with the tiny instrument. Craig has had the honor of working under Jake Shimabukuro and Troy Fernandez, and has become a renown instructor and performer around the world. Craig infuses his energetic and just plain “fun” style into many genres of music and is known for his collaborations at different music events.

Sarah Maisel was born and raised in Alabama and found herself working in San Diego, CA as the Lead Female Draper for the La Jolla Playhouse and the University of California San Diego. On walking into a local ‘ukulele jam, Sarah was both fascinated by the instrument and the joy that surrounded it. Studying under Frank Leong, Sarah dove into the jazz stylings of golden age Hawai’i songs and arrangements inspired by ‘ukulele legends like Lyle Ritz, Benny Chong and Byron Yasui. Sarah found a passion of teaching and performing with the ‘ukulele and was quickly featured at many ‘ukulele festivals around the world. 

Craig and Sarah discovered a similar passion and work ethic and as of September, 2015 are now married! They have made an incredible splash in the ‘ukulele scene with their complementing styles and vocal harmonies. Craig and Sarah have been featured at ‘Ukulele Festivals and events all over the world including Cairns and the Sunshine Coast (Australia), Cheltenham and Huddersfield (United Kingdom), Vancouver (Canada), Tokyo (Japan), Berlin (Germany), Brussels (Belgium), Honolulu (HI), and all over the continental US. Both feel very fortunate to have been featured on the cover of ‘Ukulele Magazine. Their love of teaching has blossomed into a successful Online ‘Ukulele School with Artistworks; the joy for music and teaching always follows them wherever they travel.

The Naked Waiters

Coming back to the mainland from Hawaii, this trio is one of the freshest and most original sounds on the ukulele scene. Combining plucky spunk and incredible harmony, they have delighted festival goers from Hawaii to Michigan to Scottland (and that’s just this year) and they’re coming back to AV Uke Fest in October.

Heidi Swedberg

Heidi Swedberg was born in Hawaii, the youngest in a family of four girls where music was a regular part of family life. Singing at church, in the car or around the piano are her most treasured memories. When she was 5 years old the Easter Bunny left ukuleles for all four Swedberg girls, and she has played one ever since. Her family relocated to New Mexico, where she grew up in suburban Albuquerque. Her love of literature led her to acting, and she studied at the University of New Mexico before moving to Kentucky to study as an acting apprentice and costume intern at Actor’s Theatre of Louisville.  While there, she was cast in her first film, Norman Jewison’s “In Country”, launching a 20+ year career in film and television. Having children re-focused her life. Singing and playing ukulele with them brought her so much joy that she found herself drifting away from auditions and into the classroom. Teaching led to recording which led to performing. Collaborating with Daniel Ward opened vast musical doorways. Heidi enjoys sharing music with all ages. She especially loves performing in schools, museums and libraries, which she considers the saviors of the universe.

Daniel Ward

Daniel Ward was born in the atomic city of Los Alamos NM, where his father was a scientist and classical music conductor. Growing up in New Mexico meant being exposed to a wide variety of musical styles, including Mexican mariachi, Spanish flamenco, world music and jazz. By the time Daniel completed his degree in classical guitar and composition, he was also playing electric jazz, flamenco guitar with dancers, percussion, trumpet, lute and world beat music.

As a guitarist, he toured with Dance España, Maria Benitez, Yjastros, and went around the world with Ottmar Liebert. He has toured with numerous other groups, playing everything from soft jazz to hard rock. His recording After the Storm showcases his composition and guitar work, and is available on his website or iTunes.

In 2009 he moved to Hollywood CA, where his partner Heidi Swedberg introduced him to the ukulele. He fell in love with the instrument, and all of the music inside him found a new home on the four strings. Together they have recorded two CDs for families, PLAY and My Cup of Tea, and co-authored the method book Color-Along Ukulele.

Since then, he has become a premier ukulele performer and clinician known for his command of Latin and world styles, with an expressive right hand that delivers beauty, speed and force. He has been a featured performer and workshop instructor at festivals across the United States and abroad and enjoys contributing lessons to both Ukulele Magazine and Acoustic Guitar Magazine. His CD El Ukulele is an adventure in what the ukulele can do.

Daniel is known as a teacher who can break down complicated forms and techniques in ways that enable players of all levels to absorb and enjoy the material. He is a well-rounded musician, who loves working with children and adults. As a performer and a teacher, Daniel believes the ukulele holds an important place in music and music education for all ages. Learn more about Daniel, access his video lessons and find his catalog at his website.

Mike and Mike Island Music

Inspired by their family, friends, love and happy memories of the islands, Mike and Mike bring you the classic sound of smooth Hawaiian and traditional island-style music. With original songs that capture the “Aloha Style” way mixed with the popular island music that will stir your memories of happy times on the islands, the music of Mike and Mike will touch your inner spirit of Aloha.

Along with their love of performing live and engaging with their audience, being connected and giving back to the community is a priority in sharing the spirit of Aloha through their music. Performing for fundraisers, community events and supporting local artist foundations is part of who Mike and Mike are. Their hope is that through the love and peaceful spirit of the islands, they can help inspire others to find Aloha in their hearts.

More to come!