Ep. 5: Why is the Ukulele So Popular? (Ben Hassenger, Ukulele Ambassador to Michigan)

August 27, 2019


Why is the Ukulele So Popular?

The ukulele seems to have exploded in popularity in the last five years or so with both amateurs and experienced musicians, and across all ages!  Ben Hassenger, self-described Ukulele Ambassador to Michigan, explains why the ukulele is so attractive to so many people across so many demographics.  He also explains the versatility of the instrument in spanning all levels of difficulty: the uke is small, portable, and accessible for amateurs; and also capable of showcasing the talent of some of the best musicians Ben has seen.


[Bio from Ben’s site] Ben Hassenger’s musical career began in the early 1970s when he was arrested for playing “Smoke on the Water” on accordion and singing in animal sounds in the cafeteria at Lansing Community College. It was the start of something special, for sure! After life-changing trips to Vietnam and Hawaii in 2009, Ben appointed himself the “Ukulele Ambassador of Michigan” and works as a music facilitator with Special Education children, teaches ukulele in Michigan school systems, senior centers and nursing homes, at Lansing’s Elderly Instruments, Interlochen Center for the Arts, and Michigan State University’s Community Music School. He plays guitar and ukulele in the bands Blue Jello and The Ukulele Kings and is the co-founder of the Lansing (MI) Area Ukulele Group and the organizer of the Mighty Uke Day festival, Interlochen’s Uketoberfest, and Midwest Uke Camp in Olivet. He 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 has composed a variety of original songs about dogs, food, love, Michigan, and the other important things in life.


Ben has many ideas for listeners.

  • Pick up a ukulele! Soprano ukes are the most popular and common, and are a good tonal fit for most female voices.  Tenor ukes are slightly larger (often preferred by those used to a guitar).  Concert ukes are also popular. Baritone ukes are less common, but are an easy transition for guitar players (the four strings are tuned the same as the top four strings of a guitar).
  • Learn to play through YouTube instructional videos and/or lessons with a teacher.
  • Get together and play with friends!
  • Find a live-streaming uke strum and play along from home.
  • In the Lansing, MI area?  Attend the strum at Sir Pizza in Old Town: 2nd Saturday of the month, from 10:30 am-12:30 pm. 

Connect/Other Resources

How can listeners learn more about your work, ukuleles, and connect with you?


Guests share a song or story about a moment when music enhanced their life.  Ben has written many original songs.  He play for us one of the most meaningful, “Deer Lake Road,” about his family homestead in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  The song is on the Ukulele Kings album, “Three Cool Cats.” 

Other Resources

Ben mentions Ohana ukuleles [this is not a paid advertisement]; Ohana manufactures a wide variety of ukuleles for beginners to professionals and is a big supporter of music programs in schools and communities.

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5 responses to “Ep. 5: Why is the Ukulele So Popular? (Ben Hassenger, Ukulele Ambassador to Michigan)”

  1. […] Ep. 5 features the charms of the ukulele and why it is such a popular instrument across all ages. If you would like to refresh your skills or learn new skills AND give back to those who have served our country, you can learn more in Ep. 15 about the song Taps, and its relationship to our military, and also how you can volunteer to play Taps for veterans’ funerals. Ep. 33 provides lots of resources for quality music lessons that fit your unique situation; and Ep. 48 features tips from a time management coach on how to make those musical goals and aspirations a reality. […]

  2. OK Mindy….a few remarks. I’m “up to date now” with all your podcasts and have to say I’m “hooked”. Will definitely be looking forward to number 6 and the successive ones. This one with Ben was pretty entertaining—gotta love a baby boomer and his charming personality. The song at the end about Michigan’s UP was clearly a home run finish for me given the 5 very impressionable years of my life at Michigan Tech not that far away from “Dear Lake Road” 🙂 All that said, even though I’m slightly tempted, I think I’ll probably stay with my accordion talents—that’s more than enough for me to handle! Dad