How to Choose a Fiddle Camp
A huge part of fiddle tune culture is attending a camp, making like-listening friends and learning tunes together. There are so many camps to choose from, but with a little sleuthing, you can find the ideal environment for your learning style.
Let’s start out by asking a few questions:
Do you want to be in a class with a very specific teacher?
Do you care only about learning a particular style of music or would you like to be exposed to new techniques?
How about playing in an ensemble?
What’s the vibe? Is it hunker down and get practicing, lots and lots of late-night jamming, or easy breezy-hey-let’s-float-down-the-river-after-this-next-class atmosphere? And location, location, location.
Chances are quite a few of your favorite fiddlers will be traveling the camp circuit this summer between festivals. If you’re keen on working with one or more of them, check out their websites to see where they’ll be teaching. Besides having classes with them, chatting up your heroes can be very inspiring and reaffirming. I remember having a lesson with Natalie MacMaster and asking her if I could ‘be a fiddler’ even though I didn’t grow up playing tunes and I didn’t have the heritage. Her ‘permission’ was what this classical violinist from Maine needed to dive into lots of different styles and discover that my heart lies somewhere between Appalachia and Scotland.
Speaking of styles, you might really only be hip to Bluegrass and want to immerse yourself in the high and lonesome sound. That’s cool. Quite a few BGFesters host a camp prior to their event - head to the festival grounds early to work with some of the stars on their lineup. Or maybe you want to sit in lots of Irish sessions but you’ve always been curious about jazz and would like to dip your toes into the improvising waters. Finding a camp that has a more musically diverse faculty allows you to have comfort in your preferred stylistic jams while taking risks in new territories.
Some camps are all about classes, which is great because you’ll most likely go home with a whole lotta tunes. Others focus on playing in an ensemble and then performing with your compadres at a camper concert. While this might seem terrifying to some, it is an excellent way to hone your fundamental skills as a musician. Learning how to stay in time, find a groove, remember an arrangement, work around a mic and talk on stage are all great lessons to try out in an ultra loving environment like fiddle camp.
Tell me more about the love, you ask. Well, love sets the tone or the vibe of the camp. There are a time and a place for very focused energy of dedicated practice and accelerated learning. An intense summer of camps and festivals can improve your playing in as much as nine months of diligent practice while at school or work or just going about your daily routine. There’s just as much to be said for the laid back and fun approach to learning that validates your status as a weekend-warrior and hones in on the fact that you’re playing this devil’s box because you love the sound you create when you’re playing, and the feeling that you get when you create that sound. It’s all good.
Then, of course, there’s proximity to where you lay your burden down on a regular basis. Sometimes the camp in your home territory is just what you need as a quick get-away, and sometimes you need to find a fiddle camp on the beach FAR far away from your status-quo. Or in the Rockies. Or in the redwoods. Go where you can be inspired, relax, revive, and fall in love with music.
Bottom line, your ideal fiddle camp is a feel-good event, one that will rekindle your enthusiasm for playing your instrument, and inspire you long after the hot summer nights turn into frosty winter mornings.
***Lauren will be organizing and teaching at the
Mike Block String Camp (www.mikeblockstringcamp.com) and the
Ossipee Valley String Camp (https://ossipeevalley.com/
Remember to SIGN UP for Lauren’s incredible curriculum to help yourself be prepared for your camp experience.