Monday, August 25, 2014

Fiddle Camp 2014!

It was on the second day of camp, as I was walking around the farmyard instructing, that my flock of sheep trotted by. They had been grazing free on their hill and decided to see what all the music was about. Sal, Maude, and the whole gang hoofed right through the Big Show under the King Maple. They had plans to eat chicken feed in the normal place (Drat! I had thwarted their plans by putting it in the barn instead!) and so all it took to get them back on their hill was a shake of a grain bucket and some encouragement from a border collie with confidence issues. We paraded, the geese honked, roosters crowed, and the goatee bleated. It was a happy scene to be sure, and the fiddle students around us on all sides just kept playing. I know there are a lot of places and ways to pick up the fiddle, but few have this sort of sideshow. I gotta say folks, there is a feral joy in seeing a lamb trot past a woman from Connecticut sawing into "Ida Red" on your front lawn. The farm lives on!

Someday, if I am lucky enough to reach a ripe old age, I hope I look back to weekends like this, shared with so many wonderful folks. Two days of music, fiddles, farm life, and perfect weather here in Jackson. The third annual August Fiddle Camp was possibly the best one yet. Everyone who came left on that second day able to play their first tune, with the tools and practice schedule to learn even more. That is of course the point. No one comes to camp expecting to leave an expert, but they do expect to leave as their own teachers. That is the whole point of the weekend, to introduce this intimidating instrument with a whole pile of beginners just as clueless as everyone else and leave knowing how to teach yourself the rest. People had traveled from Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New England to spend two days with strangers, sitting on hay bales, meeting the farm animals and learning the way of the ol' Devil stick. I thank you all!

This year's crop of summer fiddlers did amazingly well, and had the advantage of a teacher with three years of teaching these weekends under her belt. Instead of starting with our first notes, we spent the first hour learning to tune, set up, and adjust the bridge on the new fiddles. A tedious beginning but all weekend they knew exactly how to get themselves in tune and handle the new instruments. By warm up on the second day they pulled them from their hay-strewn cases the way a carpenter picks up a hammer, as normal and comfortable like. That made me smile wide enough to cause minor injury.

I use (and ONLY use) Wayne Erbsen's method and books for Fiddle Camp. If you are considering taking up the fiddle and can't join us, I strongly urge you to get his materials!  Do not buy any other sort of book or invest in any sort of expensive lessons before trying them out. His little green book and CD is the best teacher out there for people interested in having fun and taking up a musical life. You can find all the information on beginner fiddle, guitar, mandolin, and banjo (in several styles of old time and bluegrass) at nativeground. Wayne isn't even a sponsor of this blog, I just adore his spirit, music, and the lessons from the southern mountains he shares. He explains the difference between a fiddle and a violin in the video, below. It pretty much sums him up.

In two days we covered a lot, and it makes me wonder if I should change the name to Fiddle Boot Camp? It is a constant ten hours of lessons all weekend long. You get pretty tired sitting outside all day, not matter how excited you are to learn, but I think the fuss is worth it. I still hear from folks from previous Camps that still play and have made the violin a part of their life. All of them are middle-aged, having never played an instrument before and some can't read music. Thanks to Wayne's method's that doesn't matter. I will tell you what I told the campers on Saturday: Becoming a violinist takes talent, precision, and very hard work. Becoming a fiddler just takes stubbornness. Keep playing, keep having fun, laugh your way through the beginning squeaks and squawks and you'll be just fine.

I thank everyone who came to this camp, traveled so far, supported this farm, and shared my home and life for a few days. It was an honor and a blast, and I hope you keep playing and never let yourself think you can't be the musician you always dreamed of. I see a lot of jam circles in your future ladies (and Bryan!). And to those who already attended camps, I thank you too.

P.S. I am considering a one-day camp here in October if anyone is interested in a single day of introduction and lessons. It would come with a fiddle, of course, and cost much less than the usual Fiddle Camp. I could get 4 folks here in the farmhouse for a good long day if you want to be playing carols by Yuletide! Email me if you're thinking about it!


Blogger Roe said...

Jenna thanks again for teaching me the skills for fiddle magic. It was an extraordinary weekend: sheep herding, geese honking, roosters crowing, fiddling under the maple, scary stories fireside, kilts, margaritas, new friendships, jeez I'm a lucky duck. Thank you. You are a gift. Xo

August 25, 2014 at 8:58 PM  
Blogger Angie Dellinger said...

I had such a great time. Sorry I missed the bonfire!

August 25, 2014 at 9:08 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Thank you both for coming, and keep playing! That is the secret!

August 25, 2014 at 10:45 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

p.s. great music videos/online lessons about what we did this weekend over at

August 25, 2014 at 10:45 PM  
Blogger ute weigand said...

That sounds like a lot of fun:)

August 26, 2014 at 8:04 AM  
Blogger Bryan Colton said...

Bought your camp as a Christmas present for my wife. Only catch was that I was coming also. I am not a social butterfly like my wife so I did not think I would enjoy your camp. WRONG! Jenna, you made everyone feel so welcome and So thank you for that. For me it was somewhat a life changing experience. I now know after meeting you why my wife follows your blog multiple times a day. Thank you for the experience. You're a very special person. The world nedds more people like you.

August 29, 2014 at 9:04 AM  

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