Monday, August 27, 2012

Fiddle Camp: Day 2

Fiddle Camp was so much better than I ever anticipated. The point of Fiddle Camp was to introduce the fiddle as a fun and easy instrument, and teach the basics of the animal so that the campers could go home and teach themselves without lessons. I really think we accomplished that. People came knowing nothing, and left playing a song. There were certainly squeaks and squawks and beginner's nerves, but I will tell you what I told them. Every single person at camp sounded better and knew more in 48-hours than I did my first three-months of learning alone. It was an encouraging thing to witness. It was music to our ears.

In two days we went over a crash course, building confidence and sharing in our musical journey. Saturday was all about introductions and handing out fiddles and tee shirts. Dawn and Peter, two readers who own a screen printing business made us our organic cotton dark brown shirts with the camp logo (crow with antlers) sitting on a fiddler's bow. Everyone loved them and I proudly wore mine too. After tents were pitched and fiddles were by every hay bale or camp chair, we did introductions and started into the concentrated 6-hours of lessons and lectures. We learned the parts of the fiddle, tuning, bowing, the D scale. After that we started the beginnings of their first song. By the end of Saturday some of the students that couldn't tell you a tailpiece from a frog were playing Ida Red (our first song) by themselves. Sunday was about more advanced techniques like shuffling, sliding, more focus on learning songs, droning and such. We took a lunch break at the Cambridge Farmer's Market and a live band featured a fiddler and more than one camper in their crow shirt stopped to watch. It meant something different now, as they were one of them.

The two-day event ended with an optional recital. Folks who had learned their first tune could play in a judged contest for a pile of homesteading books. The winner, a woman from Virginia named Linda who sported beautifully curled white hair and a happy blue t-shirt. She sounded amazing, matching the songs tempo and perfect notes. Just listening to her play under my maple made me so darn proud of her. Listening to everyone did. Watching them grow from a dreamer to a fiddler in two days, one campfire, and one farmer's market worth of time.

Well, done. All of you. If you attended and can put a link in the comments to any photos or stories, please do!

I was happy to teach and found it so rewarding. My style is friendly, goofy, and fun. The whole method is to not take it too seriously, not make the violin into a monster in your closet. We made small goals, learned in little steps, listened to Wayne's recordings and promised to dedicate ourselves to a few minutes of practice a day/ This is the gardening that grows an Old Time Fiddler. And it really is all anyone needs to learn the instrument. Set aside any ideas that it is hard. A lot of things are hard, that doesn't mean you can't do it. When you see a set of stairs you don't need to jump to the top of them, you just need to make one step. Go from there.

So you want to learn? Well, there's a second Fiddle event in February. It's called the Fiddler's Rendezvous and it is limited to ten people. Two spots are taken, eight remain. It works the same as Fiddle Camp in that it is 2 intensive days of learning and you get a fiddle and tee shirt but it won't include camping. You'll need to book a room Saturday Night in a local B&B or Inn but you can enjoy the farmhouse and the woodstove and will have time after the daily intensive to shop the snowy streets of Cambridge, take in an event at Hubbard Hall, or drive over to Manchester or Saratoga for a nice dinner. And if traveling here to learn with us isn't an option, teach yourself. We used Wayne Erbsen's Fiddle Book and CD combo called Old Time FIddle For the Complete Ignoramus. That, and an in-tune fiddle and bow is all you need. We used a Cremona Student model. It is an import, but does sound darn nice and can be grown into and enhanced with better strings and rosin and grow with the student.

Nothing is stopping you from learning to play the fiddle. If you don't have the money for a new student package and book, borrow one from a friend or relative and get the book from the library or inter-library exchange. You can find a way, long as you start asking folks who can help lead you in the right direction. Always ask. Always, always ask. Because you might find a music teacher who can trade lessons for your goat's milk or homemade soaps or canned jams. Perhaps you can work out some sort of skill barter. It just takes some snooping around, but I am certain anyone reading this who wants to learn can email me, search through eBay or Craigslist, order or wrangle what you need and start watching some of Wayne's Free videos at

You want into our club, well, pick up a fiddle and join us!

As for this farm: It is time to get back in the saddle, back into winter prep, and back into figuring out the next month. I have just two weeks to finish editing the manuscript for my next book, and then I need to prepare for the Mother Earth News Fair. When I get back from that there is Antlerstock to plan for and then WINTER, the biggest event of the year. So stay tuned, in all aspects, and I will keep this dog and pony showing going as long as I can.


Blogger Kelly said...

I love your shirts! You should sell them ☺

August 27, 2012 at 11:57 AM  
Blogger Jess said...

Looking forward to your next book, Jenna! Any idea when it will be available for preorder?

August 27, 2012 at 11:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like fun! What's your new book going to be about Jenna? Glad to hear there's another one on the way.

August 27, 2012 at 1:34 PM  
Blogger Cathy said...

Cool t-shirts. Do you think we could get them to do shirts for Antlerstock? Of course we'd be willing to pay.


August 27, 2012 at 3:05 PM  
Blogger Katie Falkenberg said...

Can't wait for your new book, and I really hope to attend fiddle camp someday!

August 27, 2012 at 5:52 PM  
Blogger kbrow said...

Thinking about fiddle camp, post grad school. I have a year. Keep doing it.

August 27, 2012 at 11:20 PM  
Blogger Stacey said...

My (brief) recap is here!

Had a great time - thanks again, Jenna!

August 28, 2012 at 10:25 AM  
Blogger Margie said...

Would love to be attend your fiddle camp. It's just so far from Louisiana.

August 28, 2012 at 10:33 AM  
Anonymous Molly Piper said...

I like this so much - beginning something new and productive with a big happy splash. We are a world in a hurry, and hurrying towards music-making seems plain old lovely and good.

August 28, 2012 at 10:42 AM  

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