Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Threshing Barns and Metal Strings

Fiddle Camp was two days, twenty people, and a very foreboding weather forecast. Rain storms were in our future and that made things a little hairy. Luckily, I have some amazing friends here in the W.C. and was able to get all of us an indoor amphitheater in the form of an 1800's threshing barn! Patty and Mark, good pals and fellow farmers here in the county, let me use their beautiful barn Saturday while the rain cursed and taunted. It may have been my favorite part of the camp, actually. To see an old barn loaded with fiddlers!

While the rain did cancel any camping or campfire plans, it didn't stop the music. Everyone who came was able to accomplish the goal of the camp: to leave with an instrument, one song to play on it, and the realization you are now familiar enough with to continue teaching yourself. Thanks to Wayne Erbsen's amazing book and the dedication of the students this year had some really talented beginners. But I must share with you what I shared with them: learning to fiddle has nothing to do with "beginner's luck" or "natural talent." Yes, some people are more musically inclined and pick up the basics faster, but thinking you can't play some fiddle tunes because you aren't a musician is like thinking you can't drive your car because you aren't a race car driver. You can achieve a pretty respectable fiddle status based on sure stubbornness alone. I'm living proof.

The camp runs like so: people arrive Saturday morning with little or no musical know-how. The first thing I teach them is which side is the front. I'm serious, it really is that basic. And to have a circle of hopeful students all holding their new instruments in their hands with that excited look in their eyes is reason enough to keep running this camp. They start out learning the parts, the bow stroke, and the finger positions and by the time the first day is over they have learned their first song. The next day of camp is about practice, lecture, and a few fiddle techniques such as shuffling and droning with your bow. It seems like a lot to take in, and it is, but the nature of camp is so beginner friendly and everyone is just so eager the days fly. I think Fiddle Camp may be the four fastest days of my year…

I'll leave you with this little concert by Riley of Ontario. He and his girl Jess came down from their little homestead in Canada to pick up their fiddles and learn how to use them. When Riley arrived he had never even pulled a bow across a string but here he is less than 48 hours later jamming with Becca on guitar. He's playing his own improv version of the first tune in the book, Ida Red. (For the record, almost any non-professionally record violin sounds a bit screechy, but in person it was divine!)It's just a ten-second video but it makes me swell with pride for him and all the students who came out for two days to get started on their musical journeys. My darlings, Music is out there for whoever wants it. You just need to ask.

P.S. Winter Camp, which is the last weekend in March, is open for folks to sign up. Three spots are already taken which include the lovely Kathy Harrison! I only allow five more people for this intimate winter camp at the farmhouse, near a roaring woodstove. Last winter camp we had a goat kid born during Sunday's lesson and this year there very well may be kids in the house jumping around while you learn your D scale! Email me if you want to sign up, first reserved first served! Also, The price has gone up $30 to help set off the costs of a tent and porta potty for next year.

P.P.S. If you have photos to share I could post, please email them too!