Who knew that there is a Scottish Fiddle Camp -- for adults!
Last holiday season my teacher played a gig with Dr. John Turner. Dr. Turner told my teacher about the Jink & Diddle Scottish fiddle camp that he directs in Valle Crucis, N.C., and my teacher, in turn, told me about it.
I didn't know a thing about Scottish fiddle music, but the description of the camp indicated all ages and all abilities. Since there are not that many options in the way of camps for middle-aged adult starter violinists, I was pretty excited about it. However, I know my many limitations well so I was also more than a little nervous.
I had heard that many fiddle camps had a big focus on learning by ear. It was a relief when the email arrived several weeks in advance of the camp itself with a link to download the music we would be using. I did work on it a little, but being a classical musician doesn't give one the essence of how to make the notes on the page sound right. So, yes, I practiced some in advance, and it helped a bit. But I was far from sounding like a fiddler when I arrived.
Once camp started, I was struck by the fact that the largest contingent of campers was near my age. Yes, there were some children there, but by and large, most of us were either in their 20's, or part of the more mature set. I don't think that is the aim of the camp. It might be because of the focused nature of the material, or because there are so many other draws on kids' interests over the summer. Who knows?
The faculty was wonderful and included Dr. Turner, Mari Black, Calum Pasqua, Ralph Gordon, Tim Macdonald, Zack Lemhouse, and guest artist Rachel Barton Pine. Everyone was so encouraging and ready to welcome a beginner. It was refreshing to be included as an enthusiast. While I have been lucky to find this attitude several times, it isn't always the case. The friendliness came from across the board - from teachers and fellow students alike.
The classes were top-notch and I enjoyed every one. If I could have, I would have taken all of the classes that were given. Every teacher had something special to offer. It was a shame to miss any, but some were concurrent with others, or conflicted with private instruction times. And of course, if one is jamming into the wee hours, one periodically has to grab a nap sometime during the day.
Speaking of private instruction, we were given the opportunity to take a total of 1.5 hours of private instruction during the week. I was fortunate enough to have Mari Black for an hour and Dr. Turner for 30 minutes. I learned a ton! Having that individualized lesson time really helped me understand how to improve my Scottish fiddling.
Group rallies in the evenings were great. Those of us (i.e. me) that didn't read well or play fast were given tools to enhance the overall sound of the group, including drones, reducing the number of notes we tried to play, or finding a complimentary rhythm. It was this kind of inclusive attitude that made this camp so much fun.
Having not attended summer camp in more than 30 years, I had forgotten how much fun it can be! I wish I had taken more pictures, but here are my two favorites.Tweet
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