Festival of American Fiddle Tunes – The Workshop

June 28-July 5, 2015
Fort Worden State Park, Port Townsend, Washington

Spend the week of June 28-July 5, 2015 living, learning, and playing music with masters of a wide variety of fiddling styles. The Festival of American Fiddle Tunes provides an opportunity to be in community with the bearers of fiddle traditions.

The goals of the gathering are broader than improving your skills as a musician, and include discovering culture through music, learning music in a cultural context, and building lifelong relationships in the fiddle music community.

Fiddle Tunes started in 1977. It’s a week-long, total-immersion workshop with a hallmark of presenting an expansive array of fiddle styles from specific regions of the world. Workshops, classes, band labs, tutorials, dances, concerts, singing, open jams, hat parties – all contribute to participants’ experience. Visit the artist faculty page to learn more about the artists and the regional styles represented at the gathering.

You’ll learn by the oral tradition – listen, imitate, listen, practice, and listen again. Please don’t expect written music on paper. The main teaching focus is on the fiddle, but you’ll find day-long instruction on the banjo, guitar, and button accordion, and nearly as many classes on piano, keyboard accordion, singing, clogging, string bass, mandolin, and social dance.

What happens during the week?

You’ll arrive at Fort Worden and pick up your registration packet, which has a schedule, your badge, and your meal ticket if you ordered one. You’ll have time to settle into your dorm room (or other housing) in time for the first event, which is dinner in the Commons. After dinner we’ll have an extensive welcoming session where we’ll attempt to introduce everyone who is teaching during the week. This is harder than it sounds, as there are more than 70 people on the teaching staff. Your goals at the welcome session might be to visually identify the faculty, try to choose who you want to spend time with during the week, and enjoy other styles of music that you won’t have time to study.

There are two categories of staff–the faculty and the tutors.

FACULTY: During the week each faculty person will teach four morning classes, lead an afternoon “band lab,” play for an evening dance, and play an intimate in-house concert set in the Wheeler Theater.

TUTORS: Tutorials are available in the late afternoon, after the band labs. Beginning-level tutorials are designed to address the needs of beginning and beginning/intermediate players who wish more individualized instruction on their instrument; they will focus on technique. Intermediate level tutorials tend to focus on style. In many cases, the intermediate tutorials will be in the musical styles presented by the faculty. Tutorial sessions are universally small, and are open to all.

You will also find tutors hosting jam sessions with a spirit of graceful encouragement, playing for dances, and generally being a welcoming and helpful presence throughout the week.

Band Labs

Each of the faculty will lead a Band Lab after lunch. What’s a Band Lab? Basically, you’ll be a part of a band learning to play in that faculty member’s style. You’ll learn what makes that style sound like it does – slurs, slides, bowing, ornaments, tempo, etc. Each band lab will play for a dance late in the week, and play in the band lab concert on Saturday morning.

There is also a Beginners’ Band Lab, which is a band lab for beginning-level musicians.

On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, after dinner, there are intimate faculty showcase concerts in the Wheeler Theater. There’s no sound system, and the music is splendid and varied. At about 9:30, two dances commence – usually one of them is a couple dance, and the other is a called square or contra.

Thursday night generally features the mighty participants’ concert. The week culminates in a series of public Performances in McCurdy Pavilion.

Beginners at Fiddle Tunes

What might a beginning musician expect at Fiddle Tunes? The gathering welcomes people of all abilities, but it’s not uncommon for beginning musicians to feel frustrated at Fiddle Tunes. Here’s what to expect.

The mornings are dedicated to workshops led by the faculty. Generally speaking, these players were invited to the festival as representatives of a certain style of music, one that they learned from their family and neighbors. Some are experienced teachers, many are not. In an effort to present them in an organically (as much as possible), they receive no guidelines from Centrum as to what level they should teach – it’s their choice. Most teach at an intermediate and above level.

As a result, there is nothing geared specifically for beginners in the morning classes. But we think it’s critically important that you attend these sessions. The people on staff are active tradition-bearers, and they share more than their music. You probably won’t open your case at these sessions. Rather, you’ll be in listening mode, soaking your head in a certain style, listening to stories, understanding the context in which this person’s music is played back home.

After lunch, you can join the Beginners Band Lab – all beginning-level players of any instrument are invited. You’ll get an idea about how exciting it is to play with other people. The Beginners Band will play for a dance if they’d like, and also in the Band Lab concert on Saturday morning.

In the late afternoon we offer beginning level tutorials (see above). They’re small, so you’ll have plenty of personal attention.

We hope this information is helpful to you in deciding whether the workshop might be a good fit. Being among so many players can be overwhelming, but it helps to know what to expect. If you have any more questions, feel free to call Peter McCracken at 360-385-3102, x127.

Kids at Fiddle Tunes

Is the gathering appropriate for children?

Absolutely! The Festival is an intergenerational gathering, and we welcome musicians of all ages and abilities to participate fully in Festival activities.

If your child is under 13, and not ready to fully participate, we offer a special Kids Track (see the FAQ page). (link).

If you have any questions about any of this, send Peter McCracken an email: peter@centrum.org , or call 360-385-3102, x127.

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