JULY 3 – 9, 2023
Spend a week living, learning, and playing music with masters of a wide variety of fiddling styles. 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 as the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes, maybe the first in the nation. 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 time-honored method of oral tradition – listen, imitate, listen, experiment, and listen again. Please don’t expect written music on paper. The main teaching emphasis is on the fiddle, but you’ll find day-long instruction on many other instruments. The backup instruments vary each year – the fiddler on faculty might bring a banjo player, or maybe an accordion player – so please check the faculty page carefully to see if instruction on your instrument will be offered this year. Generally there are instructional opportunities on most common stringed instruments, and usually tutorial sessions on banjo, guitar, accordion, piano, 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 your schedule book, 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 a welcoming dance on a wooden floor. The next morning there will be an extensive orientation where we’ll introduce everyone who is teaching during the week. Your goals at the orientation 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 classes, lead an afternoon band lab, play for an evening dance, and play in one in-house performance and one public performance. Classes and band labs are open to all. In a band lab, you’ll be a part of a group 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, and a Teen Band Lab for younger folks.
TUTORS: Tutorials are offered in the morning. 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 include technique, and tend to focus on style. In many cases, the intermediate tutorials will be in the musical styles presented by the faculty. Tutorial sessions are designed to be smaller, 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.
Other Events During the Week
- In-house concerts showcasing the faculty
- Four social and couple dances every night, concurrent in two dance halls
- Public performances
- Multiple hosted jams each night
- Spontaneous workshops in the wild-card slot
- Dance classes
- and LOTS of jamming
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 first slot in the morning is dedicated to tutorials. 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 include technique, and tend to focus on style. In many cases, the intermediate tutorials will be in the musical styles presented by the faculty. Tutorial sessions are designed to be smaller, and are open to all.
The next morning slot, and the one after lunch, 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 appropriately, 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.
Even though most of these classes are not geared towards beginners, 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 might not 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.”
In the afternoon 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.
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, or peter@centrum (dot) org..