I have been to many music camps, both classical and fiddle, and each time it has been a unique opportunity for me to immerse myself in the music, completely focus on practice, and spend quality time at jams and parties with the camp community.
If I was to give a young string player advice now about what music to study in order to develop in-the-pocket groovin’ bow techniques, improvisation, and songwriting skills, I would say look for classes on bluegrass, Celtic music, and possibly some swing jazz, a.k.a. American Roots Music.
Perhaps more specifically I would say start with Celtic music, really learn the bowing patterns, the accompaniment styles, basic chord progressions, then move over to bluegrass which pushes you a step further towards getting around on your instrument and start to improvise, and if you really want to be able to play over chords add some jazz to your studies which will expand your ability to understand more complex chord progressions in preparation for songwriting. Or simply do it all at the same time! Of course musicians don’t necessarily focus on every one of these styles, but while you are learning and figuring out what you like, I think it’s a good idea to keep your options open and your vocabulary ready for whatever direction your musical endeavor takes you.
Here are three established American Roots music camps for all ages where you can practice all these styles and skills in a beautiful, fun, and inclusive environment.
The Augusta Heritage Center of Davis and Elkins College
This renowned institution located in Elkins, West Virginia offers a variety of workshops, concerts, and other events throughout the year, with a focus on traditional American music and crafts. The center was founded in 1973 and has since become a hub for musicians, artists, and scholars interested in traditional Appalachian music and culture.
Each summer, the center hosts its flagship program, the Augusta Heritage Center Summer Sessions, which offers week-long workshops and courses in traditional music styles such as old-time, bluegrass, blues, Cajun, and Old Time, as well as traditional crafts such as basketry, quilting, and blacksmithing. The sessions attract students and instructors from around the world and feature a diverse range of musical styles and techniques.
In addition to its educational programs, the Augusta Heritage Center also hosts concerts and other events throughout the year, including the annual Augusta Festival, which features concerts, workshops, and other activities related to traditional Appalachian music and culture.
Katie Glassman’s Fiddle School Mountain Retreat
This camp retreat is a 5 day/4 night music camp held in the beautiful Rocky Mountains of Colorado. The retreat is led by Katie Glassman, a highly respected fiddle player and educator who has won numerous awards for her traditional American music and swing-style fiddling.
This camp is designed for intermediate to advanced fiddle players who are interested in developing their skills in traditional American music styles such as Texas style fiddling, Western Swing, jazz, and cowboy campfire jams. Participants have the opportunity to attend classes and jams led by Katie and other accomplished musicians, and the schedule will also include a group hike or two in the Rocky Mountains.
The retreat takes place in a beautiful mountain setting, with lodging and healthy meals provided on-site. Participants have the opportunity to relax and unwind in the natural surroundings, as well as to connect with other musicians and music enthusiasts in a supportive and inspiring environment.
I happened to meet Katie at the Big Sur fiddle camp in California many years ago, and I can absolutely account for her brilliant musicianship and her very fun spirit to be around. If I lived on the West Coast I would for sure consider attending her camp myself.
Miles of Music Island Camp
This week-long summer music camp takes place on a small island at Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire. Founded by Laura Cortese and Kristin Andreassen, the camp is dedicated to enhancing the relationship between traditional music and modern songwriting in a collaborative environment.
The camp features a faculty of renowned artists and educators who provide intensive classes and workshops in a range of instruments and styles. The schedule can be somewhat loose in structure as much emphasis is on having fun with collaborations, community, and creativity, which makes it a great place for campers to develop their skills, deepen their love of music, and build lasting connections with other musicians.
In this spirit, students are encouraged to participate in daily jam sessions where they can share their musical ideas and learn from their peers. The camp also hosts nightly concerts and entertainment such as dances and jams. In addition, campers are encouraged to take advantage of the available recreational activities such as kayaking, swimming, hiking, and boating.
Miles of Music Camp is open to students of all ages and skill levels, from beginner to advanced. The program is designed to provide a supportive and collaborative learning environment, where students can develop their musical skills, deepen their relationship and understanding of traditional American music, and build lasting friendships with like-minded musicians.