Fiddleheads String Band Camp
September 14 - 16, 2001
By Ryan Thomson
Fiddleheads is New Hampshire's own weekend fiddle camp! It is located on Newfound Lake
in Bristol, New Hampshire. The camp includes simple cabins each with toilets, refrigerator,
sink, and cooking area, a dining hall, a dance and assembly hall with large fireplace, and
various play areas for children. It is directly on the lake shore and there is a beautiful view
of the surrounding mountains and lake shore line from the dining hall windows. It is a bit
cool at night at this time of year in New Hampshire, but each cabin also had its own
woodstove for heating. A few people took advantage of swimming in the lake during the
The camp is organized by experienced fiddlers Kathy Zimpfer and Ellen Carlson along with
other tutors, volunteers and helpers. This year was the third year that I've been invited to
be on staff as a tutor. I gave workshops on: ornaments for celtic fiddle tunes; music theory
for fiddlers; clogging; basic fiddle maintenance; learning tunes by ear; and called the
Saturday night contra dance. Other classes offered by staff members included: back-up
techniques for playing with others, slow jams, fast jams, Swedish music, learning Rag Time
Annie by ear, improvisation, vibrato, Klezmer music, appalachian fiddle, bluegrass, band
classes, (we had 5 student bands that performed at the end of the weekend) fiddling and
singing, using computers to learn fiddle tunes, and several more options.
While primarily a fiddle camp, there was also tutoring on back up piano, mandolin, guitar,
and bass. Three cello players signed up and they found niches in band and other classes.
Guest musicians from the local community were invited , and they helped with tutoring
and participating in jams and workshops. There were several children in attendance who
were repeats from previous years, and I was pleased to see the fine progress they had
made in their playing.
The level of instruction at Fiddleheads is as good as any camp I've attended, and better
than some. All of the instructors have lots of experience performing music in public at the
professional level, and most also have many years of music teaching experience. Some of
the larger nationally known fiddle camps often hire "master players" with fame and/or great
playing ability but no experience at teaching music. I've always found this a bit odd. Well,
not-to-worry, as students at Fiddleheads go home satisfied with loads of practical
information to aid them in their playing. Evidence for this is the many highly
complimentary written evaluations at the end of the camp.
Ryan Thomson "Captain Fiddle"
for more information, click here to visit the web site.
This article was written by Ryan Thomson, 2001