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Ryan & Brennish Thomson

Updated Feb 2, 2024

Ashokan Fiddle and Dance

By Ryan Thomson

I've attended Ashokan for many years, and have sampled several different weeks including Western and Swing and Old Time and Cajun. I attended "Northern Week" at Ashokan this year(2001). The music and dance focus for this week is French Canadian, Scandinavian, English Country dance music, and New England music and dance. Because of the New England influence, many students and staff are also fluent in Irish and Scottish music. Jam sessions are numerous and go to all hours. 


An added bonus is Jay Ungar's "experimental" band class, which is a highlight of the Ashokan experience for me. Jay assembles a large group of various instrumentalists into an orchestra that performs a "piece" at the end of the week, which can include bits and pieces of music from almost any possible tradition or non-tradition.


I sampled several classes including French Canadian and Swedish fiddle, Experimental band, piano, and various dance classes. All of the teachers are experienced, encouraging, and friendly.


Here's a list of nice Ashokan features. There are many more than I've listed here:


Three great "home style" meals a day, plus an 11 pm snack including both healthy fruits and vegetables, and bowls full of yummy things like M&Ms with peanuts.


Joke night where people gather to exchange jokes for hours


Several families brought kids along, and there were efforts to organize activities for them.


Areas to camp out in tents, or RVs.


Both indoor and outdoor showers. Its fun to take a shower out in the open air on a sunny day. (They are separated by sex)


Late night saunas heated by wood stove are great after many hours of dancing and playing music.


Plenty of jam session areas, and weather appropriate for outdoor music making much of the time.


A nice outdoor roofed dance floor with excellent sound system.


The ratio of men to women at the camp is kept balanced to better insure the availability of dance partners.


Because of the multitude of both: dance classes; and instrument classes, its possible to play or dance 8 - 10 hours a day if one so desires. Instrument class include accordion, piano, fiddle, bass, guitar, flute, tin whistle, mandolin, etc., and other instruments of all types are also welcomed.


for more information visit the Ashokan web site.

Written by Ryan Thomson, 2001

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