Music camp students benefit from professionals | TheFencePost.com

Music camp students benefit from professionals

by Gwen Petersen
Big Timber, Mont.

While many states have Fiddle Camps, I’m here to brag on the annual Montana State Fiddle Camp held the first two weeks in June. In its 14th year, the camp is ramrodded by the Buckley family of Roundup, Mont. Fred and Jeanne, and their intrepid offspring, Taylor, Reid and Katelyn, play fiddle, mandolin, bass, guitar, banjo – anything with strings. I do believe you could hand them stalks of stringy celery, and they’d play you a tune.

Though all the Buckley’s teach, the camp brings in gifted professional instructors in a variety of instruments. This year’s camp students benefited from two mandolin instructors, fiddle teachers (one from Canada, another from Scotland); a guitar guru specializing in Irish music; another who featured swing dance tunes, another who fiddled bluegrass at top speed – the camp was awash in music, music, music.

After day-long classes and workshops, each night the instructor-musicians treated students to a to-die-for concert followed by a dance. Any student musician could sit in with the big guns and play the dance music. Not your usual tripping of the light fantastic, folks. Uh-uh. A pro instructor taught “old time” dancing – square, swing, jitterbug – the kind some of us in the over-the-hill category grew up knowing.

Music camp participants are limited to 85 students. You can sign on for one or two weeks. Students of all ages took part, but it was the knee-cap tall kids who stole the shows and everybody’s heart. Those moppets could play up a storm. Fiddle bows whizzed so fast, they made a blur in the air. Small fingers like little butterflies danced over the strings.

Picture moms, dads, grandparents or other supportive adults (grown-ups are required to accompany kids under 17) wearing smiles so bright, you could have lit up a moonless night from the reflections off toothy grins.

I, as one of the antediluvian students, signed up for beginning fiddle. Do I have ability – or perhaps repressed aptitude – for the instrument? Naaa, my hands are stiff as chopsticks, and while I can hum a tune, my ear is on the tinny side. My motto: Never let ignorance or iffy talent stop you in the pursuit of the joy of music.

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During the course of the week, my prowess at fiddle playing improved in invisible increments. My waistline, however, expanded noticeably due to the yummy food served three times a day.

On the final night of camp, students from every class, led by their particular instructors, presented an evening concert. Yours truly managed to keep up with the beginners in that golden oldie: “You Are My Sunshine.” (Practice at home drove both cats to flee to the outdoors).

It’s a challenge to express the abiding joyfulness of Montana Fiddle Camp. To view some photos and descriptions, please go to http://www.MontanaFiddlers.org/Camp. You’ll see a bit of the camp setting and batches of people wearing silver-dollar grins. Fred Buckley makes sure to take group photos and plenty of casual snaps of students which he posts on the Internet.

Montana “fiddle” joke (as told by one of the instructors):

A cowboy from Montana got a job as doorman at a posh hotel in which a huge musical convention was being held. Montana cowboy was instructed to tell all musicians to go around to the side door with their instruments.

No problem. Easy job. Cowboy shunted a bass player and his bass around to the side. Same with viola, drummer, guitarists, oboists and a xylophonist.

Then a cab pulled to the curb. Out leaped a fellow carrying a violin case. He raced up the three steps to the hotel’s main entrance.

Cowboy said, “Whoa sir. You have to go around to the side.”

“Do you know who I am?” demanded the violinist.

“No sir, I don’t,” said Cowboy, “but ya gotta go around to the side.”

“My good man,” declared the violinist. “I am Jascha Heifetz! I’m here to play Tchaikovsky!”

“Well,” drawled Cowboy, “I don’t care if you’re Bob Wills here to play ‘Faded Love,’ ya gotta go around.”