An online traditional music camp for all ages and abilities!!!
“Twice the program at half the price”. We laugh but it’s really not a joke.
What is MFC? Why is it different?
I am often asked “why is Maine Fiddle Camp different?” I don’t normally answer that question here on the MFC newsletter because I’m pretty much preaching to the choir, BUT with the advent of “Virtual” MFC this past June, things have changed a bit. With an enlarged audience that doesn’t have to travel to Maine to go to camp, many of you out there reading this might not know much about MFC, so I thought I’d start out with a short description. The following (PRE-COVID) blurb is from a piece I wrote in 2018. Here we go:
Maine Fiddle Camp is TRULY multigenerational. OK, other traditional music camps are too, but many camps are for adults and while kids are allowed, there are no specific activites for them. At Maine Fiddle Camp we, ages 8-80, are really all in it together. Everyone is welcome and there are teaching tracks to accommodate all ages and abilities. Along those same lines, the staff at MFC is not segregated from the campers either. We all eat together, camp right next to each other, jam, dance, sing together.. Of course many of the instrumental teaching programs have separate teaching tracks for youth and adults, especially fiddle, but even then you will often see the different age groups join together for concerts and other performances.
The staff at Maine Fiddle Camp is unique. They are all great teachers, but most are not nationally known. Sure, we have some “big names” in the traditional music world on our staff, but that’s because they are great teachers. Click here if you want to see who was “on staff” for IN PERSON camp 2020 (which sadly didn’t happen) We make every effort to see that “nobody gets left behind” at Maine Fiddle Camp.
And while teaching is the primary focus at MFC, there is so much more. In fact the whole day is filled with concerts, special workshops, special surprise guests, opportunities to perform, sing, jam, dance. There are also non-musical activites in the afternoon specifically for kids, who just need to let off some steam, led by MFC’s excellent team of youth counselors.
Another way MFC is different is in the number and variety of instruments offered: Fiddle, Piano, Guitar, Mandolin, Cello, Banjo, Accordion (piano, button, Anglo and English concertina), Bass, Ukulele, Flute, Pennywhistle, Mountain Dulcimer, Harmonica, Song. You can get instruction in any of these instruments at other camps but not all at one camp! Teaching classes are held in “nests” 3 times a day, two each morning and one in the afternoon. The nests are named after birds (e.g: the guitars are “Martins”, singers are “warblers”, mandolins are “woodpickers, and the fiddle nests are too many to name.) At “LIVE Camp” for fiddle there are 6 levels for youths and 6 for adults. 12 nests, 12 teachers and sometimes more if the group gets too big.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t say SOMETHING about the “Great Horned Ukestra”.. (the name was the combination of TWO names: the “Great Horned Owls” for horn players and the “Ukestra” for ukulele players. Every evening at the end of the barn dance, we play for a foxtrot and a waltz. Couples dances like foxtrots (and polkas and schottisches) in addition to contra dances and other set dances, were very much a part of the old-time traditional dance scene in Maine. At Fiddle Camp we try to capture that old time feel. The orchestras back then were comprised of a whole variety of instruments in them, basically anything someone in the local community played was welcomed. So at Camp we have combined the horns (anything that takes wind to play is welcome – brass, woodwind etc) and ukuleles into the “Great Horned Ukestra” and what a hoot (so to speak) it is (video here)!!
One more thing! The food at Maine Fiddle Camp, as much as possible, is locally sourced, organic wherever possible, and there are menu items for vegetarians, and those with dietary needs (gluten free, dairy free, etc). Don’t worry, there’s meat and seafood too!! Coffee, juice, H2O, available all day, snacks often, great desserts, popcorn in the evening.. (obviously we won’t be feeding you at Virtual Camp, BUT, we do make “food” part of the program! How? Guess you’ll have to wait and see!)
OK,…So…. what is VIRTUAL MFC?
Virtual Maine Fiddle Camp is an online camp where we try to emulate MFC as much as possible. This past June was our maiden voyage, which we started putting together probably in April when we became certain we wouldn’t be able to hold “in-person” camp. By now pretty much everyone is familiar with “Zoom conferences” and at V-MFC, basically, the classes are done on Zoom, with a teacher for each class and a “monitor” who makes sure everything runs smoothly. Camp starts in the morning with a meeting for EVERYONE in the main tent. After announcements and maybe a tune, off we “flock” to classes. The classes, (there are over 35 of them), run concurrently each day. Two 75 minute classes each morning and an hour long class in the afternoon. The REST of the time is filled with other fun camp stuff.. concerts, dances, jam sessions, “specialty workships”, “surprises”, “Maestro Bistro (a dinner concert), an old fashioned “variety show” with music, skits, etc. You get the idea. Each camp day ends with a meeting in the “main tent”. At “live MFC” Doug would ring the “curfew bell” at the end of the day and we would all toddle off to bed.. At V-MFC you don’t have to go to bed but I think Doug will still “ring the bell”!! We have tried to address some of the concerns that were voiced in June. We are going to try something that is a regular part of “real” MFC and for fiddlers have the second period on Saturday be with a different teacher. We call this the “fid grid rotation”. We will also feature more “youth level” classes, and just generally smoothing out how everything runs. Finally, in an attempt to make Virtual Camp more like Real Camp we are going to add an extra “socializing” aspect to the program. At in-person camp there is plenty of time for Campers to bond and hang out during meals, during the day and after hours. Campers, especially kids, bond with their classmates and we are going to create an extra opportunity for that to happen in February. Each class will have an opportunity to meet with their instructor on a Zoom call the week BEFORE camp. This wouldn’t be for just class level stuff but a chance to socialize and get to know each other. Then Friday of Camp, classes will meet again BEFORE the first all-camp meeting to get familiar with what will happen in the ensuing weekend, sort of a “mini-class”. The hope is that class mates, and instructors will stay in touch more after camp too!
At “live” MFC, we have a “camper concert” after lunch on Saturday for Campers to “show off their stuff” and at the end of Camp for each nest to do the same. At virtual Maine Fiddle Camp we have tried to substitute the “Virtual Ensemble” for the camper concert. You’ve seen these “synchronized concerts” online and on TV. Everyone is in a different location but are all playing together. This takes some time and expertise to put together so some of the final performances come out after the end of Camp, BUT some come out during camp and definitely add that “live feel”. Here is a virtual concert by the Buffleheads and the Boom Chickadees led by Éric Favreau and Rachel Aucoin from 2019:
Click to watch the video -> Buffleheads & Boom-Chickadees: Folklore En Tête by Raynald Ouelett – YouTube Folks,.. this is an AMAZING piece of work and very representative of what can happen at Virtual-Maine Fiddle Camp!!!!
FINALLY,.. what everyone REALLY wants to know:
ANNOUNCING TEACHING STAFF FOR V-MFC, FEB 19-21, 2021…
Fiddle – 10 classes: Jennifer Armstrong, Éric Favreau, Ellen Gawler, SteveMuise, Helen Newell , John Pranio, Maggie Robinson, Frank Ferrel, Molly Gawler, Julia Plumb
Guitar – 4 classes ; Aiden Boardman, Fred White, Ben Foss, Eric McDonald
Piano – 2 classes: Neil Pearlman, Alex Fortier, Special guest: Rachel Aucoin
Cello – 2 classes: Daniel Hawkins, Elsie Gawler
Banjo – 2 classes: Carter Logan (bluegrass), Stuart Kenney (clawhammer)
Bass – Noah Fishman
Singing: – Mia Bertelli, Bennett Konesni
Piano Accordion – 2 classes: ChrisBrinn, Nancy 3 Hoffman
Button accordion – Sabin Jacques
Mandolin – 2 classes: Glen Loper, Baron Collins-Hill
Whistle/flute – Sharon Pyne
Ukulele – 2 classes: Kenny Raskin, Nina Miller
Mountain dulcimer – Pam Weeks
Harmonica – Steve Weiss
There are 6 experience levels and when you register you will be asked to “self-assign”. Don’t worry too much about “getting it exactly right”, there will be opportunity to move up or down! Here are the levels
1 Beginning Beginner (learning the basics, tuning, notes)
2 Advanced Beginner (can play simple tunes)
3 Intermediate (starting to learn dance tunes)
4 Advanced Intermediate (can play easier dance tunes at speed)
5 Advanced (can play tunes at dance speed)
6 Advanced Advanced (ready for any challenge!)
Here is who will be teaching what in the fiddle classes.. (Y=youth A=adult)
1Y Molly – Eaglets
2Y Helen Newell – Falcons
1A Maggie – Eagles
2A Jennifer – Hawks
3A John – Owls
3/4Y Julia – Canada Geese
5/6Y Ellen – Blues Jays
4A Steve – Loons
5A Frank – Herons
6A Éric – Buffleheads
Will classes be recorded?
Virtual camp is certainly different from real camp, but one thing we are trying to preserve is the Maine Fiddle Camp community spirit. When you sign up for Virtual Maine Fiddle Camp, you are signing up for a real-time experience, not just access to online videos. Just like real camp, each online workshops will be held live, and will not be recorded. Staff may upload learning materials before and after camp, but we encourage campers to attend workshops and participate in real time. We understand that not everyone will be able to attend every class, but in these challenging times, our top priority is to encourage community engagement.
To recap: Concerts and MFC events like the Variety Show and the Maestro Bistro will be recorded and archived, but workshops will not. To learn from your favorite MFC staff member, we’ll see you there!
Registration will be ready to go soon and early next week you will receive an email BLAST with all the registration particulars!! Registering EARLY gets you into the “pre-camp” sessions and helps us plan and ensures the “BEST EVER”, so please register as early as you can!!!
There you go folks.. More info will be coming out in this newsletter and also on the MFC website, but mark your calendars Feb 19-21!!!.. It will be the best ever!! Looking a little further forward, it is pretty clear that “in-person” MFC will not happen in June 2021. August is still up in the air but there IS a light at the end of the tunnel and MFC will return where we all get to jam, dance, hug, breathe the same air. All that info will be passed to you here and on the MFC website so stay tuned!! – bill o.