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Ryan & Brennish Thomson

Updated Feb 2, 2024

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 wood stove for heating. A few people took advantage of swimming in the lake during the daylight hours


The camp is organized by experienced fiddlers Kathy Zimpfer(Sommer) 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" 2001

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