Since the invention of the violin, the music of its unschooled alter-ego, the fiddle, has excited people to dance, evoked the devil and the spiritual, echoed the human voice and heart. It is an instrument that has made its way into the core of many different traditions and it speaks a language understood worldwide. Fiddle Week at the Swannanoa Gathering celebrates that universality with classes in traditional and contemporary styles ranging from Irish to Brazilian to Blues, from Old-Time to Cajun to Swing.
This summer we are emphasizing playing by ear, developing a personal style and improvising in various genres. The week also includes classes in guitar, focusing on accompaniment in various styles, and there are related offerings for the fiddle’s bigger siblings, the cello and bass. The class schedule has been structured in such a way as to allow students to explore a rich variety of fiddle styles each day.
Each instructor teaches different levels in their area of expertise, and students are asked to place themselves in the appropriate level. Most classes are taught at the intermediate or advanced level, but we continue to offer a few introductory classes for students who want to gain confidence in learning and playing by ear, and for those who are newer to the instrument. Intermediate classes are appropriate for advanced players who would like to explore a style that is new to them, or for experienced players who need to get more fluent playing by ear. The advanced classes are designed to build on previous experience in the style.
During the last hour of the day, there will be a special class time for students of any skill level to form bands along with students from Mando & Banjo Week. With coaching from instructors, band members arrange tunes and rehearse with the option of performing at the student showcase on Friday evening. Fiddle Week runs concurrently with Mando & Banjo Week and students may take classes in either program.
This year’s Luthier’s Exhibit features violin maker Joe Thrift and bow maker Roger Treat, who will be demonstrating their craft and will also have finished works on hand to sample. In addition, mandolin builders Max & Lauri Girouard will be displaying their instruments and master luthier Lynn Dudenbostel will once again be on hand to offer repair services.