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.
Those who love ‘northern’ fiddle styles will be treated to an array of genres from Canada, Scotland and Ireland, and ‘southern’ fiddle music lovers will be thrilled with the varied offerings in old-time and bluegrass. Classes in swing, improvisation, and blues round out an immersion experience that any fiddle player will love. 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. Certain classes are open to all instruments, allowing for a full class load for these instrumentalists.
For the classes with levels indicated, 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 “Fiddle from Scratch” for students who want to gain confidence in learning and playing by ear, and for those who are new 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. In addition, this year, folk legend Janis Ian will be offering her “Master Class in Artistry” during all five weeks of the Gathering. This year’s Luthier’s Exhibit features bowmaker Roger Treat, and violin maker Joe Thrift, who will be demonstrating their craft and will also have finished works on hand to sample. In addition, master luthier Lynn Dudenbostel will once again be on hand to offer repair services.
Fiddle Week runs concurrently with Mando & Banjo Week, and students may take classes in either program.