Now in its nineteenth year, fiddlekids is a unique, fun-filled summer day camp devoted to traditional fiddle music. We welcome young violin students and fiddlers, ages 7 to 15, with at least one year of playing experience. No previous fiddling is required. Camp is divided into skill-based groups of roughly 15 fiddlers, and each child attends classes with three of the camp's fiddle instructors.
The fiddlekids experience
Our camp is a great opportunity for children to explore and learn a
wide range of traditional fiddling styles—bluegrass, American old-time,
Appalachian, Irish, Scottish, jazz, swing, and blues—through tunes,
Boasting a superb teaching staff and a wonderfully supportive atmosphere, fiddlekids has introduced hundreds of youngsters to the lively and delightful fiddle repertoire. We’ve also inspired many of our alumni to enjoy a life-long relationship with their instrument, traditional fiddle music, and folk music culture.
By learning to memorize tunes on-the-fly without music notation, kids learn the traditional aural style of sharing and learning fiddle tunes. This skill points many kids on a new trajectory, preparing them to
participate in folk music camps, jam sessions, and fiddle workshops,
where playing by ear is expected. Ear training also provides a new level
of confidence and performance proficiency, particularly for those who
struggle with reading music. Read more about learning to play fiddle tunes by ear ...
In addition to fiddling, the camp offers dance and art classes in age-based groups that provide good
old-fashioned fun and deeper connections with traditional music.
A day at fiddlekids summer camp
Morning fiddle: Class I
Recess (10 to 15 minutes)
Morning fiddle: Class II
Dance/Art — half the camp goes to each activity
Lunch and lunch-time recess
Art/Dance — the kids that had art now go to dance, and vice versa
Afternoon fiddle: Class III
Recess, snacks, and pickup
NOTE: Each activity (fiddle, dance, and art) is roughly one hour long
The fiddlekids concert — free admission
Camp culminates with the fiddlekids recital, an exciting public performance on the Freight & Salvage stage. This lovely show highlights the kids' accomplishments across a wide range of fiddling styles.
By the end of camp most kids have memorized three to six tunes, and they'll fiddle most of them at the concert. The performance also showcases dances learned from our dance instructor.
We'll have the kid's beautiful artwork, created under the guidance of our art instructor, displayed in the lobby.
When camp starts we'll email a link that provides access to the collection of instructor-made recordings for this year's camp. The collection includes fast and slow recordings for most tunes.
Please encourage your young fiddlers to listen daily, at home and/or during the commute to camp. They'll learn their fiddle tunes faster and more easily with repeated listening.
A brief nightly review will yield a much deeper grasp of the material, and a head start for the next day. Many parents say, "This is the first time I've seen my kid come home after any class and want to practice!"
After camp each fiddlekids family receives music notation for all fiddle tunes taught, plus some tunes that were recorded but untaught, usually about 24 tunes in all. The notation allows the kids to review the music, to understand it from another perspective, and to work on favorite tunes that the other kids learned.
The fiddlekids camp weekday classes are held at:
Berkwood Hedge School 1809 Bancroft Way, Berkeley, CA.
The Saturday concert is at the Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse
Julian Smedleyis the camp director for both weeks of fiddlekids. A brilliant swing-jazz fiddle player and a veteran of thefiddlekidsteaching staff, Julian possesses stratospheric expertise balanced by a down-to-earth teaching style, effortless patience, and a natural ability to pace his delivery. The kids love his inventiveness, spontaneity, and wit, and also his swingin' impact on camp. Julian currently coordinates the music programs at the Seattle Waldorf High School, and is a consultant for the 2016 Centrum Vintage Jazz workshop. He also maintains a full schedule as a studio musician, producer, and performer in the Pacific Northwest.
Caroline McCaskey'senthusiastic teaching style has fostered a love of music in both children and adults for over 15 years. Caroline joined the San Francisco Scottish Fiddlers at age 12, and went on to tour Northern California for 7 years as the leader of the Fiddlerats contra dance band. She is certified by the Suzuki Association of the Americas for Violin books 1-7, and now teaches Suzuki violin full time at Bristol Elementary School in Colorado Springs. Caroline began as an assistant atfiddlekidsin 2002, and joined the ranks of the Instructors in 2009.
Harry Liedstrandis an inspired and energetic fiddler of traditional music from America and the Celtic countries. He studied violin at the UOP Conservatory of Music and earned a Master’s Degree in Ethnomusicology at CSU Fresno. Harry began fiddling with Kenny Hall and the Sweets Mill String Band in the 60’s. Firmly grounded in the American tradition, Harry has been on the teaching staff atfiddlekidsand the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes. His performances are positive and uplifting, whether in the classroom or on the stage.
Karen Heil, a skillful, fun, and enthusiastic teacher, is an expert fiddler and guitarist with a special love of old-time southern American fiddle music. Karen has been part of the teaching staff at the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes, Grass Valley Camp, Lark in the Morning Camp, and the Austin Old Time Festival. She performs with the Bucking Mules and San Francisco's Knuckle Knockers. A natural livewire, she brings lots of spark and current tofiddlekids!
Bobbi Nikles is an acclaimed force in the Bay Area music scene and beyond. The founder of fiddlekids camp, which she led as director for many years, Bobbi also performs in a wide array of bands. Her luscious fiddling and driving rhythm add fuel to every project she's with, including Black Brothers Band, Douce Ambiance, Wake the Dead and many more. A sought-after teacher at camps, workshops and in her private studio, Bobbi's creative and nurturing style incorporates her depth of knowledge and her experience as a teacher for over 30 years.
Kaila Flexer is a superb violinist in many styles, who is perhaps best known for her playing of music from the Balkans and Eastern Europe. Throughout her career she’s maintained a thriving teaching studio in Oakland and traveled afar to teach workshops and music camps. A founder of respected groups like Third Ear and Next Village, Kaila currently performs with Gari Hegedus in the duo Teslim and with Shira Kammen in the Oakland Folkharmonic.
Suzy Thompson fell in love with Cajun music hearing the Balfa Brothers live in 1976. She apprenticed with the legendary Cajun fiddler Dewey Balfa under an NEA grant. In the 1980s, Suzy played hundreds of dances with the California Cajun Orchestra, featuring the accordion playing of Danny Poullard. Suzy has also recorded and performed Cajun music with Michael Doucet, Marc and Ann Savoy, D.L. Menard, and many other Cajun greats. She has taught Cajun fiddling at Augusta Heritage’s Cajun-Creole Week, Festival of American Fiddle Tunes and Montana Fiddle Camp.
Laurie Hart specializes in Scandinavian, Québécois, French and American dance music. She also plays Swedish nyckelharpa and Norwegian Hardanger fiddle. Laurie is known for her beautiful tone, agile bowing, large repertoire, and fidelity to the diverse styles she plays. She has been teaching fiddle since 1990, and has performed since 1986 at contradances, concerts, and festivals across the U.S., Canada and Northern Europe. Laurie was the recipient of a Fulbright Award to study the music and dance of Norway and Sweden.
Evie Ladin is a banjo player, step-dancer, singer, songwriter and square-dance caller with a lifetime of experience in traditional American cultural arts. The polyrhythmic funk of her clawhammer banjo, resonant voice, and rhythmic dance have been heard from “A Prairie Home Companion” to Hardly Strictly Bluegrass. She is also the Executive Director of the International Body Music Festival. A teacher at fiddlekids for over 10 years, Evie skillfully connects the music to dance traditions. She firmly believes that understanding the music and the dance makes any player a better musician.
Robin Fischer is a Berkeley-based musician, dance caller, and in-demand fiddle teacher. She loves calling and teaching dances anywhere live fiddle music happens to be getting newbies out on the dance floor. She is a regular caller in the Bay Area at family dances, weddings, music camps/festivals, parties, and of course big ol' community dances! Robin loves how equalizing traditional square dancing is - no levels, no prerecorded music, just an old fashioned dance party.
Anna Rainerloves encouraging students to try something new. Kids love Anna because she brings fun, unique, engaging and amazing projects to the classroom. She's an art instructor who thinks of herself as a “possibility-maker.” Her motto is “There is an artist within each child.” Currently she teaches art at Oxford Elementary School in Berkeley and at CCA (California College of the Arts). She's been making and teaching art for over 20 years.
Camp founder and history
Bobbi Nikles founded and ran fiddlekids
single-handedly for 12 years, later continuing as director for an
additional two years after fiddlekids became a program of the Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse. John Blasquez was fiddlekids director from 2012 to 2014, while Bobbi graciously continued to provide input and guidance.