Fiddlekids Summer Music Camp - for fiddlers and violinists
Now in its eighteenth 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, songs, dance.
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
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.
Julian Smedley is the camp director for fiddlekids. A brilliant swing-jazz fiddle player and an eight-year veteran of the fiddlekids teaching 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's early forays into the vibrant London music scene of the 1970's - BBC shows, concerts, recordings, and tours - eventually led him to the West Coast where engagements with Ralph Towner, Paul Horn, Mike Wollenberg, and The Hot Club of San Francisco helped establish him as a jazz violinist. Julian currently coordinates the music programs at the Seattle Waldorf High School while maintaining a full schedule as a performer, producer, and music educator in Seattle, his home since 2011.
Caroline McCaskey's enthusiastic 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 the Program Director of City Strings, which brings violin, viola, and cello lessons to over 100 at-risk youth in the Denver, CO metro area. She is certified by the Suzuki Association of the Americas for Violin books 1-7, and will soon add Cello books 1 and 2. She plays the musical saw, and has performed solo with the San Francisco and Colorado symphonies. Caroline began as an assistant at fiddlekids in 2002, and joined the ranks of the Instructors in 2009. She is so excited to be back!
Harry Liedstrand is 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. For 25 years as an elementary school teacher, Harry creatively demonstrated a love and understanding of the art of teaching children. Firmly grounded in the American tradition, Harry has been on the teaching staff at fiddlekids and the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes. His performances are positive and uplifting, whether in the classroom or on the stage.
John Blasquez is a superlative, seasoned performer in bluegrass, old-time, and Celtic genres, and his fiddling expertise is matched by his remarkable gift for teaching. Patient, encouraging, and creative, John is especially skilled in connecting with kids. Having served on staff for most of its years, he has contributed immensely to fiddlekids. John was fiddlekids program director in 2012, 2013 and 2014 and teaches private lessons in the S.F. East Bay. We welcome his ingenuity, motivational talents, and great sense of humor.
Karen Celia 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, the CBA's Grass Valley Camp, Lark in the Morning Camp, the ongoing Berkeley String Band Class, and Gainsborough Festival in the UK. She performs with the Bucking Mules (two-time Appalachian String Band Music Festival winners in the Traditional Band category), San Francisco's Knuckle Knockers, and KC & the MooNshine Band. A natural livewire, she brings lots of spark and current to fiddlekids, and to fiddling at large!
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, real stories and rhythmic dance - have been heard from A Prairie Home Companion to Hardly Strictly Bluegrass. Evie started playing banjo at the age of eight, clogging at five, and has a fluid expressiveness in these traditional Appalachian arts, even as she brings a contemporary vision to her own music. Based in Oakland, Evie tours solo, duo with Keith Terry, with her stringband Evil Diane. She is also the Executive Director of the International Body Music Festival. Evie has two solo CDs, three CDs with the Stairwell Sisters, two with Crosspulse, plus two instructional DVDs: Buckdancing for Beginners and Part Two: Freestyle.
Anna Rainer loves 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.
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.
You can contact Andrea at the Freight & Salvage for registration information, 510 859 1127 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The fiddlekids camp weekday classes are held at:
Berkwood Hedge School
The Saturday concert is at the Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse.
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.
fiddlekids preview video
— fiddlekids® is a trademark of the Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse —
fiddlekids is made possible through the generous support of the Bill Graham Supporting Foundation.
Listen to sample tracks from upcoming artists.