Hi folks, For the last decade or so I have been honored to be involved with Maine Fiddle Camp (MFC), a multi-generational traditional music camp not just for fiddles but 14 or 15 instruments!! MFC began in 1994 as a single June weekend camp in Montville, Maine with a small teaching staff (less than 20) who taught fiddle, guitar, piano, flute/pennywhistle, banjo, maybe a few others. The mission was to teach the music and dance traditions of Maine and New England and the areas of influence like Quebec and Atlantic Canada. The venue was “Camp NEOFA,” a kids’ summer camp run by the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) for their “northeast region” (hence the name). NEOFA was and still is a very rustic camp designed to hold about 80 campers max. There were small bunk cabins with no electricity or running water, a bath house for all “plumbing related” stuff, and a very small kitchen/dining hall for food. Fiddle Camp was the brainchild of Greg Boardman, but our present “fearless leader,” Doug Protsik, took over the reins around 1997 and has been our director ever since. MFC celebrated its 25th year in 2019 (there was one year off for those of you doing the math!), our most recent “live camp” before we were shut down by Covid for the last 2 years. By 2019 we had 5 camp sessions, two weekends and a week in June and two August week-long sessions. Staff was up to near 50 and we had to cut off the registration numbers at around 300 for each camp! OK… how is this possible and what happened? (Read on)
I can’t count the number of folks I’ve heard say, “Maine Fiddle Camp just isn’t LIKE other camps!” I’ll try to explain why. First of all, MFC is truly a multi-generational (ages 6-90) music camp with teaching at all levels (AND interaction between the generations!). There are 12 fiddle levels, 1-6 – beginner to advanced for both kids and adults. Other instruments aren’t broken down as much but there is still an appropriate class for any level, adult or youth, for these instruments: Accordion, Banjo, Bass, Concertina, Cello, Fiddle, Flute/Pennywhistle, Guitar, Harmonica, Mandolin, Mountain Dulcimer, Piano, Ukulele, Singing. Here is a list of present and past staff: Staff (mainefiddlecamp.org). Look at the staff. Sure there are some world class names in there and they are a BIG part of MFC, but there are really great folk musicians that you probably never heard of. MFC staff are hired to be good teachers, not “big names.” The “staff page” above has links to all the staff bios.. Take a look! Another thing that made MFC grow so quickly is the amazing sense of community and volunteerism at Camp. The MFC community (and I mean staff AND campers) took a small camp designed of 80 kids and expanded it to house, feed and teach 250+ campers. This was done first by setting up a “Main Tent” which became the center of camp. here’s a pic:
Other tents were setup for dining and an expanded outdoor kitchen, and of course the classes which took place in “nests,” each named after a bird found in Maine (e.g. guitars are “Martins,” you get the idea). Other camp activities are concerts, old time country dancing (note: we have a foxtrot and waltz at the end of each evening dance where we assemble a dance orchestra with ukuleles and, wait for it, HORNS, (coronet, trumpet, French horn, Sax, trombone, clarinet, tuba, more!!) yes just like the old time dances in Maine had. The following video should tell the whole store…singing around the campfire, a ‘dinner theater’ called “Maestro Bistro” when staff members perform, jam session at all levels, both “guided” and spontaneous, and of course typical camp activities like swimming, games for the kids, etc. Everyone can participate and everyone helps out (sweeping floors, moving chairs, kitchen, etc) In addition to MUSIC, the sense of community and “we’re all in this together” pervades camp..
For accommodations, while unaccompanied kids stayed in the cabins with counselors and some families stay in cabins too, many campers camp in tents or RV’s or camp trailers. A tent village sprung up on the shores of True’s Pond adding to the sense of community for sure! Oh yeah, the food! Also not like many other camps, the food is healthy, organic wherever possible, locally sourced and attention is always made for special dietary needs! Plus it is always fresh and TASTES good!!!
Maine fiddle camp is international too. We have had campers from all over North America, Europe, Australia, who knows what’s next? One year we had a camper from France who was riding his bicycle around the world! (OK, he got help crossing the oceans). He had harmonicas and a little one row button accordion in his pannier!
TYPICAL SCHEDULE, JUNE and AUGUST WEEKS
4:00-7:00 PM – Check-in – unload your stuff, meet cabin-mates
6:00 -volunteers, work/exchange meeting
7:30 8:30 – Staff Introduction
8:30-10:00 – Camper Music Jam
10:00-11:00 – Old-time Country Dance
Monday – Thursday
7:30 – 9:00 Breakfast (Hot food 8:00)
9:00 -10:15 – Workshop (with primary leader)
10:30 -11:45 – Workshop
12:00 -1:00 – Lunch – listen for the dinner bell!
1:00 – 2:00 – Camper concert (surprise guests)
2:00 – 3:00 – Review (with primary leader)
3:00 – 4:30 – Band workshops, Swim, Games, Relaxation time
4:30 – 5:30 – Specialty workshops
6:00 -6:45 – Dinner AND Maestro Bistro!– listen for the dinner bell!
7:30 – 9:00 –Old-Time Country Dance, Jamming
9:00-9:30- Singing around the camp fire
9:30-11:00 – Variety Show with staff and campers
11:00 – Bedtime (youths in bed, lights out at 11:30)
11:15 – Youth bed check
11:00 -11:30 Quiet time for all
11:30-1:00 quiet adult jamming in buildings only
1:00 – All quiet.
7:30-8:45 AM – Breakfast
9:00-10:15 Workshop (with primary leader)
11:15-12:00 – Camp cleanup
12:00-1:00 – Lunch
1:00-3:00 – Camper Concert
3:00 – Camp Closes ’til next time
New Venue.. For the past two years, Maine Fiddle Camp has gone online (Zoom) with a couple weekend long “camps” and most recently “Virtual-MFC” on the second Saturday of the month. The final V-MFC will be June 11 and that will lead into and introduce folks to, (dah dah).. “in-person” Camp at a new venue (Pilgrim Lodge Camp in West Gardiner, Maine). the new camp is much more modern than the old one. There’s electricity and bathrooms and showers in the cabins for one thing!! What???! there’s a beautiful lodge building with plenty of space for dancing and concerts (no bugs, no rain coming in the sides of the tent), and a modern kitchen and dining hall! But Pilgrim was never set up for tenting and MFC will fill up their cabins quickly, so, we have had work crews at camp for all Spring building tent sites, reconstructing the old “bath house” for use by the “campers,” once again adding to the sense of community and cooperation. Here are some pictures of the new camp.
The first live camp weekend starts Friday, June 17 and is already full. BUT the June week has openings as do the August weeks. here are the dates:
June weekend: 6/17 – 6/19
June week: 6/19 – 6/24
August week I: 8/7 – 8/12
August week II: 8/14 – 8/19 and here is a link to the MFC website so you can “read all about it,” both Virtual and Live camps: Maine Fiddle Camp If you’d rather sit back and watch some great fun videos, you can go to the MFC YouTube Channel here: MaineFiddleCamp – YouTube.
And finally, if you’re interested and want to ask questions email me at email@example.com
See y’all next month – bill
the CONTINUING TRADITION Number 4
MAINE FIDDLE CAMP