By Anya Sturm

fiddle-camp175When you think of a YMCA camp, music or fiddling isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. More like boy scouts playing in the forest. But some of my most amazing summer experiences have been at a YMCA camp: Camp Campbell near Santa Cruz, where the annual Valley of the Moon Scottish Fiddling School is held. Run by Alasdair Fraser, with regular instructors, faculty, 2 guest artists, and about 200 campers, Valley of the Moon (VOM) it is the preeminent Scottish fiddle camp in the world and has been the blueprint for other music camps, such as the Rocky Mountain Fiddle Camp.

Every year, Alasdair brings in two major guest fiddlers who represent a particular style of fiddling and a bunch of other instructors (guitar, cello, piano, dance, singing) who come to work and jam with the 200 campers. There are classes for everybody whether you play guitar or fiddle. No matter if you’re a total beginner or have been playing all your life (and there are many fantastic musicians among the students), Valley of the Moon has something new to teach you!

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The Ash Grove: A Tiny Ripple of Hope

2013 “Best of The West” Award from FAR—West

Gives Long Overdue Recognition to Founder Ed Pearl

By Ross Altman

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“Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” Those were the words of Robert F. Kennedy, spoken at The University of Cape Town, South Africa to their national student union on behalf of the Declaration of Human Rights to embolden them to think they could end apartheid. It took place on June 6, 1966—6-6-66—two years before he was assassinated.

They speak to a lifelong commitment by FAR-West Best-of-the-West honoree Ed Pearl, whose mission through his legendary folk club The Ash Grove was precisely to bring forth the people’s music of all races and nationalities in a setting that framed each artist as part of a community that represented the highest ideals of—in RFK’s words—“individual integrity, human dignity, and the common humanity of man.” Over fifteen years, from 1958 to 1973, when the last of three arsonist fires left the Ash Grove in ashes, Ed brought Mance Lipscomb, Mississippi John Hurt, Reverend Gary Davis, Lightning Hopkins, Doc Watson, Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Phil Ochs, The Greenbrier Boys, Ian and Sylvia, the New Lost City Ramblers, Ralph Stanley, Bill Monroe, Linda Ronstadt, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Pete Seeger, and hundreds of others to the most haloed stage in town—many of them for the first time out west. He made 16-year-old local boy Ry Cooder a star.

Read more: The Ash Grove - FAR-WEST