01 Mar Make Your Fiddle Sing and Dance with Susan Conger This Spring
Susan Conger playing with others at a musicians’ gathering
The Folk School is an ideal place to, as Susan Conger writes, “steep in the joy of music for a week, learning fiddle tunes both lovely and lively.” Our music studio in Davidson Hall is a large, light-filled gathering space with enough room for everyone to join together in a circle. The studio’s porch offers a breath of fresh air–literally!–along with long beautiful views of the herb garden and rolling hills.
In Susan’s upcoming class, “Make Your Fiddle Sing and Dance,” folks will have the chance to learn new tips and tricks while getting more experience playing together in a group. In the post below, written by the instructor herself, Susan describes what students can expect, along with some of her highlights from teaching here at the Folk School for many years.
There are still spots available in this intermediate to advanced level music class, happening April 23-28, 2023. Register today and join in on the fun!
It has always delighted me that the verb for music-making is “to play.” Yes, becoming a fiddler takes effort and practice, but all the while, we’re also playing! I like to bring that joyful spirit into my teaching too.
A tune is so much more than a sequence of notes. Music can speak powerfully to our emotions and our bodies — lifting us into sudden joy, moving us to tears, inviting us to dance. How, exactly, does a fiddler use the bow to draw expressiveness from the fiddle, and potentially evoke those responses from listeners? Our focus as a class will be on techniques that bring life to the notes. This is the art and craft of fiddling, and it’s what’s at the heart of learning to “make our fiddles sing and dance.”
In the fiddle class, we’ll also spend some time developing or honing the valuable skill of “learning tunes by ear”: listening to a tune, then locating it on our fiddle strings. Often people are delightfully surprised to discover that this is a learnable skill. The more comfortable we become with translating the music we hear into notes under our fingers, the more opportunities open up for us to learn tunes in a wide variety of contexts. In class, it’ll be our approach for learning together a few tunes that we’ll all have in common, and will use for our raw material during the week.
One of the things I always look forward to at the Folk School is serenading other classes. The fiddle class strolls over to one of the clusters of studios, playing as we go and admiring the pathways and gardens en route. Sometimes, an instructor or a student hears us coming and hurries to open a studio door and usher us in. In other cases, I put my head in the door and ask if it’s a good time for us to share a tune. We play a tune for the woodturners or the potters or the quilters or the cooks, and in turn they show us what they’re making or feed us tidbits. In no time at all, everyone’s beaming – excited and happy to show what they’re working on.
I look forward to a wonderful week of learning tunes, improving technique, and breathing more life into the music! And I also look forward to the way a class is knit together over the course of a week, through music, shared time and effort, laughter and goodwill. The details of that process are unique to each class, but the experience is always special.
Make Your Fiddle Sing and Dance with Susan Conger
April 23-28, 2023
Steep in the joy of music for a week, learning fiddle tunes both lovely and lively. Explore how to coax a sweeter sound from your instrument and bring forth the beat and drive of a dance tune. Tackle common fingering and bowing problems and learn techniques to more easily acquire tunes by ear. Enjoy playing with others, and benefit from opportunities for some individual instruction. For intermediate to advanced students who are comfortable with the basics of fiddling, and able to play at least ten tunes at a moderate tempo.
About Susan Conger
Susan Conger grew up playing classical violin, and as an adult was drawn to the fiddle tunes she heard while contra dancing. She teaches fiddle and classical violin and plays for contra, English, and Scandinavian dancing. She is the composer of numerous fiddle tunes; the editor of “Along the River,” a collection of modern New England dance tunes; and has been on staff at various dance camps and festivals from New England to Seattle. Susan loves helping students develop their playing and listening skills, while keeping the joy of music always at the forefront.