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April 2024
Vol. 23, No. 7

Featured Stories

A Great Way to Learn Acoustic Music and Have Fun Doing It: The Julian Family Fiddle Camp is Coming in May

by Dwight WordenMarch 2024

Happy campers at the Julian Family Fiddle Camp.

The mountains in Julian, California are beautiful in the spring. The smell of ponderosa pine and fir trees permeates the crisp air, as wild turkeys and deer enjoy the outdoors. But once every year—this year May 1-5 –the mountains also welcome the joyous sound of acoustic music as the California Bluegrass Association presents the annual Julian Family Fiddle Camp at a beautiful mountain retreat.

The camp offers top-notch instruction on guitar, fiddle, banjo, mandolin, singing, and more. There is onsite food and board for registrants, concerts in the evenings, and lots of great jamming and social interaction. It’s called the “family” Fiddle Camp for a reason; it caters to all ages. The venue also offers hiking, guided nature treks, a pool, archery, zip line, and more for those so inclined.

So, what’s it like to attend? I have attended this camp for years. I keep going back because it is so much fun. Here’s a sketch of the experience you can expect. You will travel through the pine-laden Cuyamaca area of Julian to the campus for the event. There you will be welcomed to camp by a jam session where you can join fellow students and faculty in a comfortable outdoor setting. You will settle into a dorm-style room and learn your way around the campus, then join the group for orientation and an excellent dinner in the dining hall. During the day, you will attend morning and afternoon classes on your chosen instrument where you will get to know your instructors and classmates and begin the learning process. There are levels for everyone, from beginner to intermediate to advanced, so that you can learn comfortably.

There’s plenty of jamming going on at the Fiddle Camp. Photo by Robin Frenette.

Meals are shared in the dinning hall, and the evenings are filled with concerts by the faculty. These concerts are a highlight of the camp experience as you hear from some of the best in the business. There are free periods as well where you can enjoy hiking and other activities. You will find the on-site staff friendly and attentive to all your needs. When it’s time to return to the “real world” there will be goodbyes shared with new-found friends, excitement about your experience and what you have learned, and a commitment to return next year.

A bit about the faculty and classes.  There are 13 scheduled faculty for this year’s sessions. All top notch. Here are highlights from the camp website on just a few:

  • Mike Compton, Mandolin: Mike Compton is riveting. Many know Mike from the Nashville Bluegrass Band, John Hartford String Band, or the kick-off mandolin voice to “Man of Constant Sorrow” from O Brother, Where Art Thou.
  • Kimber Ludiker, Fiddle: With 11 combined family National Fiddle Championships, Kimber holds three herself. In 2009, Kimber founded the all-female bluegrass-Americana super group Della Mae. They were IBMA’s Emerging Artists of the Year in 2013, Grammy nominees in 2014 for their first album on Rounder Records, and named by Rolling Stone as the 10 bands to watch in 2015.
  • Grant Gordy, Guitar: “An exciting young player who, despite a plethora of influences, now sounds like nobody but himself.”—Fretboard Journal. His music has been heard on NPR’s All Things Considered and Tiny Desk Concerts, and he’s received attention from numerous international music periodicals like Just Jazz Guitar and Acoustic Guitar magazine, which featured Gordy as the cover story for the March/April 2023 issue.

Photo by Robin Frenette.

To see the full list of faculty and read their bios, to learn more about the Camp, and to register, visit:

There is also a fund-raising concert for the camp to be held at the Julian Town Hall on March 30. You can read about the concert and get tickets on the camp website. All funds are donated to the camp. Speaking of fundraising, the camp is affordable and offers scholarship assistance to those in need.

If you are intrigued but unable to attend this year’s camp, consider attending the March 30 concert or one of the evening concerts during the camp session. That way you can taste the experience and start your plans for next time. I hope to see you there!

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