More Fun Teaching Irish Fiddle, or The Road To Tuscaloosa

Tuscaloosa String Players Enjoy Some Fiddling

This past weekend I spent another great day teaching a willing group of adult intermediate string players about the joy of playing traditional Irish fiddle tunes, this time in Tuscaloosa, on the University of Alabama campus. This particular group were mostly all members of an adult string orchestra led by Dr. Anne Witt, an adjunct professor in the School of Music at the university and a tireless promoter of area school string programs. Coordinated by Jo Moore, a violinist in the group (and a wonderful example of a person who’s life has been made much richer upon taking up the violin later in life), her efforts helped make the entire day a fun experience for her adult orchestra mates and subsequently a great success. A workshop teacher always needs a local coordinator to help make things work and I hit the jackpot with Jo. She promoted the class, signed up the players, brought each one a special gift (a copy of the latest issue of Making Music magazine), gave away a door prize from a local music store, and provided a complete potluck-style lunch for the entire crew!

I talked to the eleven violinists (and one good-natured cellist) about the history of Irish music and how it found its way to America, and they all added some good tunes to their repertoire, including classics such as ‘The Swallowtail Jig’, ‘The Lilting Banshee’, ‘Staten Island’ and ‘Southwind’. But I also gave the group some suggestions on bowing, intonation and even practice techniques they had never thought about.

After doing a number of these Irish Fiddle Workshops now, I’ve come to notice that all adult beginning/intermediate violinists share many of the same problems and bad habits. And whether we’re playing a fiddle tune or  a Bach sonata, I think we all want the same things – to play it well, in tune, with good technique and nice tone. So, I never miss the opportunity to help my workshop students with those things as well.

The day literally flew by. At the end of the afternoon class, I gave a short ‘solo recital’ and played them some of my favorite tunes that I’ve collected over the years. Then before I knew it, we were all packing up and I was ready to hit the road from Tuscaloosa back to Fairhope. It was my first trip to Tuscaloosa to teach Irish Fiddle, but I had a great time with an eager group of string players. I hope some of them caught the ‘fiddling bug’ and explore more jigs & reels on their own now!

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