O’Connor String Method Camp-Looking Back & Looking Ahead

Teaching Irish Fiddle Tunes at the O'Connor Method Camp Aug. 2011

I’m thinking back fondly of the week I spent teaching Irish and Old-Time Fiddle to 5 big classes of students of all ages and abilities at the Mark O’Connor Method Camp in Charleston SC.  This first Method Camp came together in August 2011 with the help of Pam Wiley and a host of other string teachers from around the country who have embraced the ‘New American School of String Playing’ that Mark has developed. I had the pleasure of working (and sometimes jamming!) alongside teachers including Ashley Liberty, Jaime Letourneau, and Andy Reiner to mention just a few. I had some of the best teaching experiences of my career, showing students who were learning to play violin using O’Connor Method Books 1 & 2 some Irish reels, jigs and polkas.

My fiddle classes met on the site of the historic Circular Church

If Mark’s method focuses on American music in all its glorious diversity, how did I get invited to teach Irish fiddle music, you may well ask. American music (especially fiddle tunes and folk songs) has its roots in the immigrants who left their original homes to make a new life in America, of course. And that includes millions from Ireland and Scotland. Many of them arrived to this country with little but the clothes on their backs-and their music. And the music of those Scots-Irish settlers could be called the ‘taproot’ of American Roots music! Irish music has enjoyed a great resurgence in popularity starting in the 1970s, when it was featured at the Smithsonian Institution’s Bicentennial Festival on American Folklife in 1976.

I may be looking back at the great experiences I had teaching at the first O’Connor Method Camp, but I’m also looking forward to returning to teach at the Second Annual Camp, which will be held in Charleston once again, July 30-August 3rd. This time around I’ll be teaching ‘Advanced Irish Tunes & Ornamentation’. I look forward to showing students who have advanced into the brand-new Method Book 3, some fancier jigs & reels. We’ll learn the ‘bones’ of the tunes first and then I’ll demonstrate how to layer ornaments (and slurs) into the melodies to really give them that authentic Irish sound.

We learned some tunes from music, and others by ear.

Make sure you check out the Method Camp website here and maybe I’ll see you at my Irish Fiddle class this year!

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