First Long Distance Fiddling Apprenticeship to be Presented

at the National ASTA /with NSOA Conference in Kansas City

by Jan Farrar-Royce


When Amy Sadler returned to teach at the same Raytown Middle School, Missouri, that she had attended, she was glad to continue the extra curricular ensemble that she had enjoyed as a teen-ager. The Bridge Club played all kinds of "fun" music and it was there that Amy was first introduced to fiddling.


Being a violist, however, meant that Amy was relegated to mostly harmony lines and playing back-up "chunks" and so, as she continued to play, fiddling fell by the wayside.


When arrangements of fiddling tunes became available Amy was eager to introduce the music she loved to her students, but she knew that this was not how she had learned to fiddle.


When she got an e-mail through the Missouri chapter of ASTA last spring, offering a middle school string teachers an opportunity to become a long distance apprentice of New England fiddlers Dudley and Jacqueline Laufman, Amy was the first to e-mail them.


The Laufmans, who live in Canterbury, New Hampshire are professionally known as Two Fiddles. Their idea was to work with a string teacher in the Kansas City area and present a workshop together with some of her students at the 2006 National ASTA Conference.


"What drew me to contact them was that they were offering a program that included viola, cello and bass on an equal par with the violins. All my students could learn authentic fiddle tunes together!"


When Amy called the Laufmans she became even more interested.


"Jacqueline got me very excited about everything my students could learn with fiddle tunes and gave me specific ideas of new ways that I could approach teaching the dances and tunes by ear."


The Laufmans sent Amy a copy of their book and CD White Mountain Reel, With and Without Calls. This popular text includes 12 New England tunes with the steps for dancing. The accompanying CD has tracks of the tunes played by an authentic New England "string band," with Dudley calling the dances. Another set of tracks includes only the music so that teachers or students can call the dances themselves. They also sent a set of White Mountain Reel Companions, which are the same tunes arranged for Violin, Viola and Cello/with bass line. The viola, cello and bass can be heard on the CD that accompanies these books.


"This allowed all my students to participate in these fiddling lessons and made it almost effortless for me to teach tunes and dances to our after school club, The Blue Jay Fiddlers, and even my lessons groups."


"I try to teach as many tunes by ear as I can but I am glad to have the Lead Sheets to help my students, who have learned to play by reading music, to learn these tunes. The tunes are so short and memorable that after only a short time my string players can play them without the music!"


The young musicians also like doing the dances, which are not fast or physically taxing. The Virginia Reel stands out as the favorite for many of the students.


Dudley maintains that these dances are about socializing, not aerobics or making dancing patterns on the floor. "The idea is that everyone can participate, from the youngest child to the oldest grandparent. Even people in wheelchairs can join in on the fun!"


Everyone will be able to enjoy the fun at the National Conference when some of Amy’s players will join Two Fiddles for a demonstration workshop. The Laufmans will also be doing a workshop with all of Amy’s string students at her school.


"Although this experiment with a long distance apprenticeship has worked well, we are looking forward to being able to work in person with Amy and her string students. We wished that we could find a venue where all of the students and their families ~ and anyone else in the greater Kansas City area ~ could meet together to dance and play fiddle." The Kansas City Folk Arts Alliance has given everyone that opportunity by arranging for Two Fiddles to do a barn dance at the Merriam Community Center on Saturday night. Students are encouraged to sin-in with the Laufmans’ band.


In addition, Two Fiddles has also offered another apprenticeship with them as a contribution to the Conference’s Silent Auction and will be sharing their music and teaching ideas in a Showcase and at the Poster Session.


"We have enjoyed this so much that we are hoping to continue to work with many more teachers and string students across America!"


Jan Farrar-Royce has been a performer, string teacher and conductor for more than 30 years and has been described in the American String Teachers Journal as "a leading authority on bringing fiddling into mainstream string curriculum." She is completely a term on the national Alternative Styles committee.