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Sunday, June 26, 2022

Make it fun: Camp Stillwater Fiddle attracts young and old alike. See them at the concert.

Hours after arriving at Fiddle Camp in Stillwater this week, students were learning the art of improvisation from two masters.

Bluegrass, explained Brian Wiklund and Joe Walsh, is improvisation. Viklund, the camp director, and Walsh, a local mandolin teacher, teamed up to perform the classical bluegrass duet “Take This Hammer” and then invited their students to join in.

“Playing bluegrass is dangerous,” Wiklund told 15 tourists who had gathered for an afternoon class at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Stillwater. “There’s a kind of shooting aspect to it: ‘Hey, look what I can do.’ But I also listened very carefully (Walsh) and he played some really cool timings that also took me in a different direction and he listened to me and played to my rhythm. There is this open dangerous communication that is pleasurable. It’s really a blast.”

Wicklund began offering Fiddle Camp – a four-day program that culminates in a Friday afternoon concert – in 2009.

“I was going to be doing all sorts of workshops around the country and also in Sweden and Canada, and the mother of several of the kids I taught started asking about opportunities for her own kids locally,” said Viklund, who lives in Marina. to Santa Cruz.

Viklund said he could not handle the logistics of opening his own camp; mother, Marty Button, offered to help, he said.

Due to COVID, the camp was launched online in 2020 and was not held in 2021. This year about 30 children and adults aged 9 to 70 take part in the camp. Wiklund has always made the camps intergenerational.

“There were always fearless adults who joined the camp,” he said. “This is one of those rare opportunities for intergenerational learning. It’s great for everyone. It really creates a good community.”


Brian Wiklund demonstrates how to play Take This Hammer during the American Fiddle Method Camp in Stillwater. (Scott Takushi/Pioneer Press)

Wiklund, who grew up in St. Peter, Minnesota, began playing the violin at the age of 7 when his parents enrolled him in classical Suzuki violin lessons. Two years later, he found the passion of his life—bluegrass music—when his mother, Faith, brought home a pair of Flatt and Scruggs records as research for an anthropological article on country music.

“The first time I put them on a turntable, I threw up,” he said. “I just loved the energy and speed of how fast they played the melodies…and the overall sound. It’s always hard to explain why music really amazes someone, but it totally blew me away.”

Viklund, 57, started playing bluegrass with his father, David, who taught himself how to play the banjo.

“We started going to some bluegrass events in the Twin Cities and I got to know some other fiddlers,” said Brian Wiklund. “I didn’t have a teacher, but I had a little portable cassette recorder that I took with me wherever I went, and I always cornered someone who was better than me and wouldn’t let them go until they didn’t teach me anything. new.”

After graduating from Gustav Adolph College, Wiklund began playing violin professionally with the Minnesota bluegrass band Stoney Lonesome, who appeared regularly on “A Prairie Home Companion”.

Viklund now plays with Barley Jacks and gives private lessons and workshops around the world. He is the creator of The American Violin Method, a top-selling online program that is said to provide “the beginner with the elements needed to become an accomplished violinist”.

Viklund started teaching online classes before the pandemic via Zoom. “I was doing Zoom before it was cool,” he said.

The move to online learning seemed like a natural progression after years of private tutoring. People who subscribe to the American Violin Method get access to Viklund’s entire curriculum and can sign up for Wiklund’s hours of work for in-person sessions, he says. According to him, this fall he will also conduct group lessons on Zoom.


Brian Wiklund (Left) And Joe Walsh (Center On Guitar) Lead The Students Through The Game. &Quot;Take This Hammer.&Quot;
Brian Wiklund (left) and Joe Walsh (center) play guitar as students play “Take This Hammer”. (Scott Takushi/Pioneer Press)

Wiklund excels at teaching because he is “primarily a great musician and he’s a lot of fun,” said Walsh, a professional musician and educator based in Portland, Maine. “It’s a good combination of extremely dedicated music study and making it accessible, which isn’t always given, and making it fun.”

Zoe Wagner, 13, from Minneapolis, has visited five Fiddle Camps Wicklund. She started playing the violin when she was 5 years old and entered the camp at the suggestion of her violin teacher when she was in second grade.

“He’s very funny so it’s a lot of fun to study with him because he’s always joking and all that,” she said. “He’s just very smart and knows what he’s talking about. It’s amazing how much we learn in just four days.”

Camp for musicians playing the violin, cello, viola, mandolin, guitar and bass; Vacationers range from newbies who have only been playing for a year to seasoned pros “who want to improve their game,” Viklund said.

“I love the way he teaches,” said 15-year-old Emmet Cooper from Minneapolis, who plays the cello. “He’s not too slow, but he can help everyone learn their part without slowing everyone down when one person is slower.”

Red Wing’s David Vincent, 70, who has taught guitar and guitar repair at Minnesota Southeastern College at Red Wing, is attending his “sixth or seventh” Fiddle Camp this summer. Vincent, who also plays the mandolin, learned about the camp at the Minneapolis Bluegrass Festival, he says.

Viklund is “a great teacher and he brings great teachers,” Vincent said. “In this kind of music, ‘famous’ is a relative term, but for people who are really into this kind of music, Brian is really well known.”

According to him, visiting the camp means that Vincent has a whole week to focus on the mandolin. “At home, I can study for half an hour or an hour a day,” he said. “I’m not going to work four or five hours a day, like in the camp.”

According to Viklund, Vincent and the other campers will have learned 12 new tunes by the time they perform their solo concert on Friday afternoon.

“There is something about camp where people learn much faster,” he said. “This year we have three violin teachers, and they all teach six to eight new melodies in their classes. They also learn to play together – they not only learn melodies, but also learn how to play chords and accompany other musicians. One aspect of this camp is bluegrass training, in which students learn not only melodies but also chords. They will also learn how to sing melodies as well as how to sing in harmony. It’s just an amazing amount of music and skills that people learn in a very short amount of time.”

But like any summer camp, the best part of attending is building a community and making friends for life,” Viklund said.

“There are so many kids and adults who met and became friends, and many of those friendships started 10 years ago and are still going strong.”


Fiddle Camp staff concert will be 7 pm Thursday at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Stillwater. The concert will feature Brian Wiklund, Daniel Enblom, AJ Srubas, Joe Walsh and Mike Kramer. Tickets $20 in advance; $25 entry. To purchase tickets, go to https://www.eventbrite.com/e/fiddle-masters-concert-tickets-321415060097.

Fiddle Camp Student Concert will be 2:30 pm Friday at the church. It’s free and open to the public.

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