Fiddlekids Summer Music Camp - for fiddlers and violinists

fiddlekids summer fiddle camp logo



Registration is open for fiddlekids 2017!

fiddlekids - week 1

Weekday classes – June 26-30

9:00 am - 3:00 pm
Location: Berkwood Hedge School
1809 Bancroft Way, Berkeley

Saturday Concert – July 1
Location: Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse
2020 Addison St., Berkeley

Week 1 Instructors:

Karen Heil - Old Time

Caroline McCaskey - Scottish

Julian Smedley - Jazz, Swing, Improvisation

Suzy Thompson - Blues, Fiddle Rags

Evie Ladin - Dance

Leslie Keir - Art


fiddlekids – week 2

Weekday classes – July 10-14

9:00 am - 3:00 pm
Location: Berkwood Hedge School
1809 Bancroft Way, Berkeley

Saturday Concert – July 15
Location: Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse
2020 Addison St., Berkeley

Week 2 Instructors:

Kaila Flexer - Balkan, Greek

Andrea Hoag - Scandanavian

Finn Magill - Creative Fiddle Improvisation

Bobbi Nikles - Irish, Old Time

Robin Fischer - Dance

Leslie Keir - Art

fiddlekids sneak peek


Registration  can also be done by phone through the Freight & Salvage box office

(510) 644-2020 ext. 0 during box office hours, 12:30 pm - 7:00 pm daily 

Registration for each week of fiddlekids is $550 if paid in full by 3/31/17

Full tuition is $570 after 4/1/17

Initial payment can be full tuition or $300 deposit

Sibling discount: Full or Early Bird tuition for first child, $50 off for the second

Two Week discount: Full or Early Bird tuition for first week, $50 off for the second

 Scholarships are available! Contact  for details and scholarship forms


click here for the 2017 fiddlekids Registration Form

click here for Emergency Information and Photo Release forms

click here to see the 2017 fiddlekids flyer


fiddlekids 2017


Now in its twentieth year, fiddlekids is a unique, fun-filled summer day camp devoted to traditional fiddle music. We welcome young violin students and fiddlers, ages 7 to 15, with at least one year of playing experience. No previous fiddling is required. Camp is divided into skill-based groups of roughly 15 fiddlers, and each child attends classes with three of the camp's fiddle instructors.


The fiddlekids experience


Our camp is a great opportunity for children to explore and learn a wide range of traditional fiddling styles—bluegrass, American old-time, Appalachian, Irish, Scottish, Cajun, Balkan, Scandinavian, jazz, swing, and blues—through tunes, songs, dance.


Boasting a superb teaching staff and a wonderfully supportive atmosphere, fiddlekids has introduced hundreds of youngsters to the lively and delightful fiddle repertoire. We’ve also inspired many of our alumni to enjoy a life-long relationship with their instrument, traditional fiddle music, and folk music culture.


By learning to memorize tunes on-the-fly without music notation, kids learn the traditional aural style of sharing and learning fiddle tunes. This skill points many kids on a new trajectory, preparing them to participate in folk music camps, jam sessions, and fiddle workshops, where playing by ear is expected. Ear training also provides a new level of confidence and performance proficiency, particularly for those who struggle with reading music. Read more about learning to play fiddle tunes by ear ...


In addition to fiddling, the camp offers dance and art classes in age-based groups that provide good old-fashioned fun and deeper connections with traditional music.


A day at fiddlekids summer camp


  • Morning fiddle: Class I
  • Recess (10 to 15 minutes)
  • Morning fiddle: Class II
  • Dance/Art — half the camp goes to each activity
  • Lunch and lunch-time recess
  • Art/Dance — the kids that had art now go to dance, and vice versa
  • Afternoon fiddle: Class III
  • Recess, snacks, and pickup
  • NOTE: Each activity (fiddle, dance, and art) is roughly one hour long

The fiddlekids concert — free admission


Camp culminates with the fiddlekids recital, an exciting public performance on the Freight & Salvage stage. This lovely show highlights the kids' accomplishments across a wide range of fiddling styles.

By the end of camp most kids have memorized three to six tunes, and they'll fiddle most of them at the concert. The performance also showcases dances learned from our dance instructor.

We'll have the kid's beautiful artwork, created under the guidance of our art instructor, displayed in the lobby.

Camp materials


When camp starts we'll email a link that provides access to the collection of instructor-made recordings for this year's camp. The collection includes fast and slow recordings for most tunes.

Please encourage your young fiddlers to listen daily, at home and/or during the commute to camp. They'll learn their fiddle tunes faster and more easily with repeated listening.

A brief nightly review will yield a much deeper grasp of the material, and a head start for the next day. Many parents say, "This is the first time I've seen my kid come home after any class and want to practice!"

After camp each fiddlekids family receives music notation for all fiddle tunes taught, plus some tunes that were recorded but untaught, usually about 24 tunes in all. The notation allows the kids to review the music, to understand it from another perspective, and to work on favorite tunes that the other kids learned.



The fiddlekids camp weekday classes are held at:

Berkwood Hedge School
1809 Bancroft Way, Berkeley, CA.

The Saturday concert is at the Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse


Camp Director

Julian Smedley is the camp director for both weeks of fiddlekids. A brilliant swing-jazz fiddle player and a veteran of the fiddlekids teaching staff, Julian possesses great expertise balanced by a down-to-earth teaching style and effortless patience. The kids love his inventiveness, spontaneity, and wit, and also his swingin' impact on camp.  Julian currently coordinates the music programs at the Seattle Waldorf High School, and is co-founder of the 2017 Centrum Vintage Jazz workshop. He also maintains a full schedule as a music producer, recording artist and performer in the Pacific Northwest.



Robin Fischer is a Berkeley-based musician, dance caller, and in-demand fiddle teacher. She loves calling and teaching dances anywhere live fiddle music happens to be getting newbies out on the dance floor. She is a regular caller in the Bay Area at family dances, weddings, music camps/festivals, parties, and of course big ol' community dances! Robin loves how equalizing traditional square dancing is - no levels, no prerecorded music, just an old fashioned dance party. 

Kaila Flexer is mesmerized by the music of the Balkans and Eastern Europe and loves sharing it with her students. As a performer, Kaila founded and recorded both original and traditional music with bands Third Ear, Next Village and duo Teslim (with oud player Gari Hegedus). She maintains a thriving teaching studio in Oakland and travels afar to teach workshops and music camps. Kaila is currently taking a break from performing to compose and record.

Karen Cella HeilKaren Heil, a skillful, fun, and enthusiastic teacher, is an expert fiddler and guitarist with a special love of old-time southern American fiddle music. Karen has been part of the teaching staff at the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes, Grass Valley Camp, Lark in the Morning Camp, Austin Old Time Festival, the Gainsborough festival in the UK, and the Freight's own ongoing classes. She performs and records with the acclaimed Old Time band, the Bucking Mules, and on the West Coast as KC & the MooNshine Band. A natural livewire, she brings lots of spark and current to fiddlekids!

Andrea Hoag is a Grammy nominee for her Swedish fiddling, and is fluent in a broad range of American and European fiddle styles. Students of all ages respond to her playfulness, humor, and passion. Andrea has taught at many fiddle camps including the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes, the Swannanoa Gathering, and Ashokan Fiddle and Dance Weeks. She performs widely across the U.S. and in Northern Europe. Andrea is also the founding director of Freyda's Hands, a non-profit organization sponsoring cross-genre collaboration in the performing arts.


Leslie Keir has taught Art to kids for many years in schools, camps and residencies [16!]. Her teaching style is fluid, supportive and highly collaborative. Beholding the ways that each artist responds to ideas and materials continues to delight and inspire her. Via a strange coincidence Leslie is also an old time fiddler, guitar player and singer; teaching at fiddlekids will combine many things that Leslie holds most dear.


vie LadinEvie Ladin is a banjo player, step-dancer, singer, songwriter and square-dance caller with a lifetime of experience in traditional American cultural arts. The polyrhythmic funk of her clawhammer banjo, resonant voice, and rhythmic dance have been heard from “A Prairie Home Companion” to Hardly Strictly Bluegrass. She is also the Executive Director of the International Body Music Festival. A teacher at fiddlekids for over 10 years, Evie skillfully connects the music to dance traditions. She firmly believes that understanding the music and the dance makes any player a better musician.

Finn Magill is a two-time finalist at the All-Ireland Championships, and he is proficient in several genres. He has toured the U.S, Europe, Africa, and Brazil performing Irish, bluegrass, jazz, oldtime and Brazilian choro. Finn has collaborated with numerous world class musicians  over the last ten years, such as John Doyle and members of Lúnasa, and has served as an instructor at over a dozen fiddle camps around the U.S. and Canada. Based in Rio de Janeiro since 2014, he is an ambassador of Brazilian choro music and has two groups, Violino no Choro and O Finno, which he tours internationally.

aroline McCaskeyCaroline McCaskey's enthusiastic teaching style has fostered a love of music in both children and adults for over 15 years.  Caroline joined the San Francisco Scottish Fiddlers at age 12, and went on to tour Northern California for 7 years as the leader of the Fiddlerats contra dance band. She is certified by the Suzuki Association of the Americas for Violin books 1-7, and now teaches Suzuki violin full time at Bristol Elementary School in Colorado Springs. Caroline began as an assistant at fiddlekids in 2002, and joined the ranks of the Instructors in 2009. Exciting news: Caroline's books AltStrings Fiddle Method for Violin Book 1 and Book 2 came out this spring!

Karen Cella HeilBobbi Nikles is the founder and 14-year director of fiddlekids. She is an acclaimed Bay Area musician who performs with a wide array of bands and is a sought-after teacher at camps, workshops, and in her private San Francisco studio. Her luscious fiddling, driving rhythms, and melodic approach to improvisation enrich every project she's with, including the Irish Black Brothers Band, Douce Ambiance jazz combo, old-time jams, and her own recording project Fire in the Air. Bobbi's creative and nurturing style as a teacher reflects a depth of knowledge and experience garnered during more than 30 years of teaching.

Suzy Thompson fell in love with hillbilly ragtime and blues fiddle music in 1976, when she first heard 1920s era recordings of the East Texas Serenaders and the Mississippi Sheiks. She is considered one of the foremost fiddlers in that old-time fiddle mix of classic ragtime and country blues, as heard on Stop & Listen, her solo CD on the Arhoolie-Smithsonian label. Suzy has performed and recorded with Jim Kweskin and Geoff Muldaur, with Del Rey, with her husband, renowned flatpicker Eric Thompson, and in various groups including the Todalo Shakers, Thompson String Ticklers and the Any Old Time String Band. She has taught oldtime blues and ragtime fiddling at Festival of American Fiddle Tunes, Swannanoa Fiddle Week, Centrum Country Blues Week and Montana Fiddle Camp.


Camp founder and history


Bobbi Nikles founded and ran fiddlekids single-handedly for 12 years, later continuing as director for an additional two years after fiddlekids became a program of the Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse.

John Blasquez was fiddlekids director from 2012 to 2014, while Bobbi graciously continued to provide input and guidance.


2016 Instructors

2015 Instructors 

2014 Instructors 
Previous fiddlekids instructors & fiddle resources
2013 Instructors


fiddlekids youth fiddle camp logo


— fiddlekids® is a trademark of the Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse —

Logo design by Marlene Walters

fiddlekids is made possible through the generous support of the Bill Graham Supporting Foundation.



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