• Fiddling around in Lithia Park for summer

    Weeklong programs teach kids music in a cool creekside setting
  • Listen closely near Ashland Creek this summer, and the sounds of dozens of children playing the fiddle and splashing through the water might echo through Lithia Park.
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  • Listen closely near Ashland Creek this summer, and the sounds of dozens of children playing the fiddle and splashing through the water might echo through Lithia Park.
    The first summer session of the Creekside Fiddle Camp kicked off last week, with about 30 young musicians practicing their craft on a shaded park lawn near the creek.
    "The setting is perfect — under the trees in Lithia Park, where it can be very cool on hot days," said Duane Whitcomb, director of Creekside Strings of Ashland and founder of the weeklong music camp.
    The first session began July 14, with students meeting from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. through the week, practicing songs on the fiddle, guitar, ukulele and bass.
    On Tuesday, students explained that the fiddle is the same instrument as the violin but with a different style of music played with it, usually folk, with this camp focusing on the sounds of Scotland.
    The young musicians, age 6 to 19, all have some experience playing their instruments before joining the camp, Whitcomb said.
    "Most of the kids that go to the camp are students of mine," he said.
    The camp is a way for children to connect with their music and enjoy learning and playing songs with other young musicians, Whitcomb said.
    "This is bringing a social element of music into their lives," said Whitcomb. "A lot of kids walk away with new friends and a better sense of what their music can do."
    Third-year camper Evangeline Pereira wasn't sure what to think of the Scottish music she was learning to play, but said that she loved everything about the camp.
    "The music is really weird — weird, and kinda neat," said Evangeline, 8, who will be in the third grade at the Siskiyou School next year.
    Evangeline and her Siskiyou School classmate, Kendra Machala, also 8, said they each have played the fiddle since they were 6 years old.
    "We learn a lot of new songs," said Kendra. "And we do a lot of dancing."
    Whitcomb, instructor Elias Alexander and a handful of high school volunteers lead the students in learning new songs and practicing each day.
    "It's a lot of fun," said Devon Lancaster, 17, a volunteer at the camp. "I really like being able to influence the way they play."
    Lancaster, who will be a junior at Ashland High School this fall, said he started playing violin the summer before first grade, and attended the Creekside Fiddle Camp during its first year in 2007.
    "I saw (the violin) in the Green Show and really wanted to play, so my mom got me lessons," said Lancaster, who is now helping to mentor the younger musicians.
    Another high school volunteer, Ryan Hoe, said he played his first instrument, the piano, at age 2, and picked the violin a year later. Now 16, Hoe said that he had taught violin to musicians his own age before, but teaching younger students was a new challenge.
    "Working with kids can be really hard, but it's really rewarding as well," said Hoe.
    Students were to show off what they've learned during a dance at the Ashland Community Center on Thursday and while busking on the streets of downtown on Friday.
    Two more fiddle camps remain this summer — a blues camp this week and a Galician camp Aug. 11-15.
    For more information about the camps, see www.creeksidestrings.org.
    Teresa Ristow is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email her at teresa.ristow@gmail.com.
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