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Learning a new tune

“It's challenging,” said Nancy Beam, 13, of Rathdrum, as she played her violin during Otis Orchards Strings Camp on Tuesday. (Kathy Plonka)
“It's challenging,” said Nancy Beam, 13, of Rathdrum, as she played her violin during Otis Orchards Strings Camp on Tuesday. (Kathy Plonka)

All ages gather in Otis Orchards for strings camp

It’s not exactly a Holiday for Strings, but it still was all about having fun.

The Otis Orchards Strings Camp welcomed 20 students into Muriel Tingley-Turner’s home for a three-day summer workshop for violinists, fiddlers and cellists.

“We had a whole range of age and experience levels,” Tingley-Turner said. “Our youngest was 8 years old, and our oldest player was retirement age, from beginner to advanced players.

“This was the first year we’ve had a cello, and it was wonderful to be able to add that tone to the mix.”

Tingley-Turner and her daughters run Adagio Strings from the family home, where they sell and rent violins, violas, cellos, bass violins and guitars as well as teach violin and fiddle yearround. They are part of a strong, vibrant string community that doesn’t always make its way onto the Greater Spokane radar.

“There’s a great community that covers a whole range of music, from the old-time fiddlers to jazz to classical,” Tingley-Turner said. “It’s a fun community. But you almost had to go all the way to Weiser, Idaho (and the National Old-Time Fiddlers Festival and Contest) to find out about us.

“We kind of concentrated on the Spokane area, but we had campers from all over, from North Idaho and from Cheney.”

Tingley-Turner and her daughters Trinity, Addie and Noemi – all are accomplished musicians who have traveled internationally with a mixture of folk, Celtic, grassroots and gospel music.

“I remember growing up in a family that played music and how we were always encouraged to join in and try new things,” Tingley-Turner said. “That’s what we’re doing, trying to encourage that atmosphere here. We want campers to try new things and expand their repertoire.”

Campers put in some hard work over the three-day session, and most headed home with plenty of new knowledge to show for the effort. But that wasn’t the camp’s primary objective, Tingley-Turner said.

“The goal is to just have fun,” she said. “But when you’re having fun, you can also learn a lot. Our beginners are going home knowing three whole songs, and that’s a lot to learn in three days. For our main group we’ve worked on 10 new songs, and, while they aren’t polished, they know them well and can work on them at home.”

Call it a violin or fiddle, the instrument can be a little intimidating for the beginner. That makes turning the effort into playing music as soon as possible all the more important.

“I know there are teachers who want to focus on learning scales and practicing technique,” she said. “But think about it. Once you start actually playing a song is when it starts to be fun.”

Teaching styles for the instrument vary. There are championship-caliber fiddlers who can’t read a note of sheet music. And there are classical violinists out there who would be lost trying to improvise a breakdown without sheet music in front of them.

“We try to do a little of both when we teach,” Tingley-Turner said. “If you learn from reading sheet music it can be pretty intimidating trying to improvise, and it’s something good to learn. And at the same time, we try to teach reading music as well.

“It’s fun for the kids, but it’s also a lot of fun for us, as teachers, to get together and compare notes. We talked a lot about teaching and sharing different ideas and techniques for teaching different kids. There is no single way to teach, and it helps to have new ideas on how to work with different types of student.”

Plans already are underway for next summer’s camp, which will run again in mid-July. Prospective students and campers can find information on the camp at Adagio Strings’ page on Facebook.

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