Labor Day is traditionally that last opportunity before Old Man Winter visits for family gatherings/reunions, cookouts, lake time and Jana Jae’s Fiddle Camp in Grove, OK.
While the COVID has many music venues shut down, Jae decided she could make Fiddle Camp happen this year. “I never make plans for the next year, it just happens,” she said. “People reached out to me and wanted to have fiddle camp, in 2020.”
Snider’s Camp was the place to be that Friday night. With a spectacular view of Grand Lake, a full campground, the aroma of fresh burgers, and the sound of the fiddle, the weekend kicked off with a great explosion of talents. Like children anticipating the arrival of Santa, each artist had their instrument within hands reach, to capture the audience’s attention when it was their time to be on stage. Three hours of non-stop toe tapping and camp was rolled up for the night.
Of course there were many changes due to the current rise in numbers of COVID-19, and Jana set out to comply with the CDC guidelines. In the late 1980s, the community of Grove, OK purchased the old Wal-Mart building with dreams of opening a Civic Center, which turned out to be perfect place for Jana Jae’s Fiddle Camp. The building offers cool air and plenty of space, however, there was an obstacle that Jae had to overcome first. Normally, Fiddle Camp offers over 20 instructors but 2020 just had to be different. There could be no hands-on instruction so children under 7 could not attend camp. But that couldn’t stop Jae, as she carefully chose the elite, a few of the ‘best of the best’ to join her in the 25th year of Fiddling Camp.
Instructors were :
- Babette Allen – Fiddle Tunes, Technique, Improv
- Junior Marriott – Contest & Swing
- Shirley Adams – Old Time Fiddle and Spoons
- Jim Garling – Guitar
- Russ Weeks – Mandolin
- Barry Patton – Rhythm Bones
- Jana Jae – Fiddle tricks and tips, dress up a tune
Fiddle Camp was a SAFE event. Temperatures were taken before entry into the building, and masks were encouraged (Grove is not mask mandated). There were signs of 6 feet distancing reminders, soap, sanitizer, and minimal touching. Several of the camp participants reiterated it was the hugs they missed the most.
In every nook and cranny of the Grove Civic Center, you could hear instruction, questions and melodic tunes. I asked one of the youngest attendees, McKenna Peterson of Fulshear, TX, if she brought her fiddle or violin today? She said, “Fiddle!” Peterson actually had caught my ear in 2019 at the Tulsa State Fair when she won the PeeWee fiddling division. Recently, McKenna won a streamed contest in the 17 year and under division making her the Tennessee State Champion. “She may just be one of the best 8 year old fiddlers, I have heard or seen,” said Junior Marriott. McKenna was like a small butterfly as she wandered from class to class, soaking in knowledge from every session.
But there was a moment when Jana stopped her and said, “Do you know Czardas?” Czardas was composed by Vittori Monti in 1904. The piece has seven different sections, however, Jana and McKenna began rehearsing the first two sections. Standing in awe of the sounds of ‘twins’ on such a piece, Jana looked up at me, and whispered, “Amazing.”
Jae asked Peterson, “Have you seen the music to this?” This little blonde haired cherub responded, “I hear it in my ear. My mom (Aimee Peterson is a Suzuki instructor) is teaching one of her students Czardas and I have heard it.” McKenna practices, and practices some more. As of the final day of the camp, she had practiced for 1200 days straight.
Sitting about 12 feet from this future duo, was Barry ‘Bones’ Patton. Bones mesmerizes everyone with his skills. The bones add a novelty to music, and help with the rhythm, as they replace or add to the drums. Maybe that’s why Barry picked up the bones, and now holds the International Bone Champion title (2019) in Ireland.
Sunday morning, as I entered the Civic Center, it sounded like a symphony. A huge circle formed, and each musician sat diligently in their metal chairs. It was Gospel morning, and ended with He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands. Off to class again, because today was the day that the groups were polished to shine like a new penny. It was amazing to see the different levels of musicians work in harmony to accommodate and assist one another.
Jae and Peterson brought the house down, and phones were in every hand videoing the twinning of these two stars. Although one is only 8, McKenna is truly a star. Her personality beams, and when she picks up her bow, it is so easy to see that she loves her fiddle/violin.
Upon packing it in for the weekend, I spoke with Jae, “Will there be a camp in 2021?” Her instant reply was, “If people want it to happen, it will.”