Music Program — Class Levels & Descriptions

In the AFTMD Music Program, your day begins with two 90-minute periods in your dedicated class on the major instrument of your choosing, with a coffee break in-between. To best serve the diverse family of musicians who come to camp, these morning classes are grouped by experience, and there is a class that will excite and challenge everyone!

The AFTMD morning class groups are:

Moose — Foundations (i.e. “Novice”)

Seal — Skill building (i.e. “Intermediate”)

Bear  — Nuance & detail (i.e. “Advanced”)

Eagle — Intensive artistic development (i.e. “Pre-professional”)

You’ll notice that we don’t define the classes by level (i.e. how “advanced” are the students in the class), but by what kind of things each class will be focused on learning.  This means you get to pick the group that is working on the skills and material —and at the pace! — that is most valuable for you at this point in your musical journey.

Classes are self-selecting (YOU choose what class is best for YOU!), and students are welcome to switch freely between the different groups during the camp — though please note that material is progressive throughout the week, so it will be to your benefit to choose the class that is best for you as close to the outset as possible. (If you are uncertain which level will be the best match for your musical goals and skill set, we are happy to help advise you — click here for more info).

Read below for detailed descriptions of the morning class levels:


The Moose – offered for fiddle & guitar
This program is designed specifically for students who are relatively new to their instruments and want to dive into a full-immersion exploration of traditional music from the ground up!

Click to read more about the "Moose" program

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Over the course of the week, you’ll learn how to play some super fun tunes from a variety of different traditional styles.  You’ll explore them, dance to them, jam them with your fellow Moose, and open the floodgates to the wonderful world of trad music!  Along the way, your teachers will show you tricks and techniques that will make it even easier to learn more tunes, such as hand shapes and finger patterns, essential bowing (fiddle) or strumming (guitar) patterns, tips for better sound production, form and patterning in traditional music, and many other skills that will help you start to develop ease and comfort in your playing.

To get the most out of this class, we recommend that potential Moose students be able to play at least 3 songs on your instrument — any style / genre / tempo is great.  We can’t wait to make music with you!

Fiddle — While the entire Moose Fiddle class will work together as a cohesive team throughout the week, at registration, we will ask you to indicate if you are a “Beginner Novice” Moose (i.e. played 0-1 years) or “Advanced Novice” Moose (i.e. played 1-2 years).  This will help your instructors plan the best possible class for YOU over the course of the camp!  Your class will meet with the same instructors every morning for both periods.

Guitar — The Moose Guitar class will work together as one group throughout the week, and will also periodically team up with the Moose Fiddle class so you can practice playing together and develop your ensemble skills. Your class will meet with the same instructors every morning for both periods.

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The Seals – offered for all instruments
These classes are specially tailored to folks who want to develop both their knowledge of traditional music AND their individual instrumental technique, all while learning some of the best repertoire each style has to offer.

Click to read more about the "Seal" program

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The Seal classes will be a great match for you if you want to spend the week improving on your instrument while playing lots of great music.  You’ll build your repertoire of fabulous traditional tunes, and you’ll also work on how to learn the tunes by ear (so you can learn more quickly and easily in the future!), focusing on the form, patterns, and distinctive musical gestures found in each musical style.  Along the way, your teachers will help you build your comfort and fluidity on your instrument, and show you the steps needed to produce the signature rhythms, sounds, ornamentation, and bowing / breathing / chording / strumming patterns that define each genre you explore.  This will help you develop the technical facility needed to start taking your playing to the next level, and give you lots of tools to continue your musical explorations long after camp comes to a close!

To get the most out of this class, we recommend that potential Seal students have a basic fluency in getting around your instrument (i.e. finding notes/chords and basic bowing/strumming gestures on your own) and at least some experience with learning by ear.  Prior experience with any traditional musical style is useful, but by no means required to have a great time!

Fiddle — The Seal Fiddle classes will rotate to a different instructor each morning in a system we call “The Fiddler’s Shuffle.”  Each instructor will focus on a different style of traditional fiddling, so you’ll get to explore each genre and start developing sound and repertoire distinctive to that region, e.g. Scottish, Irish, Cape Breton, Québécois and Acadian. To help excite and challenge everyone in the fiddle community at AFTMD, the Seal Fiddle class will be divided into three subsections. Please identify the group that you think will be the best match for you during the week, choosing between:

Harbor Seals (Relaxed Intermediate)
In this class, you can expect to learn 2-3 tunes each morning, in a fun and relaxed environment. All tunes will be taught by ear, but your instructors will help you learn how to break down the tune, so your ear-learning skills will improve over the course of the week. You can expect many repetitions of each tune section and skill you explore, and clear guidance from your teachers on exactly how to produce specific kinds of sound, bowing, and ornamentation needed in each fiddle style. We’ll also take plenty of time to focus on some foundational fiddle technique that can help you find more ease and comfort on your instrument.

Grey Seals (Fast Intermediate)
This class will explore the fundamental skills of stylistic bowing, and ornamentation, and sound production in different fiddle genres, moving at a notably faster, more intensive pace.  You can expect to learn 3-5 (maybe more?) tunes by ear each morning (often with fewer repetitions of each part), as you deepen your understanding of how to start developing an “authentic traditional accent” in each style. Your teachers will help you hone the core techniques needed for attaining ease and “groove” at the real tempos played in a dance or jam session, and show you how to really up the ante on the quality of your playing.  Make no mistake: this class is going to MOVE!!

Hooded Seals (Intermediate Fiddle with ‘Classical’ Background)
This is a group designed especially for experienced “classical” or note-reading players who have always wanted to explore the world of fiddling and learning by ear!  Here, you’ll discover how to harness the technical facility and musical knowledge you already have and use it to inject an authentic “traditional fiddle sound” into your playing.  You can expect to learn 2-4 tunes each morning, and gain comfort learning by ear as you do.  Your teachers will guide you in exploring how to shape your tone, ornament your left-hand, and pattern your bowing in a traditional manner for different fiddle styles.  No prior experience with any traditional fiddle style is required to have a great time. Come in curious, leave ready to “jam” with the fiddlers!  
NOTE: Though this class will be taught from the fiddle, experienced viola or cello players are also welcome to attend and become “fiddlers” in their own right!

For Flute, Piano, Guitar — These Seal classes will work with two different teachers each morning, one in the 1st period and the other in the 2nd period. This will give you the chance to learn different styles and approaches to help broaden your musical horizons!  Both instructors will build progressive material and skills throughout the week.

For Accordion, Bouzouki, and Harp — You will have one dedicated teacher for both morning periods, and the opportunity to work with additional teachers in the afternoons.  Class material will be progressive across both periods and throughout the week.

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The Bears – offered for all instruments
This group is designed for experienced players who want to deepen their stylistic fluency in different genres of traditional music, and polish their playing to the highest level.

Click to read more about the "Bear" program

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In the Bear classes, you’ll experience a joyful and intensive exploration deep into the nuances of different styles of traditional music! You’ll visit an abundance of repertoire (expect to learn 3-6 or more tunes by ear each morning) in order to highlight and master the musical details that make each genre distinctive — intricacies of tone color, rhythmic groove, ornamentation, melodic treatment, and more. Your teachers will challenge you to start developing your own authentic voice within each genre, and ground this evolution in a deepening understanding of the history, musical lineage, and context behind each tradition.  You’ll look at multiple ways to approach each tune, develop variation and improvisation skills within the genre, and generally work towards the goal of true fluency in each traditional music language. Don’t be surprised if a teacher sometimes asks you to play something by yourself during class (i.e. a mini “master class” where you can get some direct and personalized feedback!).  This is a fast-paced class and your teachers will cover a great deal of material, giving you exciting ideas to work on both during the week of camp AND throughout the year after you leave!

To get the most out of this class, we recommend that potential Bear students already enjoy learning quickly and fluently by ear, are comfortable coming up with their own stylistic bowing and ornaments, and have no problems performing tunes comfortably at dance tempo.

Fiddle — The Bear fiddle class will have a different instructor each morning, rotating through all the fiddle teachers in what we call “The Fiddler’s Shuffle.”  Each instructor will focus on a different style of traditional fiddling, so you’ll get to work on developing authentic sound and repertoire distinctive to that region, e.g. Scottish, Irish, Cape Breton, Québécois, Acadian, etc.

For Flute, Piano, Guitar — These Bear classes will work with two different teachers every morning, one in the 1st period and the other in the 2nd period. This will give you the chance to learn different styles and approaches to help deepen your musical skill and versatility. Both instructors will build progressive material throughout the week.

For Accordion, Bouzouki, and Harp — You will have one dedicated teacher for both morning periods, and the opportunity to work with additional teachers in the afternoons.  Class material will be progressive across both periods and throughout the week.  
NOTE: This year, the Seal and Bear classes will be combined for each of these instruments.  Experienced bouzouki players who are wanting a class more focused on developing advanced stylistic nuances are invited to join the dedicated Bear Guitar class or the multi-instrumental Eagles class, if you so desire.  Similarly, experienced accordion or harp players are welcome to join the dedicated Bear Fiddle class or the multi-instrumental Eagles class, if you feel that class is a better match for you.

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The Eagles – offered for all instruments and dance
This exciting multi-instrumental program is focused on helping experienced players and dancers develop their artistry at the very highest level, and develop the skills they will need to become the next generation of “musical ambassadors” in traditional music!

Click to read more about the "Eagle" program

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The Eagle class is a dynamic, intensive artistic immersion experience, and the group will function as a close-knit, multi-instrumental cohort throughout the week.  Beyond perfecting your personal instrumental skills, you’ll also explore how each musician in the group can evolve as an “ambassador” of traditional music through performing, teaching, and communicating the rich history behind each musical tradition. You’ll work on honing your performance skills, expanding your knowledge of underlying history and tradition, deepening your connection to essential dance and rhythmic elements, and communicating the “essence” behind each unique musical style.  In addition to pushing into new repertoire and musical ideas, you can expect to engage in performing for your colleagues, exchanging thoughtful artistic feedback, practicing playing for dancers, workshopping ensemble and arranging ideas, honing your skills of how to communicate effectively with audiences (both musically and verbally), and other high-level collaborative pursuits.

As a multi-instrumental cohort, the Eagle class welcomes players of any instrument in traditional music, as well as percussive dancers.  As long as you have the technical and stylistic proficiency — as well as the desire! — to be comfortable working on deep artistic concepts, you are most welcome to join this class no matter what instrument you play. This class will rotate through The Fiddler’s Shuffle, working with a different instructor for a double period each morning to explore each of the core traditional styles featured at Acadia: Scottish, Irish, Cape Breton, Québécois, and Acadian.

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All levels combined – Community Singing [NEW in 2024!]
This class is open to everyone, regardless of previous vocal experience, and will explore the joys of singing traditional songs together!

Click to read more about the Community Singing program

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In the Community Singing class, we’ll learn songs from a wide variety of traditions and the rich stories behind them.  This may include anything from call-and-response songs, work songs, traditional ballads, multi-part harmony singing, and more.  You will have one dedicated teacher for both morning periods, and the opportunity to work with additional teachers in the afternoons.  Class material will be progressive across both periods and throughout the week.  No prior singing experience required!

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While these are the “major” instruments that each class is focused on, there are situations where players of other “alternative” instruments are welcome to join in as well. For instance, whistle players are welcome to take the flute classes. Mandolin players could jump in with either the fiddles (to focus on their melody playing) or the guitars (to focus on their accompaniment playing). Technically proficient viola or cello players might join in the fiddle class (especially in the “Intermediate with ‘Classical’ Background” group).  Just keep in mind that each class will be taught from the major instrument listed, and while some teachers may be able to offer pointers for how you can adapt the material to your particular instrument, most probably won’t play that instrument themselves and it will ultimately be up to you to figure out how to translate the material covered to your own instrument. If you have any questions about whether a particular class may be appropriate for you to take, please email us (here); we’re happy to help advise!

The Acadia Festival of Traditional Music & Dance is governed by Friends of the Acadia Trad Festival, a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) Maine nonprofit corporation. Website art by Anabelle Keimach and Annelise Papinsick.