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GUEST POST: Scottish fiddle immersion experience at the Ashokan Center

This post is by the great Austin Scelzo after his experience at Ashokan’s 2024 Scottish String Fling Weekend.

My heart is full after returning from a wonderful Scottish fiddle immersion experience at the Ashokan Center. Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas are an incredible light to the world and you’ll want to check them out wherever you are in your musical journey. My biggest takeaways:

1. Lead with Joy – Allow the magic of making music in community to fully set in your heart, then shine it back into the world boldly and courageously. Alasdair Fraser embodies this energy. He leads with such an openness of heart and doesn’t let anything get in the way of him sharing that with others. His leadership style fills others with ease and a willingness to take risks.

2. Smile and move – Much of what is perceived as ease and joyfulness in music making comes from getting out of our own heads and being present to the reality that we get to create beautiful, meaningful, joyful sounds with and for other human beings. If we allow that reality to set in and check in with our body to release any tension or reservation, our whole body becomes a part of the musical outpouring. It’s very freeing.

3. Search for connection: One of my favorite things to do mid performance is to search the room for audience members or fellow musicians who are feeling something similar to me. For whatever reason, most audience members and even musicians have become detached in their experience of making and receiving the gift of music. I love infecting others with a smile or connecting with others on a more complex emotional level. This year, at the conclusion of the concert, Jay Ungar shared a story about how a public school district had decided to cut the string program. A young student who attended this camp had arranged to perform “Ashokan Farewell” at the board meeting where this decision was being finalized. She shared what music meant to her and what a difference it made in her life. We followed this story by spontaneously performing “Ashokan Farewell” for the audience and I met eyes with a woman in the audience who I knew was moved by the moment just as much as I was. We both shared a tear in that precious moment, as I am again as I write this…

I hope you find these takeaways inspiring and helpful. For more, check out my blog post “What I’ve Learned from Music Camps” for my takeaways from every music camp I’ve ever attended- including the upcoming Old Time Rollick (June 7-9) at the Ashokan Center!