7 Programs to Fit Your String-Playing Lifestyle

By Louise Lee

Music programs are as varied as the players who flock to them. Some offer instruction suited to the student aiming for a high-flying international career, while others provide a relaxed atmosphere for the enthusiastic hobbyist. You can easily find a program that works for your own personality. Here are a few examples of programs that appeal to various string-playing sensibilities.



 Serious Students Seeking Intense Study 

Aspen Music Festival and School, Aspen, Colorado


Aspen Music Festival It’s hard to find a program more intense than this one. Aspen, which caters to orchestral instrumentalists and singers, is loaded with top students and internationally celebrated “star” teachers, ensemble coaches, and conductors. About 600 students, averaging age 22 and representing 40 countries, take private lessons and participate in master classes during an eight-week summertime session. Many are already students in top-tier conservatories or pre-college programs, and are eyeing major competitions. Most students also play in one of five orchestras comprised of both students and faculty members.

Admission is competitive. Candidates must submit a resume, and two recommendation letters are encouraged but not required. For the video-only audition, candidates must submit the first movement of a concerto and one contrasting piece. Those seeking a fellowship covering tuition and room and board also need to submit orchestral excerpts. Only the most motivated students need apply—Aspen is not a camp with enforced practice times or counselors to make sure you arrive at rehearsals and lessons on time.


Adult Amateurs Seeking Friendly, Relaxed Atmosphere

SCOR!, 12 locations throughout US


Scor! camps serve adult amateurs of all levels seeking enrichment and fun. Camps are three-day events spread throughout the spring and summer in various cities ranging from Rochester, New York, to Lodi, California. While most attendees are intermediate-level players, Scor! also welcomes advanced players and beginners who have studied for as little as six months. Scor! programs are only for adults, in part so that no one will feel embarrassed to be playing next to a 12-year-old wunderkind.


Beginners can expect group instruction in improving intonation, producing a good tone, controlling the bow, and more. It’s fine if you haven’t played beyond first position or tried vibrato yet. The bulk of Scor! participants have between five and 15 years of experience and will receive technical instruction while building repertoire and ensemble skills. All participants will receive instruction, coaching, and the opportunity to play in chamber groups and orchestra. 



Serious Adult Amateurs Seeking Chamber-Music Intensive

Kneisel Hall Chamber Music School and Festival, Blue Hill, Maine



Kneisel Hall’s Adult Chamber Music Institute caters to intermediate and advanced amateurs seeking a week’s immersion in chamber music. The program gives the participants the opportunity to play with others, read new pieces, go to workshops and concerts, and peruse the shelves at the institute’s extensive library of chamber-music literature.

For placement purposes, applicants are asked how frequently they play chamber music and to list repertoire played during the prior two years. Participants live on campus in dormitories or stay in nearby homes or bed-and-breakfasts.


Fiddlers with a Penchant for the Outdoors

Alasdair Fraser camps, Northern California, Spain, Isle of Skye, Australia



Through nonprofit, volunteer-run summer programs, Scottish fiddler Alasdair Fraser offers up instruction for players of traditional folk music. His Valley of the Moon Scottish Fiddling School and Sierra Fiddle Camp each offer a week of study and socializing. The programs cater to fiddlers of all abilities—students learn entirely by ear and don’t need to worry about their reading abilities. Cellists and plucked-instrument players should be at an intermediate or advanced level, though. Evening activities include jamming, dancing, and just hanging out. Everyone is encouraged to play in final concerts. Participants stay in cabins or can bring their own tents or RVs. For players with a penchant for travel, Fraser also directs camps in Spain, Australia, and on the Isle of Skye.


City Dwellers Seeking Serious Study in an Urban Environment

Curtis Summerfest, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


Photo by Annie Sarachan

Here’s a way for serious adult amateurs to experience a few days at a big-city world-class conservatory. Curtis Institute offers a three-day summertime session during which participants rehearse and perform in a small chamber ensemble, a chamber orchestra, or both, receiving coaching from Curtis faculty. Participants can also attend an open rehearsal for a faculty chamber recital. Prospective students don’t have to audition, but they do need to submit a repertoire list and a sample of their playing so they can be placed in an appropriate ensemble. Repertoire requests are welcome and participants are informed of their assigned repertoire before they arrive. If you’re already a member of an existing quartet or other small ensemble, you can register as a group. If you join the chamber orchestra, you’ll play side by side with Curtis students.  Participants have the option to live in student housing.


Advanced Fiddlers Seeking
Bluegrass Intensive


Live Oak Fiddle Camp, Hallettsville, Texas


Photo by Alex Hargreaves
Photo by Alex Hargreaves

If the idea of playing the fiddle on a real working ranch surrounded by cattle and horses appeals to you, then consider LiveOak Fiddle Camp, located about 80 miles outside the capital city of Austin. Over five days, experienced fiddlers attend classes, workshops, and faculty concerts to learn bluegrass, jazz, and Celtic, among other styles. Participants stay in bunkhouses or nearby motels. The faculty is a star-studded lineup: In 2016, it included Stuart Duncan, Alex Hargreaves, Tatiana Hargreaves, and Jeremy Kittel.   



International Travelers Seeking Musical Experience Abroad

Encore Music Projects International Summer Music School, Somerset, england


Sasha-CelloFounded in 2013 by a pianist and a cellist, Encore’s two-week summer program serves pre-college and young-adult string players interested in both solo and chamber work. String players participate in a chamber orchestra and attend private lessons and workshops. Located at Wells Cathedral Specialist Music School, Encore requires a three-to-five-minute video audition for both admission and ensemble placement purposes—you can submit an excerpt from a concert or an informal recording you make at home. At Encore, you can expect to meet students from around the world (it also offers English-language classes to those who want them).