Monday, October 02, 2023

'Fingers are flying'

Staff Writer | July 13, 2023 1:30 AM

MOSES LAKE — There’s a different sound coming out of the classrooms at Moses Lake Christian Academy this week, where the Washington Old Time Fiddlers Association is holding its annual fiddle camp.

“So we have (classes for) all the way from beginner, like you've never picked up a fiddle, a guitar or a mandolin,” said Corinne Agnew, co-chair of the fiddle camp committee, “and then we've got all the way up to the Hot Shots fiddle class, and their fingers are flying.”

The Washington Old Time Fiddlers Association Fiddle Camp started Monday and runs through Friday.

It’s been held at MLCA for the last five years, said volunteer Rita Hubbard. This year’s camp has 171 students from small children to grandparents. Most are from Washington with a few coming from Oregon and Idaho, and one man who flew in from Denmark for the occasion. About half the participants camp either in RVs or in tents on the campus lawn, Agnew said, and the others stay in local hotels. The cost for the week is $75 for youth and $175 for adults. The various districts of the WOTFA offer scholarships for young people who need a little financial help as well.

The Wilbur family drove about four hours from Priest River, Idaho for the camp. Mom Molly Wilbur has deep roots in Northwest bluegrass music, she said, and her family has a bluegrass band. Eight-year-old Benjamin is learning fiddle and banjo this week, he said, and Annie, 13, plays mandolin. Naomi, 10, plays guitar and fiddle, and 12-year-old Ruth plays fiddle and a little bass, she said.

The classes are divided into morning and afternoon sessions and are two and a half hours each. As the name would suggest, there are classes at all levels of fiddle mastery, but there are also beginning and intermediate classes in guitar, beginning through advanced mandolin, basic banjo and backup piano. There are also a few specialized classes, like swing guitar and “Fiddle Tunes for Frets,” which teaches mandolin and guitar players ways to play duets with fiddlers.

Fiddle Tunes for Frets is taught by Shawn Hughes of the Tri-Cities. Hughes attended the camp every year when he was young, he said, and now that he’s a grownup he teaches for it. Hughes is also teaching basic mandolin this year, he said.

“It's very similar to a fiddle melody-wise, and then you just get to add chords as well,” Hughes said. “(In this class) we're really just kind of getting familiar with our instrument, playing some nice, easy songs and learning some easy chords and just how to get around on that fretboard.”

Besides the main classes, there are a variety of mini-workshops, less formal classes in various techniques and musical styles, or less-commonly-used instruments like the ukulele. One mini-workshop last year was about adapting traditional bluegrass music to non-traditional instruments. It was taught by Kate Gotshall of Puyallup, who would have taught the same workshop again this year but didn’t get the word out in time.

“I didn't feel like it would be good to hold the mini if nobody had a chance to bring their saxophones and their Flugel horns, penny whistles, autoharps, even accordions,” she said.

Gotshall herself has created a bit of a stir in bluegrass jams, she said, because her preferred instrument is the clarinet.

“I get a lot of side-eye I when I show up at a new jam,” she said. “’Who is this girl? And why is she carrying a black stick? She doesn't belong here.’ And then I sit down … I know the songs. ‘Oh, you want to play “Snow Deer?” I know “Snow Deer.” Oh, you want to play “Arkansas Traveler?” I can play that.’”

Other activities at fiddle camp include band scrambles, where players form impromptu bluegrass combos by drawing names out of a hat, and square dancing sessions in the evening. Thursday evening there will be “Show Your Stuff” contest, where players can demonstrate what they’ve learned. The public is welcome at all of these performances, Hubbard said.

More information about the Washington Old Time Fiddlers and the fiddle camp can be found at

Joel Martin may be reached via email at Find more of his work on our website at



Dennis Ludiker leads the Hot Shots fiddle class at the Washington Old Time Fiddlers Fiddle Camp Tuesday. Ludiker, a Spokane native, is something of a hot shot himself, having won several fiddling championships and performed with the South Austin Jug Band and Asleep at the Wheel, according to his website.



The Wilbur Family – from left, Molly, Benjamin, Annie, Naomi and Ruth – drove from Priest River, Idaho for the Washington Old Time Fiddlers Fiddle Camp.



Used instruments are offered for sale at the fiddle camp. Other things offered are art projects, CDs by students and teachers and, this year, a huge quantity of old sheet music donated by Co-Chair Corinne Agnew from her grandmother’s collection.



Shawn Hughes teaches players of mandolin and guitar some techniques for playing fiddle tunes at the Washington Old Time Fiddlers Fiddle Camp Tuesday. Hughes, who lives in the Tri-Cities, also plays with the Badger Mountain Dry Band, a Northwest bluegrass fixture for 35 years.

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