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Classes, Workshops & Sessions


The heart of the Acadia Trad Festival is world-class instruction students receive from our faculty and workshop instructors. Whether you are registered for the full week, a single day, or you just wish to drop in for an afternoon workshop, we have over 200 educational opportunities that will appeal to almost everyone.


Morning classes focus on student’s chosen major, and are open to registered students only. Classes are progressive throughout the week. All instrument majors (except for those note as specifically for Beginners) are intended for students at the Intermediate, Advanced or Master level (see below for a description of the levels and descriptions of the morning class curricula).


In addition to major classes, afternoon workshops and jam sessions are offered for all levels (including beginner) in all instruments and dance. All workshops and sessions are included in full-time and daily tuition rates. Workshops and sessions are also open to the public for $30 for a 75-minute workshop or $15 for a 75-minute jam session. 


2019 Schedules: 


View Schedule of Classes and Workshops (Matrix view) (PDF, subject to change). 

View Schedule of Classes and Workshops (by instructor) (PDF, subject to change). 

View Afternoon Workshops Descriptions (PDF).


Skill Levels

Major courses of study are offered at four skill levels: Beginner (fiddle and guitar only), Intermediate, Advanced and Master. Students are expected to focus on their major for the morning classes, but are free to explore other instruments during afternoon workshops and jam sessions. Afternoon workshops are offered at all levels.

BEGINNER fiddle classes are geared toward those who have little to no experience with fiddle. Beginner guitar students should have a basic understanding of simple chords (G, D, C, etc). The main criteria is the desire to learn! Want to play another instrument or learn to dance? Many afternoon workshops are offered at the beginner level.

INTERMEDIATE students should be able to play their primary instrument at slow and intermediate sessions. All major courses of study are available to students at the intermediate level.

ADVANCED students are people who are comfortable playing out at dances or in bands. An advanced student can lead a session, play fast, and take solos. All major courses of study are available to students at the advanced level.

MASTER students are typically very active performers and/or music teachers. Classes are rigorous and fast-paced, and available only to selected instruments.

2019 Majors:

  • Accordion
  • Bass
  • Bodhran
  • Cello
  • Dance
  • Fiddle*
  • Fiddle-making
  • Flute
  • Guitar (beginner)
  • Harp
  • Piano
  • Songs & Accompaniment
  • Whistle

*Beginner classes offered too!

NEW! Songs & Accompaniment

A journey through Irish song, this class will welcome singers, instrumentalists, and those interested in both. Cathy Jordan and Eamon O’Leary will teach songs from their extensive (mostly) Irish repertoires — timeless stories of the sea, of love and courtship, of work and ritual, of emigration, of war, and many other subjects. We’ll learning the songs themselves, words and melodies, together as a group, with discussions of versions, sources, and provenance where appropriate. Then we’ll explore ideas for arrangements of the songs, covering everything from vocal harmonies to instrumental accompaniment. We expect accompaniment instruments will be primarily guitar, bouzouki and mandolin, but all other instruments are welcome.

Morning Class Descriptions


ACCORDION (Jeremiah McLane):

This class will focus on accordion technique (bellows, LH chord combinations, RH ornamentation, etc), ear training, repertoire, and Rhythm, Rhythm, Rhythm, and more Rhythm! Jeremiah will cover a variety of genres in the class, including dance music from France, Quebec, the Northeast US, and Cajun country.

The French Connection – from the King’s court to the Cajun kitchen: French and North American traditional musics have a long history of connection and overlapping influences: peasant dances popularized by the Court of Louis XIV, leading many centuries later to recognizable forms of dance associated with New England contra; turn of the century Parisien Bals musette incorporating the new sounds of jazz emanating from the United States, which helped usher in the era of so called Gyspy Jazz of 1930s and 40s; the mixture of Celtic and other world music danced to by thousands at Fest-Noz throughout Brittany; the Bal Folk scene in Central and Northern France, vibrant today; the enormous commercial appeal of Quebecois and Cajun music not only in the US but world wide. These are a few examples of the musical connections between the United States and France. This class will focus primarily on repertoire from Northwestern, Central, and Southeastern France, but will also include tunes from Quebec, New England and Louisiana. It will also involve discussion and listening to different groups, old and new, that highlight the connections between the USA and France.   

Dance Music from the North: Quebec & New England are home to many great dance tunes, and we’ll learn chording as well as melodies from old sources as well as newly composed tunes.



BASS (Malcolm Parson): For bassists who are interested in playing a key role in accompanying fellow musicians and colleagues, we will focus more on utilizing the bass in traditional music. Come ready to explore pizzicato and bowing techniques, constructing successful bass lines, and the phases of improvising cohesive solos. Instruction will be aural with written assignments.


BODHRAN (Matt Bell): Over the last sixty years, the bodhrán has profoundly changed in terms of construction, sound, andplaying technique. The contemporary style of playing, often referred to as “Top End Style,”incorporates sensitive use of the tone hand and tipper in order to achieve a highly tonal, multi-octavesound palette. Today’s bodhrán style can provide a more subtle, musically supportive voice in a Tradsession, and it can also imitate a huge variety of drumset and world percussion grooves.In this course, we’ll go over modern stick grips, how to hold the bodhrán to achieve tonal control,the three basic contemporary stick strokes, voicing hand technique, tuning, basic jig and reelgrooves and contemporary variations, single and double-ended ornaments, posture, practice ideas,session playing, accompaniment ideas for various other tune types, and instrument and stickselection. Please bring your bodhrán and tipper to class. Feel free to bring recording devices.


CELLO (Malcolm Parson): For cellists who are interested in playing a key role in accompanying fellow musicians and colleagues, we will focus more on utilizing the cello as a bass in traditional music. Come ready to explore pizzicato and bowing techniques, constructing successful bass lines, and the phases of improvising cohesive solos. Instruction will be aural with written assignments.




 DANCE (Kevin Doyle)Come and explore the beat within you with some close-to-the -ground rhythms of  beginner Irish step dance. You will learn some steps of the jigs, reels and hornpipe that Kevin’s mother Margaret brought to this country from County Roscommon in the 1930’s. We will also discuss the major influence Irish step dance had on the evolution of dance especially on American Tap Dance. Wear comfortable clothing with leather or hard rubber soled shoes or dance sneakers. Lots of FUN should be expected!

DANCE (Kieran Jordan): Sean-nós (“old style”) Irish dance is a joyful expression of both movement and sound. Traditionally performed as a solo, improvised form, sean-nós dance features footwork danced close-to-the-floor, a relaxed upper body, and a playful dialogue between the dance and music. In this class, students will enjoy listening and responding to traditional Irish music while gaining confidence as percussive movers. We will start with a focus on timing, technique, and building a body of basic steps to use as tools for improvisation. By the end of the week, dancers will be creating longer step sequences, practicing smooth transitions, and developing their own personal solo style.Please wear comfortable shoes with a smooth hard sole (leather or hard rubber soles preferred), and bring water, a notebook, and a recording device.


Intermediate, Advanced, and Master fiddle students will rotate through all fiddle faculty during the week except Seán Heely and Liz Faiella; Seán and Liz will be teaching only beginner fiddle (see below). Students may opt to focus on one fiddle instructor, but everyone is encouraged to rotate to get the full experience and stay with their playing level group. You may attend classes levels higher than your own, but please don’t slow down the class. Master level classes are for master level students only.


CAPE BRETON FIDDLE (Andrea Beaton): We’ll concentrate on the “general rules” of Cape Breton style bowing and applying them to the tunes we learn. We will also work on basic ornamentation and trying to get the rhythm of the tunes.

SCOTTISH FIDDLE (Mari Black): Are you searching for your authentic Scottish voice?  Looking for more sparkle in your playing?  Wanting to get grooving with a real Scottish fiddle accent?  This week, we’ll explore how to create a believable stylistic Scottish feel.  We’ll learn traditional tunes: driving reels and jigs, stately marches, mighty strathspeys (the signature Scottish tune type!), and haunting slow airs.  We’ll discover how to capture the stylistic essence of each tune type through good choices in bowing, ornamentation, phrasing, and rhythmic groove.  You’ll leave with an arsenal of tunes and a real command of how to make them sound truly Scottish.

ACADIAN FIDDLE (Anastasia DesRoches): Acadian tunes from PEI are known to have a great “swing”! In this workshop we’ll discuss and learn the various bowing techniques and podorythmie that players can use to achieve this sound. We’ll cover some of the classic Acadian compositions as well as some newer and more obscure pieces. Jams and kitchen parties are common in PEI, this creates a fun and inspiring learning environment. We’ll do our best to recreate this ambiance!

IRISH FIDDLE (Liz Knowles):

Intermediate: We will use some tunes — some you may know already and some you may not — to help establish and strengthen some of the foundations of good violin/fiddle and Irish fiddle technique: bowings, ornamentation and style. The focus of this class will be about giving you tools to take home in order to access and learn Irish music. We will take a deeper look at the bow and the fiddle as separate entities in order to develop good practice techniques. Liz will introduce you to some of my favorite recordings of fiddle players and you might come away from the week with a better understanding of how to access other players’ style, sound and technique using recordings.

Advanced: Liz will tailor this class to the attendees’ levels and interests. She’ll cover style, interpretation, tunes, and concepts rather than technique so ideally, players should be proficient at learning by ear, be able to play in all keys, bow in any suggested pattern of slurs and articulations, and have a working knowledge of Irish style, ornamentation. Please come with your list of a few of your favorite players to whom you have been listening to and emulating.

Masters: This class will function like the construct of a classical master class. A high level of proficiency both technically and stylistically are a prerequisite to participating attendees of all levels that simply want to observe are welcome. Each student participating in the class will be given individual attention to a particular tune (or technique or particular playing issue) of their choosing and then Liz will give a critique that will include both an assessment of the players’ attributes as well as approaches and techniques to improve the things needing attention. Open discussion about style, technique, interpretation, as well as many other topics will be encouraged.

CAPE BRETON FIDDLE (Troy MacGillivray): During the 1800’s, an influx of Scottish settlers descended upon the shores of northeastern Nova Scotia. They brought with them the Gaelic language, food, music, and dance – a way of life. Today the traditions live strong and the music has become known as the Cape Breton fiddle style. Jigs, reels, marches, and strathspeys are still among the most popular types of tunes played. Together we will learn standards, the old tunes, which provide an excellent base for musicking in social gatherings, alongside new music written by contemporary composers. The learning process will provide the opportunity to gather the “things” that sets the style apart from others.

QUÉBECOIS FIDDLE (Véronique Plasse): It is with great pleasure that Véronique will share with you the most interesting and enriching pieces of from the traditional Québecois repertoire, learned in the sessions of Montréal and Joliette. This is a lively repertoire, and through this class you’ll deepen your understanding of the the particular groove and well-worn airs of Québec fiddle, always with your own expression and personality.

Fiddle Making

FIDDLE MAKING (Jonathan Cooper): Jonathan Cooper is one of the recognized master luthiers of our century. At his shop in Portland Maine, Jon has made over 400 instruments in the last 40 years. His fiddles are played by many of the world’s best performers in trad music. In this one week workshop intensive, students will work together on a fiddle that will be completed in the white – no varnish – and be played on the final evening. The workshop is appropriate for intermediate and advanced makers but can be a good beginning foundation as well for those interested. Students are welcome to bring an instrument they are working on and get guidance from Jon in working on their own instrument. The class will cover an introduction to design and construction in all important aspects. There will be hands on demonstrations as well as access to an extensive personal library and direct examples of work from famous makers. Daily talks on varying subjects including history, maintenance, set up and sound production will be open to the camp at large as well. Participants are encouraged to bring their own tools, however a limited number of  tools will be available for students who do not have all the necessary equipment. This class has a $40 lab fee payable when you arrive.


FLUTE (Hanz Araki): In addition to the obvious – breathing, fingering, embouchure, etc., we will approach the elusive ornamentations and variations with practical application by breaking down a few tunes. I don’t read music, so be prepared with your favorite recording device. Let’s also take a look at what you already know (both tunes and technique) and see what we can tweak to get your playing closer to where you want it.

FLUTE (Shannon Heaton): In this class, we will work on ornamentation, phrasing (breathing), and rhythmic style. Please come with a tune to workshop—any jig or reel you really know. And we will learn tunes in class as well.


BEGINNER GUITAR (Dan Faiella): Learn the basics of learning how to play and accompany traditional tunes on guitar! Find out how to play and back up reels and jigs effectively and artistically, reading the tunes’ contours and crafting chord progressions that complement the melody. We’ll explore chord substitutions and a variety of chord voicings, which introduce a new level of variety into our musical interpretations.


CELTIC HARP (Maeve Gilchrist): In Maeve daily harp workshop’s, the students will be guided through a wide selection of technical, rhythmic and interpretive elements of harp playing suited to both the more traditional player as well as those looking for more contemporary ideas to apply to their instrument. Each day will begin with some dedicated technical/rhythmic focus, designed to warm up the hands and set the musical mind in the right place for tune learning and arrangement ideas. Maeve will tailor the class depending on the participants and encourages folk to bring recorders, note pads – whatever they need to maximize the experience for themselves. though not demanded, a basic knowledge of key signatures and basic technique will come in handy.


CAPE BRETON PIANO (Andrea Beaton and Troy MacGillivray):The unique style of Cape Breton piano accompaniment with its lively, intricate dance rhythms, harmony and baselines plays a huge role in making the Cape Breton fiddle sound so distinctive. The piano is such an important partner to the fiddle in Cape Breton that you will rarely hear the fiddle without it. We will work on distinctive Cape Breton rhythms used to accompany each tune type as well as concepts in harmony and bass line construction. Practical aspects will see various rhythms and patterns (aka runs and left hand lines) that have become well known in this aural tradition. And, we’ll discuss influential piano players and their contributions to music making in the Cape Breton style. This class will offer the opportunity to learn from both Troy and Andrea independently, and the join together in afternoon workshops and sessions to try out what you’ve learned. 

Also see the Workshops for afternoon offerings from Jeremiah McLane.

Songs & Accompaniment

SONGS & ACCOMPANIMENT (Cathy Jordan & Eamon O’Leary): A journey through Irish song, this class will welcome singers, instrumentalists, and those interested in both. Cathy Jordan and Eamon O’Leary will teach and share songs from their extensive repertoires of (mostly) Irish traditional material – timeless stories of the sea, of love and courtship, of work and ritual, of emigration, of war, and the many other subjects these songs describe. This class will broadly follow two tracks:First, learning the songs themselves, words and melodies, singing together as a group, with discussions of versions, sources, and provenance where appropriate.Second, exploring ideas for arrangements of the songs. This will cover everything from vocal harmonies to instrumental accompaniment. Some focus will be placed on guitar, bouzouki, and mandolin, but all other instruments welcome, as we learn to make these songs our own.


WHISTLE (Hanz Araki): While the whistle may not be as complex an instrument as the flute, it can be tricky to really get the most out of it. We’ll work on tone, especially in the pesky second octave, and getting the most out of this little piece of tubing that you can.

WHISTLE (Shannon Heaton): This class will focus on rhythmic feel, tone, and basic ornamentation. We will discuss different ways to build repertoire and skills. For players intimidated by aural learning, we’ll address simple, no-nonsense strategies for picking up tunes.