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Classes, Workshops & Sessions


We regret that the 2020 Acadia Trad Festival has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 


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 noted 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 2019 Classes and Workshops (Matrix view) (PDF, subject to change). 

View Schedule of 2019 Classes and Workshops (by instructor) (PDF, subject to change). 

View Afternoon 2019 Workshops Descriptions (PDF).

2020 Majors:


  • Accordion
  • Bodhran
  • Cello
  • Concertina (NEW in 2020!)
  • Dance
  • Fiddle*
  • Fiddle-making
  • Flute
  • Guitar*
  • Harp
  • Piano
  • Song
  • Whistle

*Beginner classes offered too!

Morning Class Descriptions

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), and be able to change between them with relative ease. 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.


ACCORDION (Jeremiah McLane): This class will focus on accordion technique (bellows, left hand chord combinations, right hand 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.


BODHRAN (Matt Bell): Over the last sixty years, the bodhrán has profoundly changed in terms of construction, sound, and playing 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-octave sound palette. Today’s bodhrán style can provide a more subtle, musically supportive voice in a Trad session, and it can also imitate a huge variety of drum set 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 reel grooves and contemporary variations, single and double-ended ornaments, posture, practice ideas, session playing, accompaniment ideas for various other tune types, and instrument and stick selection. Please bring your bodhrán and tipper to class. Feel free to bring recording devices.


CELLO (Natalie Haas): For cellists who are interested in playing a key role in accompanying fellow musicians and colleagues, we will focus on utilizing the cello in traditional music. Come ready to explore pizzicato and bowing techniques, constructing successful bass lines, and the phases of improvising cohesive solos. 


CONCERTINA (Brenda Castles): Learn how to strengthen your repertoire, play advanced chords, arrange your own sets, and discover the art of ornamentation.


DANCE (Nic Gareiss)Utilizing improvisation, organic movement, and drawing from a myriad of percussive dance styles including Irish step dance, Appalachian flat-footing, and Quebecois gigue, this class explores the sheer musical potential of your feet. Using imitation, idiomatic ornaments as well as alternate shoe-sounds and textures, we will learn to construct lines of rhythm imitating melody as well as create rhythmic counterpoint by setting up shoe-grooves employing contemporary musical sensibility.

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 Liz Faiella and Lily Honigberg; Liz and Lily 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.

BEGINNER FIDDLE (Liz Faiella & Lily Honigberg): Fundamentals of learning fiddle can be a daunting and difficult task. You have two instruments: The bow and the fiddle. Each one needs special attention in order to work in harmony. In this class, we will start from square 1 for those need a solid foundation to build upon. We will split into two groups at certain times during the class to cater to everyone’s needs and level. In addition to basic technique, we will learn a few Celtic tunes by the end of the week. This is a fun, engaging class and open to all ages. Class will mainly be taught by ear and sheet music will be provided at the end of the week. 

SCOTTISH FIDDLE (Sean Heely & 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 (Instructor TBD):

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 (Pascal Gemme): If you are enthusiastic or curious about the music of La Belle Province than this class is for you.  You’ll have the possibility of learning all kinds of Quebecois repertoire including Brandys (3/4), Galops, Cotillions, Jigs, Marches and ‘straight’ reels with even or odd number of parts. Please bring a small recording device as all melodies will be thought by ear.  Bowing and ornamentation will be discussed and thought as well as how to incorporate the music in your own personal style.  No sheet music will be given at class.

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 in observing. 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 & Nicholas Williams): 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. 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 students will have the opportunity to work with both instructors each day. 


GUITAR (Yann Falquet): Yann has been playing guitar for almost 30 years, playing traditional music for 20 years, and has been very interested in teaching his guitar style for 10 years.  He has jazz training, but his jazz years are now buried under a thick layer of traditional music, played mainly in the DADGAD tuning. Although Yann has worked mainly in the context of French Canadian music, he has played extensively with Irish, American and Scandinavian musicians making him a well-rounded guitarist. Yann’s class will be centered on a different fiddle tune every day (mostly Quebecois, but we may stray to other styles). We will use each tune to explore the different accompaniment approaches, talk about chord theory, include some common chord progressions, moving bass notes, inversions & substitutions and more. Some of the classes will focus on DADGAD, but most will be geared to all guitar tunings.  Yann will also teach a simple melody or two that everybody can pick on the guitar, in all tunings.

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):  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 (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. 


SONGS: A journey through traditional song, this class will be taught by a cross-section of several faculty members, who will teach and share songs from their extensive repertoires traditional material. This class will learn the songs themselves, (words, melodies and harmonies), singing together as a group, with discussions of versions, sources, and provenance where appropriate.


WHISTLE (Hanz Araki & Nicholas Williams): 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 rhythmic feel, tone, and basic ornamentation, especially in the pesky second octave, and getting the most out of this little piece of tubing that you can. 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. students will have the opportunity to work with both instructors each day.