Festival of American Fiddle Tunes – 13 reasons why this event is great

326853730_ca3f2db3f8Centrum, in partnership with Fort Worden State Park (located in Port Townsend, Washington) is a gathering place for artists and creative thinkers from around the world, students of all ages and backgrounds, and audiences seeking extraordinary cultural enrichment. Centrum promotes creative experiences that change lives.

Kicking off my summer, I attended one such experience last week at Centrum.  It was the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes (not to be taken too literally, as much of the music comes from elsewhere).  It was my 4th time going.  I attended as a participant, playing fiddle and guitar.  It’s easy for me to get there as I live just across the water, in Victoria, BC.

With my collaboration hat on, here’s what I dig about this festival:

  1. The vision for the festival (and Centrum) is a shared one; built from many personal visions (the festival began in 1977).
  2. As Peter McCracken, Centrum’s Program Manager of Fiddle Tunes told me, the festival is owned by the participants.  Ownership = engagement.
  3. The community is involved; whether as Centrum staff, volunteers, participants (in music and the numerous nightly dances), or as audience to one of the many public performances.
  4. The festival is intergenerational, with about a third of the participants being under the age of 18.  Traditions are passed on within families.
  5. The festival builds on musical tradition bearers.  An instructor in their 80’s may be telling their musical story to a participant in their teens.  Storytelling is everywhere.
  6. Participants are invited to share their gifts.  Each day, wild card slots in the schedule make it possible for anyone to share their interest/skill with others.
  7. Within a schedule of 7X24 music, dance, conversation, and food, everything is optional/voluntary!  A participant can attend any of the multiple sessions offered each day, no caveats!
  8. Each of the many instructors introduce themselves on the opening night; a quick here’s who I am, usually delivered via a musical snippet. Marketing chutzpah helps win the audience over!  These introductions help participants gauge whose who in the zoo, and plan their week’s itinerary.  I wish this format was used more at conferences!
  9. Centrum and Fort Worden State Park provide an ideal physical space for creativity and learning.  From a multitude of gathering and accommodation structures available to the festival, to an ocean seashore steps away, a wonderful park and trail system (which this jogger enjoys!), and historical sites/remains aplenty.
  10. Effective and efficient organization; from online registration through to post-festival survey.
  11. Opportunity to work share; for participants to volunteer their services during the festival, in exchange for waived or reduced tuition.
  12. Great food; with emphasis on the 100-mile diet (see my blog post on that topic).
  13. So many ways to connect and re-connect!

Here’s a 6 minute video containing of few clips from the participant’s concert evening (another opportunity to share gifts).  Check out the festival web site for more videos.

As a quote on the Centrum website states: I can’t believe a place like this actually exists.  How true!
What’s your favourite place for creative experience?

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Photo credit: TheAlieness GiselaGiardino…


  1. Thanks for the enthusiastic post. My own take is that Fiddle Tunes at Centrum, like the Alaska Folk Festival in Juneau, is wonderful because I see people participating without an authoritarian leader giving fierce directions.
    Maybe you can find your way North in April. (volunteer and performer forms will be mailed in January)

  2. Hi Anne,
    Nice to hear from you. The Alaska festival sounds awesome. I’ll have to check it out. Good observation about the participatory, non-authoritarian, approach taken at Fiddle Tunes. No doubt that helped contribute to the overall good vibes! Thanks for your insight. Cheers, Ben.

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