Teaching Staff 2017
Scotland ▪ Ireland ▪ Shetland

Alasdair Fraser ▪ Ciarán Ó Maonaigh ▪ Kevin Henderson
Hanneke Cassel ▪ Deby Grosjean ▪ Laura Risk ▪ Janette Duncan


Conor Hearn ▪ Eamon Sefton


Natalie Haas ▪ Joel Cohen ▪ Erin Esses
Alex McVicar Wilson, Jr. ▪ Aria DiSalvio

Caitlín Nic Gabhann


Summer McCall ▪ Caitlín Nic Gabhann

Laura Cortese


Neil Pearlman

Galen Fraser

Elias Alexander

Fiddle Classes

Fiddle classes are scheduled in the morning and early afternoon and allow participants to study the various styles taught by each instructor. All tunes are taught by ear, and class divisions, ranging from advanced to those who have never played before, are based on students’ rate of learning by ear.

Alasdair Fraser is recognized throughout the world as one of the finest fiddle players Scotland has ever produced; [his] name is synonymous with the vibrant cultural renaissance which is transforming the Scottish musical scene." —Scots Magazine

Renowned performer and master teacher of the rich fiddling tradition of Scotland, Alasdair inspires us to higher and deeper levels of self-expression within an embracing community of listeners, learners and like-minded folk. The variety and expressivity of Alasdair's playing is evident in his numerous recordings—from intimate fiddle/guitar duets, to a more contemporary interpretation of tradition, to high energy original tunes with his Skyedance band. Recent, highly acclaimed albums include "Legacy of the Scottish Fiddle, Vols. 1 and 2," and "Fire and Grace, " which was named Scots Trad Album of the Year for 2004. In Alasdair's class, you will learn a variety of Scottish tune types and how to use special bowings, ornaments and a rhythmic drive to make the tunes come alive.

Ciarán Ó Maonaigh "has that Donegal fiddlers' knack of being technically exact, fearless and free." A former recipient of the TG4 Young Musician of the Year award, fiddle player Ciarán Ó Maonaigh hails from the Gaoth Dobhair gaeltacht in Co. Donegal. His playing is influenced by his grandfather and teacher Francie Mooney, Altan members Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh and Frankie Kennedy, Derry fiddle player Dermot McLaughlin and the Donegal fiddle legend, John Doherty.

His first album, Ceol a’Ghleanna (The Music of the Glen) was released in 2004. Fidil, released in June 2008, was described by Irish Music Magazine as “One of the most challanging and beautifully austere albums of the last fifty years”. 3 was released in 2009 and was awarded a 5 star review and made CD of the week in The Irish Times. He released his fourth album, The Old Wheel of Fortune, in 2011.

Kevin Henderson comes from the Shetland Islands, an area with one of the richest fiddle traditions in the world. He is a founding member of award winning Shetland group Fiddlers' Bid, and has been a member of Boys of the Lough as well as Scottish super group Session A9. He recently helped co-found The Nordic Fiddlers Bloc and is also part of Shetland/Norwegian trio Aamos.

In 2011 Kevin released his debut solo album, "Fin Da Laand Ageen," to great critical acclaim. The album was a celebration of Shetland's traditional fiddle music and featured the fantastic playing of Mattias Pérez from Sweden on guitar and mandola. He has appeared on radio and television programs worldwide, including the BBC and Garrison Keillors "A Prarie Home Companion".

Hanneke Cassel's approach to music is aptly expressed in the title of her debut album, "My Joy." Alasdair Fraser characterized the album as "…fiddle music played with great stylistic integrity and personal flair…" Hanneke's second album, "Some Melodious Sonnet," released in 2004, contains a variety of her own compositions, some hauntingly melodic, others exuberantly energetic. Hanneke has immersed herself in the music of Scotland and Cape Breton for many years and has won three U.S. National Scottish Fiddling championships. She is a graduate of the Berklee School of Music.

Laura Risk is a fiddler whose love of the music of Scotland, Ireland, Cape Breton and Quebec has led her into a rich journey of performing and teaching. Laura is known throughout the U.S. as an outstanding teacher, able to inspire students at any level. As evidenced in several highly praised albums, her playing is especially expressive and versatile, ranging from elegant music composed for 18th century Scottish drawing rooms to driving strathspeys and reels suitable for a Cape Breton dance floor. The eloquence of Laura’s fiddling is especially evident is her album of Scottish tunes, “2000 Miles,” To help fiddlers learn new tunes by ear, Laura has recorded two sets of CDs containing nearly 150 tunes from a variety of fiddle traditions, played slowly and at normal performance tempo.

Deby Benton Grosjean combines the best of both the Celtic and classical music worlds in her playing and teaching. Of her CD, “Beyond the Shore,” Pattie Mills, of Connection Magazine, wrote, “It will touch your heart and dance your soul.” As a teacher Deby has been especially effective in working with kids and is involved in putting on two Celtic music camps for children and teens in the Santa Cruz area. In her basic beginning classes for children Deby’s individual attention will provide young fiddlers with a solid technical foundation while fostering their pleasure in playing.

Janette Duncan (BA, Music) has benefited from both classical violin training and a fiddling heritage. Her grandfather was a fiddler and her dad a guitar player. Janette’s own fiddling has been particularly influenced and inspired by Bengt Johnson and Alasdair Fraser. She has herself inspired a great many players through her performances—as a member of the Bi-Coastal International Dance Band, Dockside and other ensembles—and her teaching, including beginning string classes in schools, a community college course she teaches on “Celtic Session Tunes,” and private instruction at home in Sonoma County, California. Her students are encouraged to learn to read and write music but also play the fiddle by “ear and heart.”

Janette will teach the basic beginning fiddle class for adults who have little or no experience with the instrument.

Cello Classes

Natalie Haas is in the vanguard of young cellists pushing the envelope of the cello while simultaneously carrying it back into the fold of traditional Celtic music. She has graced the performances and recordings of many renowned fiddlers, particularly Alasdair Fraser, with whom she has been performing in the US and Europe for several years. Since she began teaching at Celtic Connections in Glasgow and VOM in 2002, various music camps and festivals have been eager to engage her. Her recent album with Alasdair, "Fire and Grace," was named Scots Trad Music Album of the Year for 2004. Natalie's powerful and rhythmic playing make it easy to understand why Alasdair says, "In18th century Scotland, the fiddle and cello were the dance band of choice." In Natalie's class you will learn bowing techniques, ornamentation, bass lines and rhythmic techniques to suit the style and mood of a variety of music, including the tunes the fiddlers are learning.

Joel Cohen is a Grammy nominated cellist with a passion for unique, genre-bending music. He had his early musical training in the San Francisco Bay area with Irene Sharp and Margaret Rowell. After receiving his B.Mus. from the University of Western Ontario, further studies took him to Holland until his return to the San Francisco Bay area where he served as co-principal cellist with the Oakland Symphony from 1979 to 1985. Cohen lived in Vienna from 1985 to 1997 where he was a principal cellist of the Vienna Chamber Orchestra. During those years he also performed with the Vienna Radio Symphony (ORF/RSO), the Wiener Kammeroper, the Wiener Akademie (on period instruments), and Quartett Yggdrasil. He toured extensively throughout Europe and Asia with the Vienna Chamber Orchestra and the Johann Strauss Festival Orchestra of Vienna.

After his move to Mendocino County in 2007, CA, Joel began producing concerts that showcase some of his favorite contemporary musicians (including Alastair Frasier and Natalie Haas (Spring 2010) and Oregon (Fall 2011). Joel also performs in the Boston area with "Improvelocity," a group which explores musical collaboration through spontaneous chamber music, creating works in various styles including jazz, fusion, soundscapes and world music.

Alex McVicar Wilson, Jr.: born and raised in Bakersfield, CA, Alex is an avid teacher and performer. With a large private studio and instructing for both Cal State University, Bakersfield and the Kern High School District, he is able to assist in the advancement of many students of the cello. Performing with the Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra and various chamber music groups satisfies his love for the classical literature. His discovery of traditional music and another role for the instrument breathed new life into his musical journey. Alex is never happier than when discovering new tunes, arrangements, and accompaniment styles, or when helping others to do the same.

Erin Esses hails from Southern California where she plays and teaches in a variety of different settings and styles. From Celtic to Bluegrass, Rock and Roll to Classical, and Folk to Funk, Erin enjoys it all. Classically trained, she is a graduate of UC Irvine, where she also began dabbling in all kinds of improvisation and playing well with others. She regularly provides live music while looping with her cello for yoga classes. Erin loves to travel with her carbon fiber cello and always looks forward to making it up to the Pacific Northwest. Don't be shocked to find Erin strapped in to her cello, walking around while playing. Erin is a member of the celtic, old-time cello duo Dusty Bows, and also plays and sings in the folky bluegrass band Gone Wayside.

Aria DiSalvio loves performing with the Santa Cruz Symphony, her contemporary celtic trio One Lane Bridge, and virtuoso mandolinist Ashley Broder.  She recently recorded with Irish singer Eilis Kennedy on the album Westward.  Aria is thrilled to be returning as an instructor to Sierra Fiddle Camp after taking several years off to focus on raising her two children (now 3 and 8).  She also teaches at the Community Music School of Santa Cruz's summer teen and kids camps, as well as giving private cello lessons.  For more information, visit her website: ariadisalvio.com


Caitlín Nic Gabhann is a three times All-Ireland winner on concertina, Caitlín is a regular performer at festivals and in concert halls from North America all the way to Asia. Her compositions have been performed in the Cork Opera House and The National Concert Hall, Dublin and recorded in Ireland and abroad. She teaches concertina annually at summer and winter schools in Ireland, Europe and USA and has performed with the RTÉ Vanbrugh Quartet, Paddy Keenan, Liam Ó Maonlaí and for Presidents and Royalty around the world.


Conor Hearn: is a Celtic and jazz guitar player who grew up studying classical violin and playing traditional Irish music in the sessions of Baltimore, MD and Washington D.C. He currently makes his home in Boston, MA, lending his innovative rhythmic skills to the panoply of groups and projects that are taking shape in the Boston area folk music scene. He has established himself as a cutting-edge Scottish and Irish plaver over the past few years playing with groups like Soulsha, The Galen Fraser Quartet, and TriHearn. While finishing up his degrees in English Literature and Music at Tufts University, he recently began touring with The Mari Black Celtic Band and is leading the charge with his new band, Pumpkin Bread, the latest celtic-chamber-funk juggernaut to emerge from the hive of musicians at Tufts and The New England Conservatory.

Eamon Sefton is a sought-after Celtic-style guitarist from the Boston area. His percussive rhythm and clever use of harmony have made him an ideal guitarist for many traditional musicians around Boston. He cultivated much of his talent at the Boston Harbor Scottish Fiddle School, where he has become a regular guitar teacher. He spent several semesters at Berklee College of Music, where he greatly furthered his understanding of harmony and guitar technique. Most recently, Eamon has been performing with his bands Cat and the Moon, Fresh Haggis and the Bywater Band at places like Club Passim, the Beat Hotel, the Burren, and on WGBH’s A Celtic Sojourn.

Dance Class

Caitlín Nic Gabhann is an accomplished dancer and has toured the world with Riverdance. Her debut solo CD, Caitlín was voted the 2012 ‘CD of the Year’ by tradconnect.com and ‘top Irish traditional album of 2012' by The Wall Street Journal.

Summer McCall was born and raised in the Sierra Nevada town of Truckee, California where she studied cello and various dance styles including ballet, tap, Irish, modern, jazz and belly dancing. She attended the first year of Sierra Fiddle Camp in 2006 as a cellist under the tutelage of Natalie Haas. Since then, her love for Celtic music has exploded with the furthering of cello, fiddle, dance, voice and harp. In 2016 she graduated from Humboldt State University in Arcata, California with a degree in cello performance. Her high energetic passion for dance and music naturally lead her towards calling the Scottish contra and ceilidh dances at Sierra Fiddle Camp. This summer of 2017 marks her second year of being the official night-time-groovy-dance party leader at camp. Viva la Ceilidh!

Song Class

Laura Cortese: abundantly talented as a singer dancer and fiddler, Laura will be leading and coordinating singing classes this year. She puts her own spin and rhythms on traditional and contemporary songs, deftly strumming, plucking and chopping her fiddle behind her rootsy voice. Cortese's Irish American grandmother first handed her a fiddle at the age of 4. Eight years later, she discovered folk music in what seems like an unlikely place, the bustling metropolis of her hometown San Francisco. "I found an exceptional community of singers, musicians and dancers at the Valley of the Moon Fiddle Camp," she says. "People from age 2 to 80 that just love making music together. It's strange to say, but I think that was the year I decided that music was IT."

In 1999, Cortese moved to Boston to attend Berklee College of Music. Over the next few years she played in several bands including fiddle trio Halali formed with two childhood friends. "I had never really sung solo on stage before Halali. I realized songs are an amazing way to connect to an audience." In an apartment across the street from Berklee College, Cortese set out to record her debut album Hush in 2002 (re-released on Jar productions 2004). Hush showcases 12 tracks of pop-inspired arrangement that captures the raw sincerity of traditional Celtic music.



Piano Class

Neil Pearlman: pianist and mandolinist Neil Pearlman is rapidly distinguishing himself as a uniquely innovative artist in the contemporary traditional music scene. Called “a force to be reckoned with” by WGBH’s Brian O’Donovan, Neil is recognized in many Celtic music circles for his unique approach to the piano. Rooted in traditional Cape Breton piano styles, Neil brings in ideas from the many other genres resulting in an exciting new sound that remains true to its traditional roots. It was this fresh approach that led legendary Cape Breton fiddler Jerry Holland to say, "Watching Neil's hands on the piano was like watching two spiders on crack!"

Ensemble/ Dance Band Guru

Galen Fraser grew up in the foothills of Northern California, where he learned his love for fiddle music from his musical family. At a young age, he began playing yearly with the San Francisco Scottish Fiddlers and accompanied them on many tours in California, Alaska and the Pacific Northwest. After high school, Galen attended the Berklee College of Music and in 2013 was a winner in the Songs For Social Change competition. Galen now lives joyously in Boston, Massachusetts where he plays with many musicians and bands as well as his own Galen Fraser Trio. Galen's much anticipated debut solo album will be released in Spring 2016.

Piper & Bard

Elias Alexander - piper, fiddler, good-time instigator, party-stirrir-upper - and bard. He throws himself wildly into a number of artistic forms, including music, acting, and poetry. Originally from beautiful Ashland, Oregon, he graduated from Middlebury College in 2013 with an honors degree in music. He also spent significant time there doing environmental studies and theatre. While in Vermont he was winner of the Young Adult category at the Vermont Young Tradition Competition 2013 singing and playing border pipes.




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