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Dignans double up for music camps

by David Gunter
| June 11, 2010 9:00 PM

SANDPOINT - The options for taking in a musical summer camp just doubled, thanks to a local couple who plan to fill most of August with the sounds of strings, brass, woodwinds and percussion.

In the process, they'll throw in a bit of fencing, some Highland dancing and "Stomp!" style alternative percussion playing for extra fun.

Sandpoint instructors Karen and Ryan Dignan will host a pair of music-related camps this summer, one of which is going into its eighth year, while the other is being rolled out for the first time.

The Sandpoint Fiddle & Folk Arts Camp started small, according to founder Karen Dignan, who teaches private lessons and classes at the Sandpoint Waldorf School.

"It was a family and friends camp that first year," she said. "Then it was a family, friends, siblings and cousins camp. And it grew from there."

Last summer, the weeklong music camp attracted about 60 youngsters between the ages of 6-14, whose days included classes in music, dance and art.

"It used to be that we didn't have choices," the fiddle teacher said. "You came in the morning and you got your three classes: Fiddle, percussion and arts & crafts."

Over time, the schedule broadened as parents of some young campers offered to share their knowledge in things such as Scottish dance technique and the art of fencing. For 2010, the Sandpoint Fiddle & Folk Arts Camp will offer guitar and mandolin classes with Doug Bond; cello instruction from Joy Adams; Highland dance classes with Laurie Gawel; fencing instruction from Iris Harrison; arts & crafts sessions with Erin McNamara; fiddling with Karen Dignan and a non-traditional percussion class with her husband, Ryan.

"The idea of having the different instructors was to build something organic from people in the community," Ryan said.

"These are people who have supported me in my work," his wife added. "It's nice to bring them in and work with them from the other direction."

Along with the various introductory level group classes, the camp will feature daily gatherings of its fiddle orchestra, as well as contra-dance sessions for all campers. The founder hopes the week of introductory lessons also will act as a springboard for young string players who will go on to become members of the community's growing string instrument music program - a relatively new addition thanks primarily to grant funding administered by The Festival at Sandpoint, which purchased 10 new cellos to help the Sandpoint Youth Orchestra get off the ground. The fiddle teacher wants to get those instruments out of their cases and out them to work this summer.

"My goal is to get 10 kids who have never played to come and learn to play the cello this summer," she said, adding that scholarships are available for the music camp. "If people need help, we'll help them, because camp is more fun with more people."

The new kid on the musical block this year will be the first annual Sandpoint Band Camp, which will feature a full band class along with "studio" classes in brass, woodwind and percussion instruments.

"This is the maiden voyage," said Ryan Dignan, who spends the school year as the band instructor at Sandpoint Middle School and Clark Fork High School. "We're going to try it out as a half-day camp that targets elementary and middle school kids.

"It's going to be open to first-time beginning students, home schoolers and students who attend schools with no band program," he added. "We think a camp like this will be a nice jump start for kids who want to play standard band instruments."

Sandpoint Band Camp will break each day into three parts - a full band class, specific instruction on different instruments and one elective class. Instructors will include former band teacher and Swing Street Big Band leader Tom Walton on brass; Bonners Ferry High School band instructor Rachel Gordon on flute; local elementary band instructor Greg Schuh teaching saxophone and clarinet; and Dignan working with percussion players.

On the elective side, Walton will offer an Intro to Jazz class and Dignan will explore alternative percussion techniques in the style of the Broadway hit show, "Stomp!"

Despite its first-year status, the instructor believes the camp will create interest among students who want to go on to join the school district's popular band program, which has become one of the largest in the region for grades 6-12.

"We want to make sure parents understand that this will be something that is easy for their kids to do, accessible to everyone and is not too expensive," said Dignan, who noted that instrument rentals also are available starting at $5 for the week. "Plus, it only lasts a half day, so everyone will still have time to run to the beach."

Sandpoint Band Camp is scheduled for Aug. 9-13, from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Sandpoint Middle School. The cost is $75, with discounts for additional siblings who sign up from the same family.

The Sandpoint Fiddle & Folk Arts Camp will run from Aug. 2-6, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Sandpoint First Lutheran Church. The cost is $180 per student, with some scholarships offered. Registration materials currently are available through the Parks & Recreation department at Sandpoint City Hall.

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