Program: English Country Dance Musicians Course

The English Country Dance Musicians Course will have limited enrollment and have a special application. (If you're a musician but don't want to apply for the Course, you can still do 3 daily music classes as well as camper night and various after-hours activities).

This Musician’s Intensive is designed to provide tools to help elevate a good musician into a good DANCE musician. While dance musicianship requires all of the skills of non-dance musicians, it also demands a specialized skill-set that is not often articulated or practiced. We’ll be concentrating on playing for English Country Dance (ECD), but many of the techniques are transportable to playing for other types of traditional dance. 

Because of the nature of the material, participants must be adept at sight-reading and fluent on their instrument(s). No prior ECD experience is required.

The course will take 3 periods per day (2 limited to the applicants only), and will be broken down into roughly 2 components: ECD music (mostly Shira Kammen), and ECD Dance Musicianship (mostly Jim Oakden); see staff page for their bios. Musicians in the course may also join two classes open to all campers: Camper Band organized by Erik Weberg, and a repertoire class from acclaimed composer Jonathan Jensen.

We'll work with the musical tools and experience you already have, and delve as deeply as possible into many facets of English Country Dance music, which can use skills from a variety of styles - contra, classical, baroque, medieval, renaissance, jazz, different aspects of folk music, your own hybrids and combinations, even choral part singing (and more!). We’ll make use of practical musical theory, improvisation & musicianship exercises, variation of melodies, finding and developing harmonies, bass lines, chords, rhythmic approaches, obbligatos, etc., try our hand at making arrangements, and intensive work in small groups, supervised and occasionally unsupervised, working by ear as well as by paper.

We'll also look at different historical settings of English Country Dance music, which range from settings of the Renaissance Playford collections, dances set to melodies by Purcell and his contemporaries, likewise some of the classical music adapted for English Dance, elegant 'Jane-Austin-ish' tunes, as well as gnarly versions folk and ballad tunes. We'll also spend a little time composing in different styles. 

The Dance Musicianship portion is aimed at giving practical ideas that are useful in real-life situations. Starting with preparation, we’ll move through caller interactions, tempos, communication, set arrangements, on-the-fly arrangements (cheap tricks), disaster recovery, mics/sound—basically a toolset to help folks make their playing fun and interesting for themselves and the dancers. Working with several callers, we’ll spend some time on the dreaded Playing for Walkthoughs—one of the more difficult (and potentially embarrassing) aspects of playing for ECD. 

By the end of the course musicians will be better equipped and more confident so as to move Beyond the Dots—which is more fun for everyone.

To apply, fill out the registration form and check the box about applying for the Musician's Intensive. Then, send Jim an email at with the following information:

  • Your name and contact information
  • Where you live (or what ECD Community(s) you're part of)

Plus something about your musical background, including:

  • What instrument(s) you play
  • How long you've been playing
  • What types of music you play (classical, Irish, contra, English Country Dance, morris, etc)
  • Your approximate playing and sightreading level
  • Whether or not you're already playing for dances

If you need financial assistance, let us know on both the registration form and in the email to Jim. We'll get back to you about what happens next.

If you have questions, call Jim at (831) 479-9533.

We're looking forward to hearing from you.
Shira and Jim