«Back to all NGI Letters

NGI Recipient: Annika Amstutz

Session Attended: Country Dance and Song Society - Harmony of Song & Dance (2019)

I just got back from Harmony of Song and Dance week at Pinewoods.  I feel blessed to have received the Next Generation Initiative Scholarship through the Country Dance and Song Society.  While I struggled to choose a week, because all the weeks look so wonderful, I selected Harmony of Song and Dance because it blended my love of fiddle music with my desire to push myself into new areas and do more singing.  I had an absolutely wonderful experience and am thrilled to be taking new skills and songs with me to my home community.
I loved starting the morning with all camp Chorale. Each day a different instructor led the warm-ups and it was a treat to see the different ways each person led the group.  I lead a community fiddle orchestra and I was really excited to glean some new tricks to utilize with my own orchestra members.  I loved singing different songs from around the world in chorale and in particular I enjoyed being surrounded by the voices of my fellow campers and hearing our harmonies intertwine.  I took a range of classes including ukulele, guitar, singing, and a dance musicians workshop, and also attended a tune jam in the afternoon. At each class I was blown away by the quality of instruction as well as the community of learners who were all supporting each other as we took on challenges and learned new skills.  Most evenings I found myself playing fiddle tunes till late into the night.  Playing tunes with new folks is always a wonderful experience and I met some really talented musicians who I was delighted to play with.
It is a rare opportunity to walk into a dining hall full of people who are all sitting together and eating and who all seem to know each other, yet to feel completely welcomed to squeeze in at every single one of the tables.  On a few occasions I opted not to squeeze into a table at a meal but instead to start my own table.  That moment of sitting alone never lasted more than a few seconds before someone else either walked into the room and joined me, or even jumped up from their own table to sit with me.  Meal time conversations left both my bell and my heart satisfied and the warmth of the camp community was a truly beautiful experience to be immersed in.  Walking down every pathway I was greeted by smiles and that sense of instant community with such strong warmth is truly something rare and beautiful.
As I return to my own life I am filled with ideas for teaching.  I teach private fiddle lessons, lead a community orchestra, and am a part of a variety of other community music events.  Watching the incredible instruction at Pinewoods gave me lots of food for thought on how I want to teach and lead.  Holding new instruments in workshops and pushing myself to learn new things gave me perspectives on being a learner that are also already influencing my instruction.  I brought many great songs and tunes home with me that I am excited to teach to others as well.
Everything in life has its challenges- my challenges at Pinewoods included navigating some of the beautiful yet circuitous woodland path ways, having self-control at meal times when faced with so much delicious food, getting enough sleep, accepting that I could not be in two classes at the exact same time, and wiggling myself back into a wet bathing suit because when you swim in a beautiful pond at least twice a day your swim suit never really dries.  These are pretty great challenges to face!   As an NGI scholarship recipient I was matched with a mentor, who I already knew from my home dance community, and I loved having a contact person before camp to share their packing list, and throughout camp to just check in with and smile at.  I’ve known about the NGI scholarship for a few years but this was the first year I could make it fit into my summer and I am so grateful for this opportunity! I feel incredibly blessed to have attended such a wonderful program and am already scheming up ways to get myself back to Pinewoods in the future.
Many many many thanks to CDSS, the Pinewoods Camp, and all those behind the NGI scholarship for making this week a reality for me! It was a week full of beautiful music and great learning which will continue to impact my musicianship and leadership for years to come.