What is Music Camp?

For the past 15 years Northern Lights Bluegrass and Old Time Music Society has hosted an all ages Music Education Camp prior to its annual Music Festival. Multi-skill level classes are taught in the various acoustic instruments found within the Bluegrass and Old Time genres, such as banjo, fiddle, mandolin, bass, guitar, dobro, voice and even an introductory class for children’s music. Festival mainstage artists arrive early to our festival site to provide professional level instruction to all our campers! 

Our 2021 Music Camp will still be held 20KM NE of Big River, Saskatchewan at the Ness Creek site we know and love! The Ness Creek site makes for a remote getaway in a rustic setting among the beautiful boreal forest! Need directions? Click HERE

Participants will choose one class and remain with their instructor for the duration of the camp week. 

Several special interest workshops or ‘mini-workshops’ on various topics will be offered throughout the week on a drop-in basis. These give campers the opportunity to try something new. For example, if you’re spending the week pickin’ you might get a chance to try singin’! 

Learn From World Class Instructors

Our instructors are some of the top working musicians in their industry. Our alumni boast an impressive range of accomplishments, including working with the likes of Ricky Skaggs, Marty Stuart, The Dixie Chicks and more! The skill required for them to play at this level takes diligence, patience and practice. Not only are they masters of their instruments, but they are also teachers, skilled at passing their knowledge on to learners both new and experienced. Don’t be intimidated by this level of musicianship, as the true beauty of bluegrass and old time culture is how it places fostering and encouragement at the forefront! 

Make Music Together

One of the greatest joys for beginners and masters alike is the thrill of gathering together to play. No amps to haul, no electricity required, just a campfire and a willing group of pickers and singers. It’s one thing to learn how to play and instrument but that skill grows exponentially when you learn to play with others. 

Over the past 15 years, we have watched students go from playing their first chords to forming bands. Some people are still playing their first chords, and that’s okay too! We have a wonderful slow pitch session where we allow beginners to practice their new skills at a leisurely pace and in a very supportive environment. Evenings bring the fast fingers to the campfire and the entertainment value is immeasurable.  

Fostering Friendships Through Music

We are more than just an instructional camp, here at Northern Lights we seek to connect participants in many different ways. We gather together for amazing meals, take a turn or two at dishes and sometimes even break out into spontaneous percussion sessions. We bust out the fiddle and kick up our heels, yes, we’ll teach you to dance! We get the frisbees and footballs flying to burn off some energy after a long day of learning and have other great events like our song writing contest. Lifetime friendships are made at Music Camp and our folks wait all year long to return to their camp family for another precious week. 

Explore Other Instruments

Maybe you’ve been playing one instrument for some time and feel it might be time to try something new. Camp is the perfect opportunity to do so! Guitar players have crossed over into learning the resonator guitar (dobro), bluegrass style banjo players have expanded their tune repertoire by learning to play claw hammer style, and instrumentalists of all stripes have enjoyed learning to sing! The great thing is, if students should decide to take something new, they have ample opportunity to play their original instruments outside of class all week long! 

2021 is in the books!

We had a great camp in 2021. It sure was nice to see everyone and make new friends! Our 2022 lineup will be posted in late Winter of 2022.

Skill Levels

The Northern Lights Music camp provides a friendly, non-competitive environment for musicians of ALL AGES and SKILL LEVELS. Perhaps you are just getting started in music? Or you are a skilled player looking to hone your skills? We have a class for you! 

Please sign up for the class that best describes your current skill level. If you are uncomfortable on your first day of class, you’ll have the option to discuss changing classes.

*NOTE – If you are a new beginner, before registering, please ensure you read the corresponding section of our FAQ’s below. 

BEGINNER

You are relatively new to your instrument. You have been taking a few lessons or learning through how-to videos and are looking for a solid base to be established. You want to know about correct posture, how to best hold the pick or bow, how to improve chord formation, tips on tuning and intonation, and you want to begin playing songs. You need to be introduced to good study /practice habits, how to read music or tablature, and developing excellent technique.

INTERMEDIATE

You are progressing on your instrument. You are ready to start to play with other musicians and you can already play a few tunes from memory. You can play along with a CD if it is at medium speed. You are feeling that you need a booster to get you moving towards the next level. You have a solid grasp of all the basic techniques for your instrument and may be able to read tabulature or music. 

ADVANCED

You are looking for fine tuning tips on how to improve your playing. You can jam with others, improvise fairly well on new tunes and are (or want to) play in an organized band. Your tab/music reading skills are great. You know some scales and how to use them in improvisation situations. Your speed is improving as you use your metronome. You have an arsenal of tunes you can play from memory. You play your instrument or practice almost every day. 

Costs

Northern Lights offers a variety of instructional packages for participants, as well as guest meal packages for spouses or parents/guardians. Read our Guest Policy in the FAQ section below.

Adult Tuition

$
  • Music instruction
  • Mini-workshops
  • Evening activities
  • Camping spot
  • Monday BBQ

Youth Tuition

$
  • Music instruction
  • Mini-workshops
  • Evening activities
  • Camping spot
  • Monday BBQ

We know that camp can be a busy place and we want to make sure that you and your guests don’t need to worry about cooking. Whether you want all of your meals, some or none we have a perfect meal package for you! 

 

Includes: Lunches Tuesday to Thursday, Friday Brunch, Monday BBQ and daily snacks.

 

 

Includes: Breakfasts, lunches and suppers Tuesday to Thursday, Friday Brunch, Monday BBQ and daily snacks. 

Looking for Guest Tickets??

A limited amount of guest tickets are available for spouses and/or parents of camp registrants. All guest tickets include camping spot (with music camp participant), Monday BBQ and evening activities, and options are available for lunches only or full meals.

Camping & Accommodations

Rustic camping is readily available and you will have your choice of lovely spots for your tent or RV. RV’ers are welcome to park in any of the 3 fields, while it’s requested you camp in the second field or the bush sites if you are tenting it. The third field is for quiet camping.  Please DO NOT block roadways or walking paths. 

There are no electrified sites, however modern washroom facilities with flush toilets and coin operated showers (loonies only!) are available to music camp registrants. You must bring your own towels and toiletries. As a courtesy, please be conscious of others who may be waiting to shower or use the sink/mirror area and keep these areas clean. 

There are a limited number of cabins available for rent at the Ness Creek site. For more information visit Discover Ness Creek HERE

All campers are able to to gain access to the site Monday, August 16th, 2021 at 12:00 noon. 

Everyone is asked to keep their generator use to a minimum. Noisy units interfere with jamming! No generator use is allowed between 11PM and 8AM. Campers requiring overnight use for medical reasons will be advised where to park. 

Potable water is available to campers in the first field water tap and in a tank in the second field. There will be water coolers/dispensers in various locations as well. Make sure to try and conserve water and bring your own if possible. 

Fires are allowed in designated fire pits ONLY. If conditions are very dry, a fire ban may be in place. Fires must not be left unattended. Please check in about local fire bans before lighting any fires.

Containers for both garbage and recycling are all around the camp. Please help us keep the camp clean and safe from bears by cleaning up your garbage! 

There is cell coverage on site, some say it’s a bit sketchy but we have found it does the trick! Camp selfies on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are encouraged!!

The camp experience is held mainly outdoors. The classes and food services areas are all under shelter, but open to the air. One can expect sun, clouds, wind, rain, and mosquitoes during our camps so be prepared! 

Each evening there will be an opportunity for a campfire, so get out your warm clothes. It can get quite cold at night in the month of August, but can also be sweltering hot during the day. You can always visit the beach and go swimming at beautiful Nesslin Lake after class. 

Be Bear Aware!

Please remember that we are moving into the bear’s natural habitat!

The Ness Creek and Nesslin Lake area are in black bear country and while you’re in the area, it’s good to develop a respect for bears and a sense of how to conduct yourself in their territory.  

The black bear is generally nocturnal and solitary. It is classed as a carnivore although most of its normal diet consists of vegetation such as twigs, buds, leaves, nuts, roots, various fruits and berries. They occasionally eat insects, mammals, birds, fish, and carrion if the opportunity arises. 

BEARS WANT YOUR FOOD MORE THAN THEY WANT YOU! 

Don’t leave your food in the open, store it in your car or trailer. Keep all other scented stuff (toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, empty cans, and bottles) securely stored with your food. 

PAY ATTENTION — BE RESPONSIBLE!

Each bear has a different temperament sort of like humans. Some bears will attack, others will not. Some bears are scared of humans, others have a natural curiosity. But still NEVER try to get too friendly with a bear that seems nice, just like people, it can have a nasty streak! 

Black Bear

TIPS FOR CAMPING IN BEAR COUNTRY

  • Do not approach or feed a bear
  • Avoid travelling alone in wilderness country
  • Be careful near berry patches and heavy bush
  • Never approach a freshly killed animal 
  • Keep children nearby and in sight
  • Anticipate and avoid an encounter 
  • Carry a noisemaker (bell or whistle) and make your presence known by talking loudly, clapping, singing or occasionally calling out
  • Watch for bear signs such as droppings, fresh tracks or their strong scent
  • Odours attract bears. Reduce the source of odour from yourself, your tent, and your campsite
  • If you see a bear, leave the area immediately… BUT move slowly. DO NOT RUN! Choose your escape route carefully and never get between a mother and her cubs
  • Avoid direct eye contact with a bear, they see it as a form of aggression 
  • If attacked, don’t run. If attack lasts more than a few seconds respond aggressively 

Unforgettables!

These are items you won’t want to forget! They will make your camp experience more enjoyable. 

Further details will be sent to each registrant. 

  • Extra snacks or food and beverages (especially if you didn’t purchase full meals or you have a medical condition)
  • Water bottle (we will have water dispensers!)
  • Your instrument(s), tuner, capo and accessories such as finger picks for your banjo, rosin, slides, etc. 
  • Warm clothing as well as clothing suitable for hot weather AND a raincoat
  • A flashlight with extra batteries
  • A whistle (especially if you plan on walking the trails)
  • Mosquito repellent, sunscreen and a hat
  • A travel mug or two. We will not be providing cups at food services this year so we ask that you bring your own. (There will also be some travel mugs available for sale at camp)
  • A receptacle for your butts if you smoke
  • Chairs without arms are great for jamming, a music stand is helpful if you read music, charts or tab, and some students like to bring a small audio recorder to class. John LeClaire has a repair shop on site for strings and such, but don’t forget your tuner and capo! 
  • Dishes, cutlery and a dish towel for meals

FAQ's

Few camps offer so many inclusions at such a reasonable price. Northern Lights subsidizes a portion of the cost of all youth registrations. We love to see young people benefit from master level instruction. 

 

We feel that gathering together for at least one daily meal really helps camp participants to get to know one another. That’s why we offer meal plans for both camp participants and guests. Choose from packages that include lunches only or full meals. All registrant packages include the Monday night BBQ, instrument or vocal instruction, full access to programming and an onsite camping space. 

Northern Lights Bluegrass and Old Tyme Music Camp is a private event intended to foster an intimate learning environment for registrants. Of course, children under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. We close the camp and it’s activities to people who are not registered or who have not made themselves known to us as a parent or guardian . We have the ability to accept a limited number of spouses of adult participants. Please register early if you intend to have  a spouse join you. Guests are encouraged to purchase guest meal packages so they can eat together with their family members and the rest of the camp. Guests will receive wristbands giving them access to their purchased meals and our evening programming. ALL GUESTS must attend registration to receive appropriate wrist banding to ensure access to the site.

While Northern Lights Bluegrass and Old Tyme Music Society has a strong focus on introducing people to and educating people about the instruments that inform Bluegrass and old-time music, we caution against coming into the camp as a new beginner for most classes. A new beginner is defined as someone with an interest in an instrument, but with no experience on it. We recommend renting or buying an instrument several months prior to the camp and spending considerable time familiarizing yourself with how it is strung, how to tune it, and how to form simple chords. Knowing as much as possible about your  instrument , and in particular, listening to songs that feature it, will go a long way toward making your camp experience a much more positive one. Northern Lights seeks to provide learning opportunities to all ages and we understand that people learn differently. Please note that there is a considerable amount of focused class time that some young children find difficult to remain engaged in. We offer our Fungrass program for children ages 6-9, as we believe that music education is best interspersed with play at that age. 

We offer our Fungrass program for children ages 6-9, as we believe that music education is best interspersed with play at that age. 

Regarding children ages 9 and up, we appreciate that some younger musicians have lots of experience with longer learning sessions and will be just fine, however, there are some that may not be ready or prefer not to spend these longer periods of focused learning time. With this in mind, we do ask that parents give considerable thought as to whether their child is ready for a full class. 


We are happy to assist with questions about how classes are scheduled at camp. To get a better sense of how involved a class might be for a younger child, please contact us HERE.

Please email us HERE and we will guide you through the process of renting an instrument at a reasonable rate. 

Absolutely not. Maybe your main genre is rock and roll, jazz or country; that’s just fine! You will be exposed to skills and offered tips and tricks that you can apply to any genre. You may be taught in a particular style, however, that will only add to your skill level when playing your instrument or singing your songs. 

Please attend the first session of the class you have chosen and if you are not comfortable, please speak to your instructor or the camp host and they will guide you. 

Participants must choose only one class and remain with their instructor for the duration of camp. It is very difficult for the instructor to build on the skills taught during each previous session if the class does not remain together. To help you enjoy a full musical camp experience, several special interest workshops or ‘mini-workshops’ on various topics are offered throughout the week. So for example, if you take the banjo class , but you also like to sing, you may be able to sit in on a vocal harmony mini-workshop. If you play guitar but are curious about dobro, sit in on a resonator guitar workshop.