The Fiddle School
Looking to inspire and attract students, recognized Danish fiddler Harald Haugaard, founder of the successful International Fiddle School in Breklum Germany, has opened an American version on the shores of Little Butternut Lake at West Denmark, near Luck, Wisconsin.
The Fiddle School begins on the second Sunday in June with check in from 3:30 until 5:30.
(Please note that for 2024 and 2025 the Fiddle School will begin on the fourth Sunday in June)
Supper will be served followed by orientation and warm up exercises to get ready for instruction on Monday through Thursday. There will be an instructors' concert on Tuesday evening, an open stage on Wednesday evening, and a final concert open to the public on Thursday evening. A more detailed schedule can be found on another part of this web site.
The instructors are Harald Haugaard from Denmark, Antti Järvelä from Finland, Hanneke Cassel from Boston, Kevin Henderson from Shetland and Jenna Moynihan. These five amazing fiddle players and teachers will provide a unique opportunity for playing music, singing, dancing, and making new friends. People of all ages and from diverse cultures, countries, and styles, are welcome to join and enjoy a common interest: a passion for learning, playing, and sharing the joy of music.
Founded in 2015, the West Denmark Fiddle School, an annual event, will offer classes for intermediate, advanced, and super-advanced level fiddle players and an ensemble class to include cello, guitar, double bass, and mandolin. There will be an intensive daily timetable of four instrumental lessons which will give participants an introduction to a wonderful, but seldom heard, repertoire of challenging music based on Scandinavian and Anglo/Celtic music.
Harald Haugaard's Fiddle School in Germany consistently reaches its maximum enrollment every year with a waiting list. We expect the West Denmark version will continue to be equally popular, please register early to confirm your space, as our limit is 60 participants.
The idea for the West Denmark Fiddle School began in 2013. Harald and Helene were guest performers at the Nisswa Stamman that year and after the festival they agreed to a concert at West Denmark. The concert was wonderful. The atmosphere was almost magical. It was clear that West Denmark was the perfect place for playing folk music.
While at West Denmark, Harald talked about his fiddle school in Breklum Germany which prompted the question if he might like to replicate that experience at West Denmark. After some discussion over the course of the next year and a visit in July 2014 to his Fiddle School in Breklum, Germany, it was decided to give it a try for 3 years and see if West Denmark version would work. 23 people attend the first “2015” edition of Haugaard’s West Denmark Fiddle School. After missing 2020 because of Covid, 2022 will be the seventh year of the the Fiddle School with a sold out attendance of almost 60 participants which is the limit to keep the Fiddle School comfortable for our facilities and more intimate for the participants.
When you arrive at West Denmark, about a mile West of the village of Luck, Wisconsin, it will be like stepping back in time. If you are looking for new and modern facilities you won’t get that here. It’s the perfect setting for playing, learning, and sharing folk music. It creates the mindset for the roots of folk music and what folk music is all about. West Denmark is located on a hill overlooking Little Butternut lake.
West Denmark was settled by Danish immigrants in 1869. In 1886 a seminary was built to train Danish pastors to serve in churches in Danish settlements in various parts of the country. The seminary didn’t last very long but the Danes who settled here eventually built a church in 1889. That church burned in 1937 and was replaced by another church that contained many paintings and carvings by a Danish immigrant and wood carver. That church was lost to arson in 1985 and was replaced by the present church. Some of the classes as well as the Instructors’ Concert will be held in the church.
The main building used by the Fiddle School is about 150 yards from the church. We call it the Gym Hall, or just the Hall. It was built in 1914 by the young people of West Denmark as a place to do gymnastics. It is a one room open space with a stage on one end and in the basement the kitchen and an eating area. It's the main meeting space for the Fiddle School.
Between the lake and the Hall is another building called the Dane School. It was built as a small two room schoolhouse, but it was not used for that purpose for very long. It is called the “Dane School” because members of the West Denmark congregation sent their kids there for a couple of weeks in the summer to learn the Danish language. It wasn’t long before people didn’t see any reason to speak Danish so that ended. The building had been falling into disrepair until recently when it was renovated by putting in a basement with a modern apartment that is rented to people for a quiet place to get away for a night or more. The space upstairs is about the same as it was in the early 1900’s and is used for lessons.
Every summer a 3-day event called Family Camp is held at West Denmark. For lack of a better name “family” refers to the people who attend. It is intergenerational and inclusive for individuals, couples with or without kids. Activities include listening to speakers on topics of interest, folk dancing, singing, crafts, good food, and lots of coffee and visiting. Family Camp is patterned after the Danish folk school concept.
West Denmark continues many traditions rooted in Danish culture. Some of them come from the Danish theologian, philosopher, and hymn writer, NFS Grundtvig. Grundtvig was the founder of the Folk School movement in Denmark that spread throughout Denmark and Scandinavia. The main idea of the folk schools was the concept of life-long learning, it’s really a part of what the Fiddle School is about.
An important idea in Danish culture that we hope to cultivate at the Fiddle School can be described by the Danish word “hygge”, pronounced more like “hoo-ga”.
The direct translation of hygge to English is the word “cozy”. It’s about creating an intimate atmosphere where people feel safe and connected to the surroundings and the people around them. A part of that is comfortable surroundings, the sharing of good food, good company, and in addition to that, good music. It can’t be described as it is more of an experience. The atmosphere at West Denmark and the traditions rooted in Danish culture combine to create what we hope will be a “hyggelig” (hoo-ga-lee – “to have hygge”) experience for Fiddle School participants.