Classes – Skill Levels – Registrationadmin


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.

Skill Level Descriptions –

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 Frequently Asked Questions here


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.


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 toward the next level. You have a solid grasp of all the basic techniques for your instrument and may be able to read tablature or music.


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.

Classes for 2018


Beginner Guitar


This class is for those who are just starting to play guitar. You will expand your chord knowledge, work on good rhythm and learn to play some easy songs to really get you going.

Pre-requisites: Students should be familiar with the notes of the open strings on the guitar, how to tune, how to form the basic chords G, C and D and be ready to play with a pick.

Intermediate Guitar

with Billy Hurt Jr of Spencer Branch

Lessons will cover the basics of rhythm guitar for accompaniment. We will cover a wide range of guitar playing techniques with a focus on tone, taste, and timing as well as how to jam. Some techniques covered will be; bluegrass chords, how and when to use a capo, pick technique, left hand positions, intro to solos, time time time, the G run, and bass runs.

Pre-requisites: You have experience playing songs with chords in common keys.  You can change chords with ease, keep time with songs, and you are looking to take your guitar playing to the next level.

Advanced Bluegrass Flatpicking

with Ben Wright of The Barrel Boys

Ben Wright is a bluegrass guitar player and teacher from Guelph, Ontario. He performs regularly with the Toronto band “The Barrel Boys”, and enjoys playing music around the house with his wife and young son.

Ben first started playing bluegrass music while at Queen’s University where he was completing a degree in classical guitar. While in Kingston, he had a weekly musical residency performing a few sets of music in the evening after the old-time act Sheesham and Lotus performed fiddle and banjo duets earlier in the night. He started arriving earlier and earlier to check out the old-time music and fell in love with it. Working with them he learned to call square dances, backup a fiddle tune, and flatpick along with the fiddles and banjos.

Since then Ben has studied fiddle and banjo with John Showman and Chris Coole of the Foggy Hogtown Boys, and has made a lot of friends in the lively and virtuosic Toronto bluegrass and old-time communities. Ben excels at playing steady yet interesting rhythm guitar, and loves to flatpick Bluegrass and Old-Time fiddle tunes.

Today Ben lives and teaches in Toronto. He calls square dances regularly with the Hogtown Hoedown dances, and performs actively with The Barrel Boys.


This course will focus on developing steady yet interesting rhythm, and consistent and melodic playing. We’ll begin by reviewing the elements of rhythm playing.  We’ll then move into melodic techniques such as flatpicking upstrokes and downstrokes, crossing strings, and incorporating open strings into melodic lines.  The class will learn some fiddle tunes and bluegrass standards and share our repertoire.

Pre-requisites: Students should have moderate experience playing simple lead lines/flatpicking single notes, and should be able to change chords and chord shapes with ease.


Beginner Bluegrass Banjo


Please note: This class focuses on 3 finger banjo style, which is played with finger picks.

Class: In Beginner Banjo, you will learn how to hold and tune the banjo, picking patterns, some basic chord shapes, how to find simple melody and how to get that bluegrass sound.

Pre-requisites:   Students should be familiar with the notes of the open strings of the banjo, how to tune and how to play one or two simple rolls.

Beginner/Intermediate Clawhammer Banjo

with Joe Seamons

Joe Seamons was raised in the backwoods of Northwestern Oregon in a house built by his parents. There, he was exposed to local folk music of sawmill workers, loggers and fishermen whose music reflected the character of the region. As he heard these songs in living rooms, around campfires, and at cider pressing parties, Joe also attended public school in the small nearby town of Rainier, Oregon. Consequently, he was exposed to the artistry and fierce environmentalist passion of his parent’s and their friends as well as the quiet conservatism of a tiny town full of paper mill workers and longshoremen. Living between these two cultures perfectly prepared Joe to relate to the outsider perspective of the great early blues artists, whose music he discovered after taking up guitar at age 16 and  while exploring the influences of his local folk heroes.

After graduating from Rainier High School in  2003, Joe moved to Portland where he studied music and English at Lewis & Clark College. In 2006, the College’s abroad program allowed him to travel to London, where he spent four months pursuing an independent study of British folk song and its influences on American balladry during the day, and busking on train platforms at night. In 2007 Joe graduated from Lewis & Clark with a major in English poetry and a minor in music. The following year Joe worked to deepen his knowledge of the history of Northwest folk songs by applying for and receiving a Woody Guthrie Fellowship from the BMI Foundation. He travelled to New York City, where he worked for a week in the Woody Guthrie Archives uncovering manuscripts and letters written by Guthrie during his time in Portland, OR (in 1941). This intensive study of Guthrie’s Columbia River songs greatly enhanced his appreciation of the power and value of the obscure music he had heard growing up. To properly perform and interpret this music, Joe soon took up the banjo, taking instruction from the brilliant Northwest folklorist (and old family friend) Hobe Kytr. Joe’s passion for Northwest folk culture soon took shape in a new musical endeavor called Timberbound, an acoustic quartet that performs Northwest ballads.

As he studied banjo with Hobe, Joe also began to spend time with Hobe’s longtime musical partner; Dave Berge; Dave is a former logger and fisherman who wrote very fine songs about his work in the Northwest. Joe learned Dave’s songs and brought him into the studio to play autoharp and sing on Timberbound’s self-titled album in 2014. While doing this work as a folklorist, Joe teaches guitar part time and tours nationally with Renegade Stringband, a new-timey bluegrass band he founded in 2010. As his bandmates began choosing life off the road, Joe deepened his commitment to American folk and blues traditions in 2012, when he began performing as an duo with his Stringband-mate, Ben Hunter.

Class: Learn a dance tune, some handy chord shapes, and explore a range of right hand techniques for the banjo including clawhammer, up-pulling, two-finger, and drop-thumbing. Students are encouraged to request songs they’d like to learn, and enter the age old debate of how frailing differs from clawhammer.

Pre-requisite: This is an all skill levels class.  Basic experience with a fretted instrument, and knowledge of difference between “clawhammer” and “three-finger” is preferred.

Intermediate/Advanced Bluegrass Banjo

with Rob McLaren of The Barrel Boys

Rob McLaren is an accomplished musician from Toronto who has been plying his craft on stages across Canada for several years. Originally a guitarist and fiddler, Rob first became interested in playing the 5 string banjo when he heard John Hartford on the radio in his native province of Alberta. He then joined up with his friends and band mates in the Barrel Boys back in Toronto, where he cut his teeth playing every Tuesday night at a small pub for 2 years. Since then he and his banjo have supported many Canadian musicians, including Ken Whiteley, the Fugitives, the O’pears, and the Lovelocks. When not on the road, Rob is in demand as a private instructor and clinician. His musical understanding of diverse styles and tasteful accompaniment have made Rob an experienced and savvy player, and he’s always keen to jam!

Class: In this workshop we will tackle all aspects of soloing and accompaniment on the banjo with a focus on ear training and playing interactively. Topics covered will include how to construct a lead part, adapting the melody, leading a break, soloing on fiddle tunes, melodic playing, and playing up the neck. We will go over some basic theory and ear training as it applies to learning tunes, and discuss jam sessions and how to play along with tunes you’ve never played before. We will also be sure to make a few additions to our bag o’ licks! By the end of the week we will all be playing with more confidence and having more fun doing it!

Prerequisites: Students should have moderate experience playing simple rolls, and should be able to change chords and chord shapes with ease.


Beginner Mandolin

with Jim Malmberg

A self-taught multi-instrumentalist, Jim’s passion for music was ignited by discovering Doc Watson as a young adult. He has focused on guitar and mandolin, writing and playing bluegrass, old-time music, folk, and early 20th century swing.  Jim, along with his wife, Penny form a husband-and-wife duo from Edmonton, Alberta. They raised a family before they got around to writing music together. Songs about love of all kinds are delivered with humour and passion on guitars, mandolin, and their intimate harmony voices.  They play bluegrass, old-time swing, folk, and jazz influenced music and have travelled western Canada and beyond playing and teaching.   Their latest CD “We’re Here For Love” was released in 2018.   

Class:  Mandolin FUNdamentals.  This class is targeted to beginning mandolin players who can play a little bit, but don’t know many songs and don’t feel comfortable playing in a jam.  You can tune your instrument and know the chords to a few songs.  You know the melody to at least one instrumental and want to learn about improvising on the mandolin.  We will look at left and right hand technique, scales and chords, and the basics of the Nashville Number System.  There will be lots of playing in a relaxed and encouraging atmosphere.  In this course you will get comfortable jamming with others and become a better player!  

Intermediate/Advanced Mandolin

with Jackson Cunningham of South Carolina Broadcasters

Jackson Cunningham began playing music at the age of 8 on the piano, and the guitar at the age of nine and currently plays guitar, mandolin, clawhammer banjo as well as singing the lead and harmony parts.

Jackson has performed all around the globe over the last fifteen years, playing shows and festivals as far as Australia, New Zealand, UK, California and Nova Scotia, and currently plays with The South Carolina Broadcasters, and The Cabin Creek Boys, and has been featured on two of The Cabin Creek Boys CDs “Field Creek Stomp” and “Fire on the Mountain, and has been featured on The Crooked Road guitar CD “A century of Heritage guitar music”, four Whitetop Mountaineers CDs, The Virginia Foundation for the Humanities “Crooked Road” Series recording “Old-Time Duets” with Anya Hinkle, Mac&Jenny Traynham’s  “Never Grow Old”, Jackson has also recorded and performed with various trio and duet groups.

Since moving to Virginia 13 years ago, he has drawn much attention for his powerful traditional mandolin playing, guitar playing, and high lonesome singing.  Jackson is also an accomplished luthier, specializing in vintage Gibson style reproduction building that feature archtop guitar models, jumbo and small body flattop guitars, as well as custom, sometimes ornate, handmade fiddles, and banjos, selling and sending them to musicians all over the world.

CLASS: This intermediate mandolin class will focus on mostly early traditional style Bluegrass mandolin playing, inspired by Bill Monroe, brother duets, as well as how to apply this style to old-time and country settings.  We’ll focus on form and technique, such as holding the pick, right hand attack, left hand positions, and dynamics. We will also spend time on different aspects of mandolin in bluegrass styles such as chop chords up the neck, tremolo, downstrokes, and fiddle tunes.

We will learn a fiddle tune and spend some time learning how to play tasteful backup to a song/singer with double stops and tremolo.  A recording device is highly recommended , as well as a tuning device and notebook.

Pre-requisites: Students should be able to chord comfortably in a jam situation and be venturing into lead breaks


Old Time Fiddle

with Ben Hunter

Benjamin Hunter was born in Lesotho, and raised predominantly in Phoenix, Arizona.  He was raised by a mother who valued travel and world culture, and spent most summers on road trips, or traveling around the world.  For two years, he lived in Zimbabwe, spending much of his time studying traditional marimba, drum, and dance.   After studying Violin Performance, politics, and philosophy at Whitman College, he set his sights on the intersection between music, arts & culture, and community development.

Benjamin plays in an internationally touring duo, Ben Hunter & Joe Seamons, playing Americana Roots music, weaving acoustic blues, ragtime, jug band, string band, early jazz, and fiddle tunes.  In 2016, Ben & Joe won the International Blues Challenge.  

Benjamin plays violin, mandolin, guitar, and sings.  He composes original works, and plays with a variety of groups, playing classical, jazz, world, folk, blues, and country. 

Class: Stringband, Old Time, and Now

This workshop will cover techniques developed in the styles of Black Stringband and Old Time.  Learn bow techniques that allow for various rhythmic expressions, as well as common licks and turnarounds used.  Traditional music isn’t traditional unless we adapt it to our times.  We’ll learn how to take these older styles and lessons, and translate them into our own style.

Pre-requisites: This class is open to all levels, but be warned any new technique takes time, patience, and practice. Come ready to dig in!!

Intermediate Bluegrass Fiddle

with Nathan Smith of The Barrel Boys

Growing up in North Bay, Ontario, Nathan began playing classical violin at the age of six, all the while being steeped in Irish and Canadian fiddling. He left home to pursue a Bachelor of Music at the University of Ottawa. While studying and playing viola in the University’s string quartet and the Ottawa Symphony Orchestra, Nathan was also drawn to playing and singing American bluegrass music. After finishing his degree, he received a less formal but equally formative education in bluegrass, touring internationally with Ontario band, Hard Ryde, and eventually settled in Toronto to study Jazz and Contemporary Music at Humber College. Soon after, he began singing and playing in his own innovative bluegrass band, The Barrel Boys, who recently released their debut album, Early On. A skilled and versatile performer, Nathan continues to play violin and viola in various orchestras around Ontario, writes and performs his own traditionally inspired original compositions, and performs as a sideman for artists around the big city. 

Class: We will pick a few tunes and focus on being able to play different accompaniment figures underneath the melody, and hopefully get into a little bit of melodic variation. We will be exploring the methods and techniques within the old-time and bluegrass style that you can use to improve your playing ability!  

Pre-requisites: Students interested in taking the Intermediate Bluegrass Fiddle class should possess some prior knowledge and a moderate degree of skill in old-time or bluegrass fiddle music and know some of the most common tunes within the styles. 


with Tim O’Reilly of The Barrel Boys

Tim O’Reilly is a multi-instrumentalist and music cinematographer living in Hamilton, ON. A graduate of Humber College, he first began playing bluegrass music alongside co-Barrel Boy, Ben Wright. Tim has an eclectic musical background that includes a past life as a classical trumpet player, and his wide range of influences is reflected in the diversity of his own songwriting. His tireless sense of humour and love of wordplay are also always on display.

Class: In this class, we’ll be exploring the ins and outs of the doghouse – the string bass (also known as the double bass, upright bass, contrabass, giant fiddle, and “hey is that a cello?”. Over the course of the week, we’ll cover 2-feel, waltzes, walks and runs, we’ll work on playing some of the classics in a few different keys, and we’ll also explore some of the physical challenges of this monstrous instrument.

Pre-requisites: Students should have a grasp on basic technique, and fundamentals of the instrument. While this will all be reviewed and built upon throughout the class, basic technique and some previous experience on the instrument is strongly encouraged.

Resophonic Guitar (Dobro)

with Kyle Kirkpatrick of The Barrel Boys

Kyle Kirkpatrick is a prominent fixture of the Toronto Bluegrass scene, performing regularly with different artists as well as his primary group, “The Barrel Boys.” Audiences know him for his high-energy, gritty style that captivates audiences. Kyle Kirkpatrick has been working as a professional music educator for 9 years. Specializing in Guitar and Dobro, Kyle has worked both privately as well as for a number of Toronto Music Schools, teaching both young students and adults. Kyle is known for connecting with students and working with a variety of skill levels. His warm sense of humor and engaging playing make workshops and lessons a delight.

Class: This course will focus on providing beginner players with foundational knowledge and techniques on the Dobro (Resonator Guitar) as well as refine these techniques for more advanced players. Students will receive tab handouts for any songs/solos that are taught in the course.

The following are some topics we will be covering:

Right/Left Hand Techniques

Here we will look at techniques to help refine your Dobro playing. We will spend time learning how to practice these techniques and then apply them to a classic bluegrass tune.

  • Roll patterns to fill the space between melody notes
  • Hammer on/pull offs
  • Slants/double stops

Playing Duo or in Small Bands

Here we will focus on how to approach playing dobro in small group settings. The following are some techniques we’ll be exploring:

  • Strumming
  • Using low notes to outline a chord progression with a baseline
  • Playing chords with a baseline
  • Playing a bassline with a chop

Fundamentals of Improvising

We’ll take some time to look at how to build a solo in a bluegrass tune. We’ll learn an Uncle Josh Graves solo and analyse some of the techniques and strategies that are used.

***Note that this course will focus on G-tuning using a square neck Resonator Guitar. We will not be learning any bottle neck slide guitar***

Jam Band

with Penny Malmberg

Penny is a story telling, singing, songwriting people person with a contagious zest for life. While she started playing guitar at the age of 13, it wasn’t until her early 40’s and her kids were grown that she dusted off her guitar and started writing songs.  Penny, along with her husband Jim, form a husband-and-wife duo from Edmonton, Alberta. They raised a family before they got around to writing music together. Songs about love of all kinds are delivered with humour and passion on guitars, mandolin, and their intimate harmony voices.

They play bluegrass, old-time swing, folk, and jazz-influenced music and have traveled western Canada and beyond playing and teaching.   Their latest CD “We’re Here For Love” was released in 2018.

Class: Learn the ins and outs of playing with others.  This class is for people who are comfortable playing their instrument and want to play in a band setting.  Topics will include the roles of different instruments, dynamics, harmonies, arranging, and performance techniques.  Be prepared for lots of playing, singing, and fun!

Appalachian Dance

with Martha Spencer of Spencer Branch

Martha grew up on Whitetop Mountain in a musical family; her uncle Albert Hash was legendary fiddler and instrument maker that gained widespread attention for his music and craft. He had a great impact on old time music and taught countless musicians and luthiers. Her parents, Thornton Spencer and Emily Spencer, are the leaders of the Whitetop Mountain Band and are well known and respected musicians and teachers of old time music. Her great-grandfather, Bud Spencer, won many big dance competitions such as the Whitetop Folk Festival in the 1930s. Martha began dancing and playing at very young age, growing up at festivals, fiddlers conventions, and mountain dances. Now, Martha plays fiddle, banjo, guitar, bass, dulcimer and sings. She has won competitions on banjo, fiddle, and vocals. She has also been widely recognized for her Appalachian dancing. She has took part in Master Workshops on Dance at the National Folk Festival (USA), Woodford Folk Festival (AU), and Lowell Folk Festival (USA) and been featured as a dancer at several other festivals and workshops (Merlefest, Chestnut Creek School of the Arts, National Folk Fest Australia, Wellington Folk Festival, NZ, and the NCTA: Crooked Road Mountain Music Tour of the East and West Coast USA). In 2006, Martha and her father, took part in the Virginia Foundation of the Humanities Master/Apprenticeship Program for Old Time Fiddling Tradition. Martha has also been very active in passing on the music and dance traditions to youth in her local school and neighboring county schools as well. Since high school, she taught as a Junior Appalachian Music (JAM) instructor in Ashe County, NC, and currently teaches in the JAM program in Ashe and Watauga County in fiddle, banjo, guitar, and dance instruction.

Class: This workshop will focus on Appalachian dance styles and will demonstrate the different styles of flatfoot, buck and clogging. We will also learn a little about the history and culture of dance in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The class will teach basics, multiple steps, and rhythms. Please bring leather or slick bottom shoes, if possible. A moderate degree of physical ability will be required but we will accommodate everyone as much as possible.

Sing Out Strong

with Kelly Breiding of Spencer Branch

A native of NC, Kelley Breiding has been hailed by many as “the new queen of country music” and this “girl with the big voice” is ready to try and hold court. After a childhood of singing and playing the piano, it was only later on, when she began teaching herself guitar at 19, that music became her main focus. In 2001, Kelley began making a name for herself as an award winning Banjo player and member of the Old-Time band, Back-Step, and after forming Kelley and The Cowboys in 2005, quickly became known for her soaring voice as well. With a firm grasp on the old country standards, Kelley enjoys writing songs in that same tradition and whether she brings new or old songs to the jukebox, they all that have that hypnotic,
timeless sound. Kelley has also performed with several well known artists such as Donna The Buffalo, Peter Rowan, and Deacon John, and has also shared the bill with Dale Watson, The Quebe Sisters, and Ralph Stanley.

The voice is the first instrument and the one that connects us to each other. Every voice is unique and in this workshop we will create a group setting where everyone will let their unique voice ring out with confidence. The early part of the workshop will focus on techniques for projecting, proper breathing, tone, rhythm and developing tools for intonation (singing in key). From there we will work on techniques for finding basic harmony and developing the ability to maintain a harmony note without drifting to the lead singers note. We will learn how to fine tune harmony through the use of tone and timing. We will do all this work but it will feel like all we are doing is having a great time, looking forward to singing with you!

Pre-requisites: This is a workshop for anyone who likes to sing and wishes to improve their singing. Sing Out Strong is a good foundation for the next-level Vocal Harmony class.

Vocal Harmony

with Ivy and David of South Carolina Broadcasters

Banjoist, fiddler, guitarist, vocalist Ivy Sheppard is quick to declare that music is her life. Ivy fell in love with the banjo as a teenager, and soon mastered both clawhammer and two-finger style picking. She spent seven years performing with East Tennessee’s Roan Mountain Hilltoppers before moving to Charleston, South Carolina, where she formed a musical and life partnership with David Sheppard. The two relocated to Mount Airy, North Carolina in 2012, and Ivy began working in radio, first on historic WPAQ – “The Voice of the Blue Ridge” – and later on WBCM Radio Bristol, WAMU’s Bluegrass Country, and other stations. Her favorite pastime is collecting obscure recordings of early country music, from which she unearths a treasure trove of great “new” material for the South Carolina Broadcasters.

David Sheppard’s love affair with the guitar began at age twelve. Initially he was captivated by blues and finger-style playing, but once he discovered fiddlers’ conventions such as Galax and Union Grove, he added bluegrass and old-time to his repertoire. By the time Sheppard finished college he was also becoming well versed in the mechanics of the guitar, and in 1977 he opened his own guitar shop. Today he is world-renowned as a luthier and stringed instrument repairman, in addition to being a highly respected guitar player, singer, and songwriter. 

Class:  This workshop is for anyone who loves to sing and wants to explore lead and harmony vocals in a safe, supportive, and fun environment. Working with repertoire drawn from both bluegrass and old time archives, we’ll look at the finer points of lead and harmony singing, including breathing and vocal production, exploring your vocal range, singing solo and lead parts, how to find harmony parts, how to “blend” with other voices when harmonizing, and how to use your voice to work with tone.  We’ll look at single voice songs, and move on to duet, as well as call and response.  Everyone will have the opportunity to learn lead, tenor, and baritone parts, and we’ll spend time singing all together and in small groups. We’re really looking forward to doing some singing with you! 

Pre-requisite:  The ability to sing a melody line in tune.  If you are new to singing, or require more experience singing confidently, we recommend enrolling in our Sing Out Strong class to develop a good base prior to taking Vocal Harmony.  


With Matthew Grupp
Matthew Grupp is equally passionate about music and teaching. Originally from southern Ontario, Matthew taught guitar privately for a number of years before relocating to Meadow Lake, where he works as a teacher and consultant. A “perennial beginner,” Matthew plays a number of acoustic instruments, writes songs, and performs occasionally.
The Class: The Fungrass program is about helping kids find the joy in music. During “lesson time,” we’ll learn to play music the same way we learn language: interactively and authentically. By learning, singing, performing, and jamming fun and accessible repertoire, kids will learn on and about the instruments, sounds, and history of Bluegrass and Old Time music, gaining the confidence to express themselves through improvisation. In addition to playing music, kids will also have both structured and unstructured supervised play time, go on hikes around the Ness Creek site, and do some kid-friendly crafting.
No previous musical experience is necessary

Guest Meals

Northern Lights offers guest meal packages for spouses or parent/guardians. Please see our FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS page for more information on Guests.

**When purchasing meals please use NA on parts of the form that do not relate to you.

Guest Lunches Only Package

– Camping Spot (must be accompanying a registered participant), Monday BBQ, Tuesday – Thursday Lunch, Friday Brunch, Snacks, Evening Activities. Save $50 per registration by registering before June 15th, 2018.

Guest Full Meals Package

– Camping Spot (must be accompanying a registered participant), Monday BBQ, Tuesday – Thursday Breakfast, Lunch, Supper, Friday Brunch, Snacks, Evening Activities.

Early Bird Rates are as follows:
Guest – Lunches Only – $150.00
Guest –Full Meals – $225.00