Suzuki Strings campers perform at the 2014 session. A new workshop offered in conjunction with this summer's camp features guest instructors from The Steel Wheels and the opportunity to join the band on stage at the Red Wing Roots Music Festival. (Courtesy photo)

Suzuki Strings camp adds workshop: learn tunes and jam with The Steel Wheels at Red Wing Roots Music Festival

Young musicians in a special summer fiddle camp hosted by the Eastern Mennonite University Preparatory Music Program will end their week-long workshop by jamming on stage with The Steel Wheels at the Red Wing Roots Music Festival at Natural Chimneys.

The traditional final concert on campus will also take place, but what better way to show off new skills and enjoy new friendships than to hopsteel wheels workshop poster on stage with fellow violinist Eric Brubaker ’01 and one of the finest Americana roots bands in the country in front of hundreds of fans at a music festival.

The Steel Wheels Fiddle Workshop is a new addition to the program’s Suzuki Strings Day Camp, now in  its eighth year and typically attracting approximately 30 youth violinists. The strings day camp, from     July 29-July 2 on the EMU campus, has a range of classes depending on age and skill level.

Children ages 3-7 have two-hour lessons, while intermediate and advanced students can participate in a longer Day Camp, for ages 12 and under, or Multi-Styles Teen Camp, for pre-college musicians. Both of these camps include the special afternoon workshop, which youth musicians can also sign up for separately.

The collaboration between EMU’s preparatory music program, The Steel Wheels, and the Red Wing Roots Festival “came about very organically through a shared vision,” said Megan Tiller ’07, who teaches in the program and has been on the festival staff since its inaugural year in 2013.

Tiller also teaches Brubaker’s daughter in the preparatory music program, and Brubaker himself is an alumnus of the same program, which makes his participation all the more meaningful to young musicians, she said.

Benefits of camp participation are multifold, says preparatory music program administrative director Sharon Miller, who also teaches violin. Playing for several hours each day with friends and with different teachers not only motivates and inspires students, but also causes “a new familiarity with their instrument that takes them to a new level,” she said.

The Steel Wheels (from left) include Brian Dickel, EMU class of ’98; Trent Wagler ’02; Eric Brubaker ’01, and Jay Lapp. Members of the band will guest instruct at the fiddle workshop, then include students in a performance at the Red Wing Roots Music Festival July 10. (Courtesy photo)

The Steel Wheels workshop “will provide a window into what a band does and how they do it,” she said. “And just being around professional musicians, hearing their sound and watching their technique inspires students.”

During the workshop, Brubaker will guest instruct, joined by Trent Wagler ’02 and Brian Dickel, class of ’98. A special performance will be Thursday on campus with The Steel Wheels, followed by a jam session and performance on July 10 at the Red Wing Roots Festival (where fourth band member Jay Lapp joins). Admission to the festival and a t-shirt are included in the fee for students. Parents are offered a reduced-price day pass to the festival.

The deadline for registration is June 4. For more information, visit