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Just Fiddling Around: Fiddle Jam Meets in Two Harbors

Fiddlers and other stringed instrument players sit in a circle. One begins a popular tune – perhaps “Liberty” or “Soldier’s Joy”. The other musicians join in, some on melody, some harmonizing, and some accompanying with chords, keeping the beat steady. The goal of the fiddle jam is “sharing, learning, and having fun together,” and that’s what is taking place in the community room of the Two Harbors Public Library (320 Waterfront Street).

The organizer of the jam, Carla Manning, began her violin journey in 5th grade, play­ing mostly classical music.

All throughout junior high she was placed in either the last or second to last chair of the second violin section. Manning relates, “At one point the [orchestra] director even called my parents and asked if I wanted to quit or stay in the or­chestra! I was really shy back then – I’m sure I probably didn’t look like I was enjoying it much.”

In senior high, Manning’s orchestra direc­tor played trombone. He was previously just the band director, but staff cuts led him to ac­cepting the position with the orchestra. “His enthusiasm and encouragement was a light in my life,” Manning remembers. Still not the “best” player, Manning said it was then that “something clicked with me and I knew that music was to be a part of my life.” Through the years she’s played in a couple of commu­nity orchestras, transitioning to more fiddle music, specifically the “Old-Time” style, in the last decade, and she is active with the Minnesota State Fiddle Association (MSFA).

After moving to Two Harbors, Manning heard rumors of local violin and fiddle play­ers, but she had trouble actually connecting with anyone. The only jams she heard about usually took place at a bar, which is not her venue of choice. Also, she found that “when people have been playing together for a while, they tend to take the tempos pretty fast, mak­ing it difficult for a newcomer to come in and be able to play with them.

The MSFA has a term they use, called “slo­jammers.” Slojammers take the fiddle tunes at a slower, learnable pace. Borrowing this idea, Manning is endeavoring to have a place where “everyone feels welcome, wherever they are in their musical journey.” Designed for proficient musicians, the jam is open to both seasoned fiddlers and musicians just starting to learn fiddle-style music. Man­ning hopes to “create a friendly environment, making it enjoyable for all!”

While Manning does see the opportunity to play for the public, she wants the main pur­pose of the jam “just to be able to play music together.” If an opportunity does arise, partic­ipation will be optional for anyone interested. Even though it is a fiddle jam, it is also open to other acoustic string instruments such as guitars and mandolins. On February 9th, the other acoustic stringed instruments were a guitar, a bass guitar, a zither, and a tiple. “It really helps to have someone keep the beat, accompanying with the chords, to keep the fiddlers in line! Otherwise we tend to speed things up as we go,” Manning laughs.

The fiddle jam meets at the Two Harbors Public Library once a month on a Thursday evening from 5-6:30 p.m. Their next meet­ings are March 9th and April 13th. Informa­tional posters are on the library bulletin board as well as at Super One, Bodies in Balance, and other local businesses. The jam is also be­ing announced on the KTWH radio 99.5FM community events announcements. Interest­ed musicians can either just show up or call Manning at 651-726-4526.

Haley Searls
Haley Searls
Hello! My name is Haley Searls. I’ve loved writing from an early age, though my nonfiction writing at five years old consisted mainly of weather and gardening reports. I still have some of those early articles: “It’s sunny.” “It’s still sunny.” “It’s raining.” I’m glad to say my writing has improved since then. I wrote a guest post for the Silver Bay Public Library blog, and was the writer/editor of the newsletter for my American Heritage Girls troop. I have been writing for the North Shore Journal since June 2022. Besides writing, I love reading, drawing, photography, music, and spending time with family and friends. Two books that have really influenced my writing are Reforming Journalism by Marvin Olasky and Writer to Writer by Bodie and Brock Thoene. As a journalist, I want to share positive community interactions and inspire people to make lasting connections. Article topics that interest me are ones which show community activities and involvement. Such articles include community events, youth accomplishments, library programming, small businesses, local history, local artists and authors, art programs, and cultural events such as theater and dance. If you have an article idea, email the North Shore Journal with my name in the subject line! I look forward to hearing from you!
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