Interior Alaska, Contemporary Fiddle Music

Athabascan Fiddle, Contemporary. MJ

The past three weeks has been quite a journey! I chose to study cultural elements of Interior Alaska with no prior knowledge of the region. I was so surprised to discover that fiddle music was an integral part of music in Athabascan and Gwich’in cultures. I have been teaching violin in Juneau for four years, but I had no idea there were similar programs in Fairbanks. I hope to find a way to connect to other fiddle programs that focus on youth and community outreach through my program at UAS and as a future music teacher in Juneau.

These past three weeks, we have been studying the Alaskan cultural standards, specifically the five curriculum standards. For my lesson I have focused on Standard B, which states:

A culturally responsive curriculum recognizes cultural knowledge as part of a living and constantly adapting system that is grounded in the past, but continues to grow through the present and into the future.

My lesson achieves this standard by researching current people and activities within the Athabascan community through modern media;          I focused on organizations that could easily be researched online. There are Facebook and Youtube video links to current organizations and people.  Students also achieve this standard by creating a link between the Athabascan arts organizations and arts organizations representing the students’ cultures and communities.

If teachers, or students, would like to do further research, there are some excellent texts listed within the iBook chapter (Interior Alaska, 20th-21st Century Athabaskan Fiddle). Athabaskan fiddle history prior to the 20th century may be found on Ruth Hogle’s blogpost.


3 thoughts on “Interior Alaska, Contemporary Fiddle Music”

  1. Thanks for sharing, Meghan. As someone who grew up playing the Clarinet my entire life, I think music lessons are the best! More importantly, I think it is awesome how you are looking to incorporate regional/local community events for the purpose of introducing place-based education in music. I always think about how my classical training opened up opportunities for me to know the ins-and-outs of symphonies, concerts, (basically the going-ons at Western music events), but I have no idea behind the preparation and work that goes into indigenous ceremonies and celebrations. My roommate goes to a Lingit Dance group every weekend, and embarrassingly enough that is the extent to which I know about his group until I see their performances. It would be a great experience for students to get exposure to this!

  2. I like that you are looking at the cultural and social values of music in your lesson plan and drawing connections between Sistema violin programs and Athabascan fiddle programs. I think that students being able to see the similarities between their own string program and a string program with similar goals of community and cultural preservation will be an empowering connection for them to make. I like that the activity portion of your lesson focuses on identifying cultural values that students would like to promote in their own communities through arts organizations.

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