Guest post by Deborah Schull

Easy to find, harder to define is the Irish pleasure of craic.  The loose translation from the Gaelic is “fun,” but it can also mean good company, having a laugh, or a joke, crackling music, and a drop of the cratur (moonshine or whiskey).  No matter; families can enjoy it at some of Ireland’s traditional music summer camps.  These offer a wonderful, enriching way to spend a week or two in the old country.  And, with prices slashed as a result of Ireland’s still-troubled economy, now is an excellent time to go and face the music!

You can spend mornings honing your skills on an instrument–commonly, fiddle, flute, tin whistle, uilleann pipes, harp, accordion, or bodhran (drum)—under the care of a master musician, afternoons touring the lush countryside, and evenings watching and maybe even playing in a seisiun (jam session at the local pub).  Classes are generally small, taught by ear, and easily equal to six months of instruction back home.  Many camps include workshops in traditional Irish singing, dancing, and language; lectures; ceilis (traditional Irish dances); recitals; and concerts by “trad” music greats.  Packages may include accommodations and meals, with liberal servings of tea and cakes.  Book now—programs fill up fast.  Here are some notable Irish music camps:

Boghill Centre Music Workshops (Kilfenora, County Clare): June 26-August 27, 2011.  One-week packages from €495/$708 to €567/$811 include accommodations, meals (vegetarian), and tuition.  Kids get 20% off standard rate.  No complete beginners.  Nearest airport: Shannon.

Fiddler’s Retreat (Templemore, County Tipperary): year-round.  Irish fiddle and culture school.  A €600/$858 three-night package or €1050/$1502 six-night package includes breakfast, morning fiddle lessons, afternoon escorted tours, home-cooked evening meals, seisiuns, and lodging in teacher’s home.  Kids 16 and over may participate; those under 18 get 10% off.  Workshops tailored to all age and skill levels.  Nearest airport: Shannon.

Joe Mooney Summer School of Traditional Music (Drumshanbo, County Leitrim): July 16-23, 2011.  Festival of music, song, and dance, with classes, workshops, recitals, ceilis, lectures, and concerts.  Tuition (adults: €80/$114; children under 16: €65/$93) covers classes and lectures.  Recitals, concerts, ceilis, and accommodations not included.  Nearest airport: Sligo.

Kerry Fiddles (Kenmare, County Kerry): year-round.  One-week individual or small group fiddle courses in teacher’s home.  Mornings, classes; afternoons, free to tour; evenings, and seisiuns. One-week packages; accommodations not included.  Check website or write for current prices.  Nearest airport: Kerry.

O’Carolan Summer School (Keadue Village, County Roscommon): July 25-29, 2011. Tutorials, workshops, and lectures in music, singing, and dancing, with competitions for those under 16. Tuition of €60/$85 for adults covers classes, workshops, and lectures. Ceilis, concerts, and formal accommodations not included; free campsite. Nearest airport: Knock.

South Sligo Summer School (Tubbercurry, County Sligo): July 10-16, 2011.  Sligo-style music, singing, and dance classes.  Levels depend on the instrument; see website for details.   Fee (adults: €95/$135; kids under 16: €70/$100) covers classes, lectures, and recitals; accommodations not included.  Nearest airport: Sligo.

Willie Clancy Summer School (Miltown Malbay, County Clare): July 2-10, 2011.  The mother of all Irish trad music camps (A.K.A. “Willie Week”), drawing 1,000 students from around the world. Music and dance classes, recitals, concerts, ceilis, and exhibitions €140/$200 covers six classes, lectures, most recitals; lodging not included.  Nearest airport: Shannon. Check site for updated information:

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Deborah Schull is an award-winning writer, film producer, instructional designer, and amateur ‘Irish’ fiddler. As a teen, she lived in England, Scotland, and Ireland, where, amidst hardships, she developed her love of travel, music, literature, and all things Irish. She is Consulting Producer for The Embassy Series—concerts held in Washington, DC’s, embassies to advance the cause of musical diplomacy. She’s secretly plotting a multimedia publishing dynasty involving travel, starting with a triumphant return to Ireland. Contact Deborah at The website of her Telly Award-winning documentary, Lens & Pens: Art in an Unexpected Place, is at Content Media Message.

If you liked this article, you might enjoy Deborah’s recent article, Literary Tours View A People And Their Landscapes Through Brilliant Irish Eyes, on B&B Ireland’s blog.