September 21, 2009

Creative Strings Workshop – Adult Intensive Program

CSW Curriculum and Activities:


Small Ensembles

Groups of 4 or 5 students with two different instructors (a morning and an afternoon instructor, both with different material and instruction). An opportunity to get to know your small group on a personal and musical level, consult with your instructors, learn new music from varying genres and the perspective of accomplished professional musicians. Your group will perform in various settings throughout the week, learning on the gig. Faculty are experienced bandleaders, arrangers, composers, and players fluent in multiple styles.

You’ll play with groups of musicians with similar musical interests, goals and skill levels, and be paired with instructors who differ in musical instrument and primary musical style.


Large Ensembles

Throughout the week, you have the choice of joining the Fiddle Styles Ensemble, Reading Ensemble, and Free Improvisation Ensemble. Fiddle Styles Ensemble focuses on learning tunes from Appalachian, bluegrass, old time traditions along with other fiddle styles. Reading Ensemble focuses on reading through orchestra arrangements for string players of non-classical music. Free Improvisation Ensemble is led by Christian Howes and teaches improvisational structures in large and small group formats as well as methods for practicing improvisation and composition.



We offer two levels of clinics: Intermediate and Advanced. You choose which clinic you would like to attend according to your own understanding of your skill level and which faculty you would like to learn from, and are able to go back and forth between the two levels if you feel one is too easy/too challenging. The subject of each clinics will vary for each instructor and each skill level, including:

  • Theoretical foundation
  • Theoretical application and practice
  • Practicing and internalizing groove and rhythm
  • Broadening your musical language
  • Practicing improvisation and organizing your creative practice


Small Ensemble Live Performances

Each small ensemble will be featured in at least two live performances during the week. This is an opportunity to perform after multiple rehearsals with rhythm section and improvise with your group at venues from libraries, parks, senior care centers, street fairs, farmer’s markets, restaurants, clubs, coffee shops. Not only does this allow you to display what you’ve been working on throughout the week, but it puts you in a real-life performance scenario which is much different than the practice environment you hone your chops in.


Highlight Event

Each year we feature a Highlight Event designed to showcase our music to underserved portions of the community while exposing musicians and genres of music to the campers that are often inaccessible to string players. In 2016 we collaborated with the New Covenant Believers’ Church to witness and participate in a gospel music celebration. The concert event not only showcased the rich musical culture of the church we were visiting, but further allowed for deep connection between the musicians and audience members.

To truly appreciate different forms of music, one needs to respect the cultural sources from which they come. The more we appreciate different “ways of knowing”, the more we can expand our knowledge of music. The collaborative model of CSW is partly based on thrusting musicians out of their comfort zones into situations which require them to deal with music at its source in some way, whether this involves collaborating with a jazz rhythm section, a singer songwriter, a salsa band, or anything else outside of the classical conservatory.

This year we look forward to another amazing highlight concert, planned as a celebration of Soul music, “Then Strings My Soul”, July 6th.


Mixed Jam Sessions

Learn new tunes, jump on stage with people you’ve never played with before, improvise on the spot in front of an audience, practice comping / playing on an electric (of which there will be a selection provided) or off of a loop pedal, and to jam and become comfortable with a professional rhythm section.


Music Business Mastermind Workshop

Creative career models and business plans go hand in hand with creative music making. Workshops led by Christian Howes focus on helping musicians interested in the topic to hone in and develop business plans around your lifestyle and musical goals.



Each day, faculty artists will lead masterclasses on the topics that they specialize in. These intimate sessions allow you to take a glimpse into the mind of our faculty artists and gain personalized knowledge that you can then build off of for the rest of the week and beyond.


Final Concert

Small and large ensembles feature group arrangements and individual improvisation in a final culminating performance to showcase what you learned and what your ensembles worked on throughout the week.


Additional Activities

Gear Station: An open station for practicing loop pedals, effects pedals, playing on different electric violins, and featured short presentations followed by Q&A’s about the gear



Over a dozen full-time faculty specialize in a range of styles from gypsy jazz to fusion to funk to bluegrass to contemporary jazz to Latin styles to free improvised music and more. Such musicians have been chosen for their teaching ability and passion as well as theoretical knowledge and musicality.

2017 faculty to be announced – click here to learn more about last year’s faculty artists.

Immerse yourself in small ensemble coaching, clinics, jams, and concerts spanning world music, jazz, rock, and fiddle styles.

Rehearse and perform alongside master artists in over 20 performances around the city. Scroll down to register!


Why Is CSW Special?

CSW focuses on encouraging exploration of improvisatory music and contemporary styles on string instruments. There are a few reasons why campers keep coming back:

  • Heavy interaction with amazing faculty in an intimate, nurturing environment. Rehearsing, performing, eating, learning, listening, jamming, networking, and receiving mentoring from world-class artists around the clock. Learn more about our faculty here.
  • Community brings musicians together and fosters deeper musical connections. Connect with players from around the world on inspired and creative paths musically, personally, and professionally.
  • Your camp experience is tailor made. We will help you tailor your experience according to your level and interests.
  • Our mission is to create a positively life-changing experience for every participant.


** Once you are registered, please send video or audio clips showcasing a range of your playing. We also request a full paragraph detailing your musical experience, goals and interests. **


Click here to reserve your spot at the Creative Strings Workshop.

Frequently Asked Questions


When do I arrive/depart?

Those of you who purchased dorm/meal plan are covered from Sunday, dinner, through Saturday, breakfast. Typical arrival time is Sunday afternoon and typical departure time is Saturday morning.

If you are arriving before Sunday or leaving Saturday after 12PM (noon), you will have to find a hotel to stay at for the extra night(s) as we cannot accommodate early arrivals or late departures. For a full list of hotels around the area, please visit here.


Is food included?

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are included with all room + board packages. If you are not getting room + board and will want to eat on campus with everyone else, you may do so by selecting the “Full Tuition + food plan (no room)” on the Registration page.


What are the facilities like at the workshop?

Screen Shot 2014-05-12 at 12.43.24 PMThe venue and facilities are at Ohio Wesleyan University are among the finest we’ve worked with at the Workshop. The dorm rooms, where you have the option of staying overnight, are all air conditioned and well-maintained. The other buildings that will hold performances and classes are also taken care of and are under the great care of the people at Ohio Wesleyan.



How do I get to Columbus for the workshop?

John Glenn Columbus International Airport (CMH – formerly named Port Columbus International Airport) is very convenient for out of town travelers and is the recommended airport to fly into. The following airlines fly into CMH:

Air CanadaAir TranAmerican AirlinesContinental AirlinesDeltaDirectAirMidwest AirlinesSouthwest AirlinesUS AirwaysUnitedUSA 3000

If you use Expedia, Kayak, or any similar sites, don’t forget to check Southwest airlines and/or Air Tran as these sometimes do not show up on Expedia, Kayak, etc.

We are able to provide free shuttling from John Glenn Columbus International Airport to/from Ohio Wesleyan University. We will coordinate everything regarding shuttling with you after you register. Note that we cannot accommodate anyone flying in/out of Columbus and not going through John Glenn Columbus International Airport


What do I bring?

  • One nice casual outfit in case you perform at a more formal venue
  • Pillow and blankets. Ohio Wesleyan will provide these but we still recommend bringing your own.
  • One set of warm clothes. Although the Workshop in July, Ohio weather is often unpredictable and a set of warmer clothes may be needed.
  • Recording device (if you have one)
  • Materials to take notes. Notepad, pen/pencils, etc.
  • Any and all gear. Especially if you’re driving, please bring amps, cables, effects processors, etc.
  • The more drivers the better! If you can bring a car, it would help the overall flow of the camp so that people are able to get from the campus to the venues we perform at daily/nightly.
  • Extra cash for late night snacks, etc.
  • All toiletries and personal hygiene products, like shampoo, soap, toothbrush, etc.
  • If you have acoustic and electric instruments, bring both if you can. If you can only bring one, we recommend you bring your acoustic instrument.

What’s the schedule like?

This is the most intense music camp you will ever experience! We go from 10 a.m. until the wee hours of the morning every day. There are clinics in the mornings, clinics and rehearsals in the afternoons, rehearsals, jams, and performances in the evenings.

You will have the choice of several small ensembles to rehearse and perform with. Each ensemble will have limited rehearsal time to develop a large amount of repertoire, and you will then perform with your ensemble in a variety of venues including, cafes, outdoor festivals, restaurants, clubs, etc.

The real life experiences of preparing for the gig, finding the gig, getting a sound, and performing for real audiences will all transform you and give you the confidence to perform and prepare at a higher level.


“There was jazz, bluegrass, hip-hop and a mix of anything and everything. For me, it was a good wake-up call to take what I know improvisationally to the next level. There were more rockstars there than I knew how to handle. Seriously, there were some intense, inspiring players and nice people to boot.”

-Amber – Past participant


What instruments are allowed?

We welcome any and all instrumentalists, including violin, viola, cello, bass, guitar, and mandolin.


I live close to Columbus. Do I have to stay in the dorms?

No! If you wish to commute from your home, a relative’s home, etc., you may. When registering for the Workshop, simply choose the “Tuition Only” option. This way, you’ll only pay for tuition, and not for room and board.


I am a parent and would like to send my son/daughter, but I would like to come to the Workshop too. Can I do this?

Yes you can! If you simply wish to come along to Columbus and accompany your son/daughter, you may. You will, however, have to pay for room and board to stay in the dorms, but you will not pay CSW tuition as you would not be participating in the classes, performing, etc. To arrange for this, please email


Do you still have questions not answered here? Please call Christian Howes at 614.332.8689 / email and we will promptly respond to any questions you may have.


Feedback from past participants and instructors:


“Thanks so much for everything this week. The creative strings workshop was incredible, all of the sessions were brilliant, the teachers inspiring, and I absolutely think you accomplished your goal of changing all of our musical lives! I can’t wait for the next one …and just so you know, I’ve already got my eye on several fellow string players I want to try to bring with me next year!”

-Corinna – Past participant


“Christian, I wanted to thank you so much for the experience that Joanna and I had at the Creative Strings Workshop. It was truly one of the most invigorating and inspiring weeks we’ve had with music. While I’ve always wanted to make a go of it in music, it wasn’t until I finished the week in Columbus that I really felt like I could, and for that I’m really grateful. Joanna feels very much the same way. I will be in touch about coming to study with you in New York at some point, hopefully sooner, rather than later. Thanks again, we can’t wait until the next CSW.”

-Ian – Past participant


“Dude, I had an awesome time at your camp. I can’t wait till next year!” 

-Colin – Berklee student and past participant