Well, I have come back from the mountains. I went to Jink and Diddle, the amazing and immersive Scottish Fiddle Camp, and I also got to play with The Neighbors. On the one hand, I didn't practice the entire week. On the other hand, I played fiddle a minimum of eight hours a day, part of which was playing four different local gigs, and I managed to not hurt myself. In fact, I got some great tips on maintaining gentle posture and technique when I'm going through long gigs (I must learn to tense up less when I use vibrato, for instance) and I have Jane Blair MacMorran and John Turner to thank for their advice and private lessons last week.
It's difficult to overstate how useful it is to be immersed in an environment of focus and learning about something you love. Yes, it often takes some time and money, but it's so important. I don't prioritize that as much as I need to, and if you care about fiddling, or quilting, or drumming, or writing, or Esperanto, or what-have-you, I hope that you will seek out a similar opportunity.
For Scottish Fiddling, look for Jink and Diddle, the Strathgheny School of Scottish Fiddling, the Silver Apple Scottish Fiddle School, Valley of the Moon, Glasgow, Swannanoa... and if you can make the time but not the money, consider contacting one of these places and asking about scholarships. Feel free to comment below with recommendations on other immersive experiences/camps/festivals/etc.
It was also really, really wonderful to be able to take some time and step out of that world and spend time with The Neighbors. Of course, it was instructive to take my work and lessons from camp and try to apply them immediately in a performance setting, but also, that band is made up of wonderfully talented gentlemen who give music their all, and take great care of me to boot.
When I was finished with camp, though, and had said my farewells and driven down the mountain and made it on my first plane and managed not to murder the man sitting in front of me (who insisted upon reclining so that the large book I was reading got shoved into my spleen, and then bounced back angrily in retribution every time I shifted to turn a page, even after I said hi and gently explained the problem), I was an exhausted and cranky wreck, and had two and a half hours to kill before I could get on my next plane, the one that would take me home.
...and then I realized I was in Detroit airport. Which meant I could go to The Light Tunnel. Anytime I'm at DTW and have an hour or two extra, I walk to the middle of the Light Tunnel and sit on the floor next to one of the people-movers. I take out my fiddle, and I look at the lights behind the glass, and I listen to the composition written by Victor Alexeeff, I pick up my instrument, and I begin to improvise along. It's twenty-seven minutes and it has different themes that take you through the course of a day. There's sunrise, sunset, a rainstorm. . . there's a lovely contemplative moment with sweeping E major arpeggios, there's a striking and exciting moment where cellos come in playing four low notes (A, C#, B, D, I think) and higher strings echo in response, and it's meditative and glorious and there is absolutely nothing like playing along with an entire hallway full of lights and color and glass and music, putting yourself into a meticulously-designed calming atmosphere and doing everything you can to become part of it. It's a tricky composition to accompany - there are bits that are mostly drums, or space-y shooting-star sort of noises, but I'll let the tunnel take lead, or tap on my fingerboard in rhythm, or play glissandos or harmonics. And even when the music gets muted for announcements, or someone who cannot manage the light show presses the three-minute-stop-button at either end, it's worth it.
Sometimes, when I'm playing along, I'll have left my case open, the better to have my rosin/tuner/bows available, and I close my eyes and sink into the music of the Light Tunnel, and I'll open my eyes, or finish up and go to put my violin away, and find someone has dropped money in my case. Busking is never my intention, and is not allowed at the airport, but it's always too late to refuse and it's a lovely compliment.