Fiddlekids Staff Bios

Julian Smedley
Julian Smedley
Jazz, Swing, Improv

Julian Smedley is the camp director for both weeks of fiddlekids. A brilliant swing-jazz fiddle player and a veteran of the fiddlekids teaching staff, Julian possesses great expertise balanced by a down-to-earth teaching style and effortless patience. The kids love his inventiveness, spontaneity, and wit, and also his swingin’ impact on camp.  Julian currently coordinates the music programs at the Seattle Waldorf High School, and is co-founder of the 2017 Centrum Vintage Jazz workshop. He also maintains a full schedule as a music producer, recording artist and performer in the Pacific Northwest.

Robin Fischer
Robin Fischer
Dance

Robin Fischer is a Berkeley-based musician, dance caller, and in-demand fiddle teacher. She loves calling and teaching dances anywhere live fiddle music happens to be getting newbies out on the dance floor. She is a regular caller in the Bay Area at family dances, weddings, music camps/festivals, parties, and of course big ol’ community dances! Robin loves how equalizing traditional square dancing is – no levels, no prerecorded music, just an old-fashioned dance party.

Kaila Flexer
Kaila Flexer
Balkan, Greek

Kaila Flexer is mesmerized by the music of the Balkans and Eastern Europe and loves sharing it with her students. As a performer, Kaila founded and recorded both original and traditional music with bands Third Ear, Next Village and duo Teslim (with oud player Gari Hegedus). She maintains a thriving teaching studio in Oakland and travels afar to teach workshops and music camps. Kaila is currently taking a break from performing to compose and record.

Karen Heil
Karen Heil
Old Time

Karen Heil, a skillful, fun, and enthusiastic teacher, is an expert fiddler and guitarist with a special love of old-time southern American fiddle music. Karen has been part of the teaching staff at the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes, Grass Valley Camp, Lark in the Morning Camp, Austin Old Time Festival, the Gainsborough festival in the UK, and the Freight’s own ongoing classes. She performs and records with the acclaimed Old Time band, the Bucking Mules, and on the West Coast as KC & the MooNshine Band. A natural livewire, she brings lots of spark and current to fiddlekids!

Andrea Hoag
Andrea Hoag
Scandinavian

Andrea Hoag is a Grammy nominee for her Swedish fiddling, and is fluent in a broad range of American and European fiddle styles. Students of all ages respond to her playfulness, humor, and passion. Andrea has taught at many fiddle camps including the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes, the Swannanoa Gathering, and Ashokan Fiddle and Dance Weeks. She performs widely across the U.S. and in Northern Europe. Andrea is also the founding director of Freyda’s Hands, a non-profit organization sponsoring cross-genre collaboration in the performing arts.

Leslie Keir
Leslie Keir
Art

Leslie Keir has taught Art to kids for many years in schools, camps and residencies [16!]. Her teaching style is fluid, supportive and highly collaborative. Beholding the ways that each artist responds to ideas and materials continues to delight and inspire her. Via a strange coincidence Leslie is also an old time fiddler, guitar player and singer; teaching at fiddlekids will combine many things that Leslie holds most dear.

Evie Ladin
Evie Ladin
Dance

Evie Ladin is a banjo player, step-dancer, singer, songwriter and square-dance caller with a lifetime of experience in traditional American cultural arts. The polyrhythmic funk of her clawhammer banjo, resonant voice, and rhythmic dance have been heard from “A Prairie Home Companion” to Hardly Strictly Bluegrass. She is also the Executive Director of the International Body Music Festival. A teacher at fiddlekids for over 10 years, Evie skillfully connects the music to dance traditions. She firmly believes that understanding the music and the dance makes any player a better musician.

Finn Magill
Finn Magill
Improvisation

Finn Magill is a two-time finalist at the All-Ireland Championships, and he is proficient in several genres. He has toured the U.S, Europe, Africa, and Brazil performing Irish, bluegrass, jazz, oldtime and Brazilian choro. Finn has collaborated with numerous world class musicians  over the last ten years, such as John Doyle and members of Lúnasa, and has served as an instructor at over a dozen fiddle camps around the U.S. and Canada. Based in Rio de Janeiro since 2014, he is an ambassador of Brazilian choro music and has two groups, Violino no Choro and O Finno, which he tours internationally.

Caroline McCaskey
Caroline McCaskey
Scottish

Caroline McCaskey’s enthusiastic teaching style has fostered a love of music in both children and adults for over 15 years.  Caroline joined the San Francisco Scottish Fiddlers at age 12, and went on to tour Northern California for 7 years as the leader of the Fiddlerats contra dance band. She is certified by the Suzuki Association of the Americas for Violin books 1-7, and now teaches Suzuki violin full time at Bristol Elementary School in Colorado Springs. Caroline began as an assistant at fiddlekids in 2002, and joined the ranks of the Instructors in 2009. Exciting news: Caroline’s books AltStrings Fiddle Method for Violin Book 1 and Book 2 came out this spring!

Bobbi Nikles
Bobbi Nikles
Irish, Old Time

Bobbi Nikles is the founder and 14-year director of fiddlekids. She is an acclaimed Bay Area musician who performs with a wide array of bands and is a sought-after teacher at camps, workshops, and in her private San Francisco studio. Her luscious fiddling, driving rhythms, and melodic approach to improvisation enrich every project she’s with, including the Irish Black Brothers Band, Douce Ambiance jazz combo, old-time jams, and her own recording project Fire in the Air. Bobbi’s creative and nurturing style as a teacher reflects a depth of knowledge and experience garnered during more than 30 years of teaching.

Suzy Thompson
Suzy Thompson
Blues, Fiddle Rags

Suzy Thompson fell in love with hillbilly ragtime and blues fiddle music in 1976, when she first heard 1920s era recordings of the East Texas Serenaders and the Mississippi Sheiks. She is considered one of the foremost fiddlers in that old-time fiddle mix of classic ragtime and country blues, as heard on Stop & Listen, her solo CD on the Arhoolie-Smithsonian label. Suzy has performed and recorded with Jim Kweskin and Geoff Muldaur, with Del Rey, with her husband, renowned flatpicker Eric Thompson, and in various groups including the Todalo Shakers, Thompson String Ticklers and the Any Old Time String Band. She has taught oldtime blues and ragtime fiddling at Festival of American Fiddle Tunes, Swannanoa Fiddle Week, Centrum Country Blues Week and Montana Fiddle Camp.