Frequently Asked Questions

General Information

Is this camp for children or adults?

Yes! This camp is for musicians, singers, and fans of traditional American music. Typically, most of the campers in our classes are adults, so the classes are geared to an adult attention span. But campers of all ages are welcome as long as they’re into the music and can stay focused during class. Usually, out of about 200 campers, we have 30 or so kids, and we are always looking for more young people to keep this music going into the future. It is definitely a family-friendly event, and the multi-generational aspect of camp is one of its best and unique features.

We also have a program specifically for our youngest campers, which combines music with arts and crafts, nature walks, and other fun activities, but with music as the major theme. We call it Music & More ("M&Ms" for short). If a child is under ten years old, we generally recommend this program for the morning class — it’s less intensive, designed for a younger attention span, and a lot of fun. M&Ms students can go to any afternoon elective classes to supplement their musical studies, and we also offer elective classes that are fun for all ages, such as clogging, hambone, play-party games, etc. M&Ms students can either attend the whole camp, or just come for the weekend. 

Is this a bluegrass camp?

Bluegrass is big at this camp, oldtime also, but additionally we often include other styles of traditional American music: jugband, Celtic (the roots!), swing, Cajun, etc.

How many people attend?

Typically we have about 200 campers, plus about 45 people on staff. 

Can I bring my family?


Yes. For the cost of meals and lodging or camping, plus a contribution to the camp, your non-musician family members are welcome to accompany you, and they may attend any of the evening activities. If they want to attend afternoon activities as well, that can be arranged for additional fees.

If your family includes young children, as mentioned above we offer a special class for children who are not yet ready for camp, but interested in music. This class, called Music & More (M&Ms!), meets in the mornings from 9:30 to 12:30, with kid-friendly elective classes in the afternoons also. Students will have a chance to learn about, and try out, some of the bluegrass/oldtime instruments. They will participate in fun, interactive experiences, which may include singing, dancing, performance, crafts, nature walks, garden/farm animals tour, games and a mid-morning snack each day. In the afternoons, they may attend the elective classes, some of which will be set up specially for them. We keep the cost of this program low and family-friendly, and scholarship assistance is available as needed.

Can my child attend camp alone?

No, sorry. All minors (under 18) need to be accompanied by an adult guardian (not necessarily a parent) who is responsible for them. The exception is Music & More campers who are just coming as day campers for that class.
 

Can I bring my pets?

No, pets are not allowed at Walker Creek Ranch (service animals excepted). But there are many animals to enjoy at the ranch!

Classes

Can I attend classes for more than one instrument?


Yes, if you sign up for a mixed instrument class; otherwise not. This is so class sizes don't get too big, and teachers can get to know their students and build each day on what was worked on the previous day. 

The rest of the time, during the jams, elective classes, and office hours, you're free to participate with any instrument you want, and work with any instructor you want. So, for example, if you are in a guitar class in the morning, you can take an elective class for mandolin in the afternoon, and play banjo at an evening jam session.

Are there classes for ukulele, autoharp, or dulcimer?

All of those instruments are welcome in our String Band Blues class. And if you request it, we can offer elective classes specifically for any of them in the afternoon schedule.

Are there beginner classes for every instrument?

We offer some beginner classes in the more popular instruments, and often offer at least one class that is appropriate for beginners on most stringed instruments. It varies from camp to camp.

How many people are there in each class?

In most of the morning classes for which you sign up in advance, the average class size is about ten students (or up to 20 if the class is co-taught by two instructors). There is a teacher and a teaching assistant in each class, so the overall student/teacher ratio is about five to one. Afternoon elective class sizes vary.
 

Registration

Can I come for (and pay for) just part of the camp?


If you are on a waiting list for one of the morning classes, you’ll be offered the opportunity to come just for the afternoon and evening classes at a reduced price (tuition is less for this option; meals and lodging same price or can be pro-rated). Then if space opens up in the morning class of your choice, you can upgrade and become a  full-time camper. A limited number of campers can do this even if they’re not on a waiting list. Mornings only may also be a possibility. Or if you’d like to attend one or more of the afternoon classes, that can be arranged too. 

 

If I come just to hang out and jam, I don’t have to pay or register, right?

Wrong. This is a privately run camp at a county run facility and all guests must register, even if you just come for a few hours, and regardless of whether you attend any classes or not. Call for rates, which will vary depending on how long you’ll be there and for which activities, meals purchased, etc. Drop-ins are discouraged; we much prefer that you arrange this in advance, especially for any meals and lodging. Thank you for your consideration!

 

Can I invite a guest to the staff or student concert?

Seating is limited for the staff concert. It may be possible, but you need to ASK FIRST if there will be room, well ahead of camp if possible. This is usually a million dollar show, and all guests must pay the Walker Creek Ranch day use fee of $20 plus at least a $20 contribution to the camp. These prices apply only if paid in advance; all last-minute prices are higher. With a full camp, we may have to say no to guests for this show, PLEASE check in about it in advance.

Guests are generally welcome at the student concert, but again we ask that you please arrange this with us before camp. For the student concert, we need the day use fee as mentioned above, plus we invite you to make a donation of any amount to the scholarship fund.

If guests want to join you for dinner, we ask that you PLEASE arrange this well in advance; the later you ask the higher the price, and all last-minute dinner requests are end-of-line availability only.

 

Can I sign up by phone and/or pay with a credit card?


You can call for help if you're having trouble with the registration system and we'll help you sign up.

And yes, you can pay by credit card.

What time does registration open on the first day?

When you wake up in the morning, registration will be open. No need to set your alarm or stress out about this; signing up ANYTIME on the first day counts as priority registration and generally guarantees you a spot in the class of your choice.

I want to sign up for camp now, but don't have all the money together yet. Will you take a deposit?


Yes, you can make a deposit to hold your place, but please include a note specifying when you will pay the balance. Register on line, click Pay by Check and then either mail a check, or go to the Make a Payment portion of the registration page to pay online.

A late fee of $50 may be added if tuition is not paid in full by September 1st, or $100 if not paid in full by October 1st (the late fee can be waived at the director's discretion for those on tight budgets who need more time). 

I want to sign up for camp, but I may have to cancel. What's your refund policy?

If you’re not sure you’ll be able to come, the best thing to do is sign up with a deposit of an amount that you’re willing to donate to the scholarship fund if you can’t make it. That holds your place in the class, but still makes it easy for everyone if you have to cancel. Register on line, click Pay by Check and either mail in your deposit, or pay on line at the Make a Payment section of the registration page. 

If you sign up with full fees and unexpected circumstances force you to cancel, your fees can be refunded. There’s no set cancellation fee, but you’ll be asked to donate a portion of your refund (any amount) to next camp's scholarship fund.

Exceptions: “No-shows” (those who don’t show up at camp, and don’t communicate that they’re not coming) do NOT receive a refund. If you’re not there by 9:30 a.m. Friday morning and haven’t gotten in touch to explain why, you forfeit your spot, and your registration fee. (Exceptions may be made for hardship cases.)

I want to come, but I can’t afford it. Can I get a scholarship? Are work trades available?

Yes, and yes.

Most of the scholarships are intended for young people—kids, students, or other young adults with limited funds. There are two types of scholarships available: full scholarships, which cover the full price of attending camp; and partial scholarships.

Most scholarships are partial scholarships—you pay as much as you can, and the rest will be paid out of the scholarship fund. In this way we hope to be able to accommodate everyone who needs financial assistance. To apply for a partial scholarship, ask for a scholarship application.

There are also a few full scholarships available. These are intended for very low-income young people who are devoted to their music.  If this sounds like you, your child, or someone you know, please call 415-663-6030 to apply.

Scholarship recipients, or their parents, are asked to help out at camp with a camp chore or two (there are many to choose from).

The scholarship program is made possible largely through the donations of generous campers who pay a little (or in some cases, a lot!) extra to help fund it. Many, many, many thanks to all those generous people!

Work trades: This option is intended for adults who can't afford the fees to come to camp. If this applies to you, ask for a work-trade application.

I signed up for camp but never heard if I made it into my class. Am I registered?

Don’t assume you’re registered for camp unless you received confirmation. All applicants are contacted when they sign up, usually by e-mail, and receive confirmation of their registration, or notification that they're on a waiting list.

Please wait one week from when you sign up, and then if you haven’t heard anything, there was a communications failure and you should get in touch to find out if you’re registered or on a waiting list. 

Meals

Can I bring my own meals?

Only if you attend as a commuter and don't sleep on site.

If you buy lodging or camping on site, meals are part of the package provided by Walker Creek Ranch. So take a break from cooking and enjoy three great meals a day. You'll be glad you did--the food is really good, and eating with everyone in the dining hall is a fun part of the camp experience.

What you might want to bring are some late-night snacks. Dinner is served at 6:00 p.m., but the music goes on into the wee hours and, if you stay up late, you may appreciate a snack or refreshment. We have an evening camp cafe where people can come and share snacks, and there will be some goodies for sale there as well. You can also buy candy bars, etc, at the ranch store at lunchtime. Please store any food you bring in animal-proof containers. 

Can you accommodate vegetarian, vegan, food allergies, & special dietary needs?


You can sign up for vegetarian meals, and we can meet other common dietary needs if you let us know in advance (food allergies, vegan, etc) when you register.

If necessary, you can bring supplementary food to meet your special needs. There is refrigerator space for this purpose, and there are kitchenettes in some of the lodges.

What if I want some vegetarian and some meat meals?

You have to sign up for one or the other. BUT, at the end of the meal, after everyone has been served, it's OK to go through the line again to sample the veggie food if you signed up as an omnivore, or vice versa, if there's extra left. "After everyone has been served" are the key words here, like wait at least half an hour after meal time began.

Camping

Are there RV hook-ups?

Not full hook-ups, but electricity is available for RVs -- however it's a limited system so we ask you to minimize your use (microwaves etc may blow the circuits).

What’s the weather like for camping?

Fall is usually great camping weather--mild temperatures and generally dry. No guarantees, though--It's always a good idea to check the weather forecast and prepare accordingly.

There are plenty of heated indoor rooms for evening jamming -- if you're dry and warm enough in your tent to sleep, that's all you really need to do there. But we usually save dorm space for campers to upgrade to if the weather turns out to be undesirable for camping.
 

Lodging

I want indoor housing but I do not want to share a room with anyone—are private rooms available for individuals or couples?

Space is limited for private rooms at Walker Creek Ranch—most of the rooms are designed for shared use. But yes, there are a limited number of private rooms available (they cost more). First come, first served--sign up early! And note that private and semi-private lodging is available for full-time campers only. Half-time campers can be on a waiting list and take a room if one is available the week before camp, or stay at Marconi Conference Center or other off-site lodging.

There are waterfront vacation rentals nearby in Marshall on Tomales Bay, 15 minutes away. And there are plenty of motels available in Petaluma and Novato (25 minutes away).

What's the difference between economy and semi-private lodging?

Economy lodging is dorm-style housing: the rooms just have bunk beds in them and nothing else. You bring your own bedding and towels (or they can be provided if you order in advance, for an additional fee of $25). Generally, each person will have one bunk bed, so you can sleep on the bottom and keep your belongings on top, or vice versa. 

Semi-private lodging is more like motel-style housing: the rooms have single twin beds, dressers, nightstands, reading lamps, closets, etc. Bedding and towels are provided.

In both cases, bathrooms are shared with the rest of the lodge.

Do the private and semi-private rooms have private bathrooms and showers?

Not exactly, no. Bathrooms are down the hall; several of them for each lodge. When you're in the bathroom, it's all yours, but when you're not using it, someone else may be (like at most peoples' houses). That's the best we can do at this site; it's not like a hotel but it seems to work for most people. If you want to have your own bathroom, we recommend off-site lodging.

 

How about nearby lodging and restaurants?

First of all, remember that Walker Creek Ranch is about 25 minutes on curvy back roads from the nearest large towns, Petaluma and Novato, and 15 minutes away from the nearest small store/deli in Marshall.

That said, you can get information about Petaluma services from www.petalumachamber.com, Novato from www.novatochamber.com, and West Marin from www.pointreyes.org.

We are partnering with Marconi Conference Center to offer rooms at their facility in nearby Marshall for a deeply discounted price; see more info on the What's New page.

Other nearby lodging can be found at vacation rentals in the Marshall area (www.westmarinnetwork.com; www.tomalesbay.com; www.themermaidshouse.com; you can find more by searching for Marshall vacation rentals). Motels in Petaluma or Novato are farther away but less expensive.

The closest restaurants are in Marshall: Nick’s Cove is open 7 days a week but pricey (www.nickscove.com); the Marshall Store is open from 10 to 4 and serves great food at good prices (www.themarshallstore.com). Both of these are on the waterfront with great ambience. And there are many places to choose from in Petaluma or Novato, Point Reyes Station, etc.

Walker Creek Ranch

Is there WiFi internet on site?

Yes.

Is there cell reception?

No, not right at the ranch, unless you go for an invigorating hike up the hill, then you will probably get reception. Alternatively, you can drive about 5 minutes west to the top of a big hill; most cell phones get reception there, we call it the “phone booth”. There are a few pay phones at the ranch that you can use to call out, and with a laptop or cell phone you can also call out if you have Skype or a similar program.

Is there a music store nearby?

Yes, Music Caravan is our camp music store right on site, providing a selection of strings, picks, capos, tuners, rosins and other items that campers might need, along with an array of items such as T-shirts, CDs and books. Music Caravan will be the place to shop for all of the books and CDs that the instructors have for sale as well. Be sure to bring checks and cash for purchases!

Besides sales of items, service for your instrument is also available. Luthier Josh Tharp will be in the same room as Music Caravan and will be able to handle most of the repairs that come up at camp. If your instrument needs to be adjusted or for any other minor repair, let us know in advance and we'll make sure he brings what he'll need to help you with it.

 

 

Getting to Camp

How do I get to camp?


Driving directions will be included with pre-camp information.

If you're flying to the Bay Area, there are buses which run from both San Francisco and Oakland airports to Novato or Petaluma, and we can find you a ride from there, or possibly from the airport.
http://www.airportexpressinc.com/home.html
http://www.marinairporter.com/

Take a train! From the Amtrak station in Martinez, there are buses which run to Petaluma, and we can find you a ride from there.
http://www.amtrak.com/home
 

 

Can you help me find (or offer) a ride to camp?

Carpooling is in! If you are interested in sharing a ride to camp, indicate that when you register and you’ll be put you in contact with any others from your area who are also interested in carpooling. Ditto if you can give someone a ride.

How early can I arrive?


You can arrive anytime after 1:00 p.m. on Thursday. 

I can’t get there in time for registration; can I arrive late?

Yes. On Thursday, after registration and early-bird classes, dinner is from 6:00-6:45, and the evening program starts at 7:15—what you’ll miss if you get in late Thursday night are some elective classes, staff introductions and some fun first-night activities, but you’ll still be on time for your morning class (which starts 9:30 a.m. Friday). You can also arrive early Friday morning. Regardless of when you arrive, you need to check in and register when you get there.

Staff

Will the staff stay up late and jam with us?

Many of the teacher’s assistants will. Some of the instructors might also, but many of them are pretty fried by the end of the day and need some down time to be off duty and rested for the next day. There will be some jams scheduled with the instructors as afternoon elective choices, and maybe a few in the evenings also—that will be your best chance to jam with the teachers.
We also suggest that the teachers who want to jam with each other at night do so in the camp store, so you can enjoy that too.

Will the staff eat meals with us?

We have a designated staff table in the dining hall. This is not meant to be elitist; meals are just the best time for us to have staff meetings. At lunch the instructors meet at the staff table. At dinner the teacher’s assistants do, and the instructors eat with everyone else.  At breakfast there are no staff meetings, so you are welcome to sit with staff members wherever they're sitting, including at the staff table. So the answer to this question is, yes for two of the three meals each day.

Can I be a teacher’s assistant on the volunteer staff?

Volunteers serve as teacher assistants in the morning classes and help run the camp in many other ways. If you’re interested in doing this, you should know about what’s involved.

First of all, your motive should be to help run the camp (as opposed to “getting in free”). Everyone at camp, staff and students alike, has time to have fun, but if you’re on staff it is hoped that you’re sincerely interested in doing what you can to help make the camp be all it can be for the students, and help the directors get the behind-the-scenes work done so that camp runs smoothly.

We need at least one person at each camp to help out with our Music & More program, which involves being musical and great with kids (aged preschool to pre-teen).

We also have an on-site yoga teacher, photographer, doctor or nurse, and masseuse--feel free to get in touch if you are interested in any of those positions, which are sometimes paid and sometimes worked out in trade.

Most of the rest of our volunteers serve as teaching assistants, and for one of those positions you should be fairly proficient on at least one instrument, or preferably two, (and/or be a good singer), and be interested in, or better yet have some experience in, teaching or helping teach. To this end, it helps to have at least one reference from someone the director knows and trusts, like for example any of the instructors she’s worked with in the past.

You should like to work! as there is plenty of work involved in running the camp. Some of it is fun (playing music for the clogging class, working with an admired instructor in the morning classes, etc) and some more mundane (moving chairs around, staffing the registration table, running errands, etc). But in any case, a good attitude about working in general is definitely a desirable attribute for any potential camp volunteer.

Then there are certain skills that are definite pluses. For example, help is always needed with publicity. This involves knowing your way around the internet and being able to find where musicians are likely to discover links to the camp website; chatting it up on Facebook or other similar sites; contacting radio stations, newspapers, newsletters, music teachers, etc; helping make sure we have fliers at bluegrass and oldtime events, etc etc etc. If this is something you’d be good at and like to do, you would be a very valuable volunteer and since most of this work happens before camp, you wouldn’t be obligated to do as much work at the camp itself.

Graphic artists also could provide valuable help, website managers and other people who are good with computers in general. 

Finally, know that we are trying to build a team of assistants who are willing to commit to coming to most or all of our camps and take on at least one other camp job besides helping out in class; in other words, with some exceptions this works out best on a semi-permanent basis.

If some or all of this is sounding like it has your name on it, get in touch and we can talk about it. These positions, when they're available, fill up fast, so the best time to apply is in May for the fall camp, or in November for the spring camp. Contact director Ingrid Noyes at 415-663-6030 after 9 a.m. or info@walkercreekmusiccamp.org

How do I get hired as an instructor?

Generally there will be a good number of local California teachers hired for each camp, interspersed with some from out of state. Some are nationally known; some less well known but great teachers. Great teachers is the key word(s) here—the camp benefits from having great players around, but equally important is people who are good at, and really enjoy, teaching. At the same time, we strive for most of our staff to be well known in the world of traditional music. So these are some of the things that are considered in making decisions about who to bring to camp.

If it sounds like you might fit this description (great player/performer, fantastic teacher, working in the field and somewhat well-known), get in touch and we’ll talk. Contact director Ingrid Noyes at 415-663-6030 or info@walkercreekmusiccamp.org

 

© 2017 Walker Creek Music Camp • 415-663-6030 • info@walkercreekmusiccamp.org