Megan Lynch Chowning
And Her Passion for Teaching
Megan Lynch Chowning’s career as a contest champion and recording/performing artist would be the envy of any bluegrass fiddle player. She is a seven-time national fiddle champion, six-time California state champion and has won one or more state championships in four other states. She spent four years touring with country music artists Pam Tillis and Lorrie Morgan, and has played with bluegrass stars Dale Ann Bradley, Roland White, Larry Cordle, Jim Hurst, Chris Jones, 3 Fox Drive, Due West, Chris Stuart, and BEML (the duo of Bill Evans and Megan). She has fiddled and sung on dozens of projects—including the Grammy-nominated John Hartford Fiddle Tune Project—and has released a series of entirely solo fiddle albums. That is a solid resume!
In addition to her contest, performance, and recording accolades, Megan has also spent the past 32 years teaching fiddle lessons to private students and groups of people via Zoom, workshops, and camps. Currently she teaches private lessons online (15-20 per week), conducts group Zoom classes, teaches video lessons at fiddlevideo.com, and hosts fiddle, clawhammer banjo, guitar, Dobro, and mandolin camps (with her husband Adam Chowning) at their home.
Megan said, “There are two things that I love…teaching and bringing people together. Problem solving, teaching, making events happen…I’ve always said that I never got good at the fiddle because I was supposed to get good at the fiddle. I got good at the fiddle so that I could do the things that I really love, which is teach and bring people together. That is my job. I had to do all the fiddle stuff to give me some credibility so that people would want to learn from me.”
Although Megan has been teaching in-person private lessons since she was a teenager and has been conducting private Skype lessons for about a decade, the group Zoom classes have been a new development within the past year or so (starting in August of 2020). Megan said, “I did a Zoom camp last summer for Joe Craven. As someone who has done Skype lessons for a decade, you would think that I would have been a little more enthusiastic about it. But I was kind of skeptical and thinking ‘This isn’t going to be fun.’ I thought it would just be a place holder while we were all stuck in the pandemic. But that is not how it turned out at all. It was so fun…partially because Joe Craven’s whole vibe is fun…and I thought ‘I don’t want to stop doing this.’ That was in July of 2020. In August I started doing weekly one-hour workshops every Saturday, which was more geared towards intermediate and advanced players. Then in October I added a beginner’s class.”
When asked about the material that is taught during the group Zoom classes, Megan said, “The whole premise of it was that it was going to be kind of a Jane Fonda Workshop video, but for fiddle. We didn’t focus as much on learning new things. I called it the ‘bluegrass skill builder’ and so I created a series of warm-ups and exercises and techniques and we did massive repetitions. We did them over and over and over because I think of it as having a personal trainer for fiddle. It is a guided practice session. Everyone gets their fiddle out and we play straight for an hour every week. Since it is on Zoom and all recorded, I told the students that they could get the video out three or four times a week and that would be their guided practice session.”
After the COVID vaccine was introduced and people started getting out in public more, Megan noticed that people were still paying for the lessons, but not showing up as much for the live class. At that point she decided to switch the format to a longer one-time-per-month Zoom workshop, which continues to this day. For students who may be interested in viewing the lessons that were conducted over the past year, Megan has them available on her website for download (fiddlestar.com).
In addition to her Zoom lessons for fiddle players, Megan also hosts a few other artists teaching Zoom lessons through the nashvilleacousticcamps.com website. On that site you can find clawhammer banjo workshops with Adam Hurt, flatpicking guitar workshops with Adam Schlenker, and mandolin (beginner and intermediate) workshops with Tristan Scroggins.
Lessons at fiddlevideo.com
Working a few hours every week in front of the video camera prepared Megan for her newest project with fiddlevideo.com. This website has been operational for about ten years, however, their focus in the past has been on the Irish, Scottish, and Canadian styles of fiddling. Megan’s series of lessons focuses on bluegrass fiddling and on Texas style fiddling (and how it differs from contest style fiddling). Her first group of lessons on fiddlevideo.com was launched in early September 2021.
When asked how the fiddlevideo.com lessons differ from the Zoom lessons on her website, Megan said, “With fiddlevideo.com, the students get backing tracks, and sheet music, and it’s a fancier, bigger, broader, approach. It is a big two camera shoot with lighting and all of that kind of thing. It is a much more formalized version of what we are doing on the Zoom.”
Bluegrass and Old-Time Camps
Before the pandemic hit, Megan and her husband, Adam, were running ten to eleven weekend music camps per year out of their home in Ridgetop, Tennessee (nashvilleacousticcamps.com). They have recently (Labor Day weekend 2021) started back after taking over a year break due to the pandemic. They have run camps for clawhammer banjo, mandolin, guitar, Dobro, and fiddle. Wondering about a bass camp? They also hold a bluegrass jam camp where everyone at the camp—no matter what instrument they brought with them—spends some time learning how to play the bass. Megan said, “We bring in Vickie Vaughn and we have seven basses at the house and everyone learns to play bass.”
This year’s fiddle camp was held October 7-10 and featured three top women fiddle instructors: Megan, Deanie Richardson, and Bronwyn Keith-Hynes. Megan limits the class size at the camps to fifteen people. These camps have become so popular that they sell out very fast.
Now that Megan and Adam are back to holding camps, they are being extremely cautious, requiring all attendees to have been vaccinated and they also require each attendee to show a negative test result. Megan said that they now hope to host six or seven camps per year.
More at fiddlestar.com
As if she wasn’t busy enough, Megan has found the time over the past year, or so, to post nearly 90 free videos on her fiddlestar.com website demonstrating a variety of tunes under three different categories: Waltzes, Texas Style, and Fiddlin’ Arthur Smith. Under the Texas Style category she also has provided six Texas style technique videos.
She said that she has posted the waltz videos because people know that she loves to play waltzes and she wanted to share that love. For the Texas style videos she wanted to demonstrate to viewers that true Texas style fiddling is different than the contest style of Texas fiddling. She said, “A lot of people know what contest fiddling sounds like, but they don’t know what true Texas style fiddling sounds is. Along with playing the tune I will add a little history about the Texas players.”
Regarding the Fiddlin’ Arthur Smith section—when asked “Why Arthur Smith?” Megan said, “He is the missing link! He is the piece of the puzzle that connects old-time to bluegrass. You get from Tommy Jarrell to Paul Warren through Arthur Smith. Because I play Texas style, old-time, and bluegrass and I love them all dearly, I felt like if you made a Venn diagram of all that stuff, you land on Arthur Smith.”
Megan’s motivation behind posting so many free videos not only has to do with keeping her inspired and focused, but she also wants to share what she does with others. She said, “I want people to hear cool tunes. From a business perspective, I believe in giving people content and showing them that they can trust you to care about their growth and well-being and part of that is to give away what you know. This is part of the tradition, that we pass it down. It makes me happy to just share some of the music because it is the right thing to do.”
In talking with Megan it is obvious that she is very passionate about teaching people how to play the fiddle and she genuinely cares about making a connection to her students and helping them progress. She is willing and eager to pass along what she knows and she is a highly skilled instructor. If you are a fiddle student at any skill level, I recommend you check out what Megan has to offer at fiddlestar.com, fiddlevideo.com and nashvilleacousticcamps.com.