Student Handbook





Welcome to the Montana Fiddle Camp family!  We have compiled this handbook from students’ survey responses and frequently asked questions.  We hope that you find some valuable tips to help you navigate the week.  We want to help you make the most of your camp experience.  Most of all, we want you to have fun!  



Montana Fiddle Camp is held in the Little Belt Mountains at St Thomas Church Camp, 4806 Highway 89, mile marker 48. It is between Great Falls and White Sulphur Springs.  

Local services include:

• Bob’s Motel and Restaurant (Neihart-11 miles south of camp)

• Inconvenience Store – small grocery, gifts, camping supplies (Neihart)

• Cougar Canyon Lodge and Restaurant (Monarch-3 miles north of camp)

For most services, including gas, you will need to travel to Belt, Great Falls, or White Sulphur Springs.



You can begin arriving any time after 1:00 pm on Saturday.  We do understand that you might have a favorite camping spot and want to grab it, but please don’t arrive early!  We are very busy getting the camp ready for you.


Saturday meals are not provided, but there are some very good local options.  See them under “Location”. Breakfast begins Sunday at 8:00 am.  


If you’re coming in on Sunday morning, plan to be in the lodge by 9:30 am for orientation.  If you are flying into Great Falls, we can provide you with transportation to and from camp.  There will be a round-trip charge of $40.  Please pay the driver in cash.  To make arrangements, call Fred at 406-320-1150.  


Check in

You will find the check-in station inside the lodge (the large building with the brick façade).  You can check in after 3:00 pm on Saturday, or Sunday morning from 8:00 to 11:00 am.  You will pay your remaining balance and receive your schedule and ID badge.


 If you are eating meals in the lodge, you will need to check in before breakfast on Sunday morning.  You will need your badge to go through the food line.  


If you have ANY questions, please ask a staff member.  We are designated by a yellow badge.  






RV campers

When arriving with your RV, wait by the flag near the entrance.  Our caretaker, Jim Hoxter will have the camping information you provided upon registration.  He will guide you to an appropriate spot.  Campsites are not pre-designated.


Hookups include power and water only, no sewer.  30- and 50-amp service is not available, so you won’t be able to run an air conditioner without a generator.  If you bring a generator, be mindful of the noise level, particularly if a class is meeting nearby.


Tent campers

When arriving, wait by the flag near the entrance.  Our caretaker, Jim Hoxter will help you find an appropriate location.  There are many sites available for tents, and you will be sure to find one that appeals to you.  


You may use the bathroom and shower facilities in the dorms.  


If you are using your vehicle as part of your campsite, (food storage, sleeping, etc.) it may remain parked next to your tent.  


Dorm residents

You may find your dorm before you check in, but please select the dorm for which you registered.  We keep a careful head count in each dorm.  


• Men’s dorm – Egan Hall

• Women’s dorm – Schuster Hall

• Family dorm – Murphy Hall


Each dorm consists of one large room with bunkbeds, bathroom facilities, and private shower stalls.  Bring your own bedding, towels, and toiletries.  Because we use all the space available to us, dorms double as classroom space.  Please keep your area tidy.  



Once you have settled into your space, park your vehicle in the meadow.  For your safety, we ask that you comply if you are able-bodied.  We want to provide as much open access as possible within the camp in case we need to maneuver an emergency vehicle.  


Quiet Zone

While we highly encourage campground jamming, some of our students prefer a quieter atmosphere at night.  If late-night jamming is something you wish to avoid, ask Jim to place you on the east side near the church.  This is the designated “quiet” area after hours.  (Note: this has changed from 2021.)  Late-night jamming is acceptable on the west side of the camp.  Raucous behavior and foul language are not!






General Schedule  

• Camp begins on Sunday morning with orientation at 9:30 am in the lodge.  

• Classes will begin at 1:30 pm Sunday.  

• Camp will conclude with the student concert on Thursday evening.  

• Friday morning is simply breakfast and goodbyes.


Group Classes

You can make your class selection once you have heard the instructors’ introductions on Sunday morning.  Choose carefully based on your interest and ability.  You will have two group classes each day with your chosen instructor.  If you find that your first choice is not a good fit, there is a brief ten-minute break during the class on Sunday afternoon.  You are welcome to make a change.  We would encourage you to find your tribe early in the week.  Group classes build upon skills taught throughout the week.  


Class locations will be posted on the white board in the lodge on Sunday by 1:00 pm.  You can coordinate class locations with the facility map, available at check in.   


You will need to bring a chair to your classroom.  You may use one from the lodge, but please bring it back at the end of each class.  We need them for meals and concerts.  You might find it more convenient to bring your own and leave it in your classroom.  Label it with your name!



The open workshops are held twice a day and are available to all registered students.  They will give you an opportunity to study with different instructors throughout the week.  


The back of your schedule coordinates with the workshop white board in the lodge and gives you space for notes.  Fiddle instructors are assigned workshop times and locations.  Guitar, mandolin, banjo, and cello instructors may choose the additional open spots for workshops.  Instructors are asked to post the subject matter before breakfast each day.  


Workshop subject matter is widely variable.  Instructors often wait until they assess the needs of the camp before deciding on subject matter.  Some workshops are based on student requests.  Some are non-specific to an instrument.  We do not ask instructors to provide this information prior to camp.  We prefer to maintain a spontaneous and organic flow throughout the week.  


Can I get sheet music?

Many of you have requested that instructors provide tab or sheet music in their classes.  The use of written music is up to each individual instructor.  Many of our instructors teach only in the aural tradition and don’t use a written form.  It is not easy to make the transition if you are dependent on written music, but we encourage you to give it a try. For some of us, it has been a process over several years.  We find that adding this new skill to our learning process is invaluable.  Bring a recorder!






Community Jams

The fire pit is designated as the community jam location.  At this venue, everyone is welcome, regardless of ability.  We hope to have a designated jam leader each week.  


Campground Jamming

If you’re ready to elevate your jam skills, invite a few like-minded folks to join you in playing some tunes.  Smaller tents are erected in several locations, and they are available for your use.  Providence Lounge is also available in the evening if you need an indoor location.  Keep in mind that the “quiet” zone is on the east side of camp, near the church. Late night jams should move to the west side of the camp.  


Contra-dancing and dance band

The evening dances are held in the lodge each evening after the concert.  All are welcome.  You don’t need to be a registered student to participate.  Our dance caller will teach each dance.  No experience required.  This is one of our most popular activities at MFC.


If you prefer, you can sit in with the dance band.  The tunes are often commonly played tunes.  Each tune is repeated many times, so it might be possible to learn on the fly.  If you’re a bit unsure of yourself, take a seat in the back and give it a try!  



MFC is supported by our in-house fundraiser.  We do not apply for grants, nor do we fundraise throughout the year.  This beloved camp tradition allows us to bring in highly qualified instructors and keep our tuition affordable.


The live auction is held on Wednesday night each week, and the silent auction concludes on Thursday night after the student concert.  


People often ask for guidelines on auction donations.  Our auction coordinator takes any and everything.  We never know what will turn up, but it’s always entertaining!  And remember, there are no friends in the auction 😉 Check with Teri for more information, 406-899-7114.  


Gift Shop

We have a good selection of t-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, mugs, instrument ID tags, etc.  All proceeds support Montana Fiddle Camp.  The gift shop will be open in the evenings from 6:30 – 9:00 pm, or whenever the “OPEN” sign is on.  You may browse during the day when the shop is closed, but please, do not remove merchandise until you have paid for it!


Instructor recordings and instructional materials are also available in the gift shop.  Pay the instructors directly.  We don’t handle the money for their merchandise.






What about Wi-Fi and cell service?

There is open Wi-Fi available in the lodge.  It will be shut off during the evening performances so that we can live stream the concerts.  Be aware that the Wi-Fi is limited in bandwidth and speed.  It can be slow and difficult to access.  To preserve bandwidth, we ask that you refrain from streaming or gaming while at camp.  


Cell phone coverage is very sparse.  If you have the option of turning on Wi-Fi calling in your settings, you might have better luck if you are near the lodge.  For better reception, you can travel north out of the canyon just a few miles.  Once you get out on top, there is a cell phone turn-out.


Do you take electronic payments?

Yes, we can take electronic payments for remaining balances, gift shop, and auction purchases.  You may need cash for instructors’ merchandise or the espresso bar.  


Do I get a refund if I cancel?

We will refund your deposit if you cancel before April 1st.  Any time after that, we thank you for your donation.     If you paid your balance in full, you will receive a refund minus your deposit after April 1st.  


Can I bring adult beverages?

MFC is not an alcohol-free campus.  If you choose to consume alcohol, we simply ask that you do so in a responsible manner.  Alcohol should be stored in a locked vehicle or camper, out of the reach of minors.  Please don’t store adult beverages in the Providence kitchen refrigerator.  



Where can I find it?

Regular coffee is available in the lodge in the morning.  Espresso is available, but it is not included with your meal pass.  


Can I bring my dog?

If you are staying in an RV or tent, you may bring a dog.  Dogs are not allowed if you are staying in the dorms.  If your dog is aggressive or unpredictable, we ask that you make other arrangements.  You must leash and clean up after your dog.  


Can I sell stuff in the gift shop or my own campsite?

No sale of goods and services is allowed except for vendors expressly invited by the MFC staff.  If you wish to donate goods or services, please do so through the auction, our in-house fundraiser.


Complaint department

See Fred 🙂

For more information:

Jill –

                           Fred – or 406-320-1150






The camp rules exist for the safety of all camp residents.  Please make sure that all campers in your party are familiar with the rules.  If you are chaperoning a minor, you are responsible for enforcing the camp rules.




• Do not climb on the tower.

• Do not cross or stand on the swinging bridge without an adult present.

• Do not walk along the highway without an adult present.

 In case of emergency all dorm residents should meet on the basketball court.




• Wear your badge at all times.

• All vehicles should be parked in the meadow after unloading.

• If you use the fire pit, you may only burn firewood, paper, or cardboard. No trash. Douse the fire completely before leaving the firepit.

• If there is a class or workshop in session in the lodge, take your conversation outside.

• The sound booth area and all sound equipment are off limits to students.

• Stow your personal property in your own space, not in the lodge.

• Our caretaker asks that you do not throw rocks in the pond.




• Be on time for classes and workshops.

• Tune your instrument before class starts.

• NO NOODLING in class.