Frequently Asked Questions

General Information

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 about 10-15% of our campers are 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 most 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. 

Bluegrass is big at this camp, oldtime also, and additionally we include one other style of traditional American music at each camp (rotating), which could be: jugband, Celtic (the roots!), swing, classic country, etc.

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

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 12:15, 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.

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.

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


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.

All of those instruments are welcome in some of our group classes (oldtime string band, string band blues, etc). And if you request it, we can offer elective classes specifically for any of them in the afternoon schedule.

Our group classes (oldtime string band, bluegrass jam class) are appropriate for beginners as well as intermediates, so if you’re a beginner (advanced beginner actually) on any of the stringed instruments, check out those classes. We also occasionally offer beginner classes in the more popular instruments; this varies from camp to camp. 

In most of the morning classes (the ones you sign up for in advance), the average class size is 10-12 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.


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). 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.


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, and prices will be lower the more notice you give us. Thank you for your consideration!

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.

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.

Online registration now opens at NOON, a more friendly time for everyone than previously. Since the camp is becoming ever more popular, we may have to accept just the first 10-12 people who sign up for each morning class on the first day; after that, the options will be a second choice class that’s still open, or waiting list.

Yes, if you are unable to pay your full registration fee, you can pay a deposit of 25% of your tuition/lodging fee to reserve your place at camp. The balance can be paid over time using the Make a Payment option in the Registration menu. If the balance is not paid in full two weeks before the start of camp, your registration will be canceled and your deposit will be forfeited.

In the unlikely event that camp is canceled for whatever reason, you are entitled to a full refund of your paid Tuition/Lodging fees.

Refund Policy

  • Cancellations made more than 60 days before the start of camp are eligible to receive a full refund, minus a $100 cancellation fee.
  • Cancellations made between 15 – 60 days prior to the start of camp are eligible to receive a 50% refund of the paid registration fee.
  • Cancellations made within 14 days of camp are not eligible for a refund.

Note – Commercial event/trip insurance is available to campers for cancellations and we encourage you to purchase coverage for your tuition costs in the event you can’t make it to camp. Visit Eventsured for details and price quotes.

Yes, and yes. Contact us and we’ll send you the application.
Note: for best results, APPLY EARLY!

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 are 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. APPLY FOR THIS BEFORE THE FIRST LATE FEE DATE; after that, we may or may not accept any more work trades, though we will likely be more flexible with campers coming for the first time.

Don’t assume you’re registered for camp unless you receive a confirmation e-mail letter! This letter will confirm which class you’re signed up for, which type of lodging, etc and will be signed by the director and her assistant. Not to be confused with the Paypal confirmation e-mail that you receive immediately upon registering. All applicants receive an additional confirmation e-mail, sometime in the following week.

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. 

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 with a potluck table where people can come and share snacks. You can also buy candy bars, etc, at the ranch store at lunchtime. Please store any food you bring in animal-proof containers. 

You can sign up for vegetarian meals, and we can meet other common dietary needs if you let us know in advance (vegan, gluten free, 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.

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.


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).

Yes, there’s a central bathhouse with showers available to all campers.

Usually the answer to this is no, because other groups are there before and after we are. But we can refer you to two nearby campgrounds: KOA in Petaluma, or Olema Ranch Campground in Olema.

Spring weather here is nothing if not unpredictable. The weather can be sunny, rainy, windy, cool, or warm, or sometimes all of these things in the same day. Temperatures probably will range from the 40s to the low 60s. 

Fall is often beautiful weather–mild daytime temperatures and generally dry.  Even early November, with our changing climate, is a pretty good bet these days, though it can be quite cold at night–you’ll want a really good down sleeping bag or plenty of blankets. We can’t promise no rain, but it’s often lovely and dry with warm, sunny days, which seems to be the new normal. Just be well prepared for chilly nights.

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 try to save dorm space for campers to upgrade to if the weather turns out to be undesirable for camping.

Do check the weather forecast, and prepare accordingly.


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! they often sell out the first day registration opens.

When space is available, we have overflow lodging, including private rooms at a deeply discounted price, available at Marconi Conference Center–about 15 minutes away on beautiful Tomales Bay. There are also waterfront vacation rentals in the area. And there are plenty of motels available in Petaluma and Novato (25 minutes away).

Please 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.

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.

Not exactly, no. Bathrooms are down the hall; several of them for each lodge. 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, including at the nearby Marconi’s conference center, which offers us discounted prices (more info on What’s New page).

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 the Petaluma Chamber of Commerce, Novato from the Novato Chamber of Commerce, and West Marin from Point Reyes National Seashore.

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

Other nearby lodging can be found at vacation rentals in the Marshall area (Tomales Bay Resort, The Mermaids House, 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 Nick’s Cove. The Marshall Store is open from 10 to 4 and serves great food at good prices The Marshall Store.  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

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 also a few pay phones at the ranch that you can use to call out.

Yes, People’s Music 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. People’s Music 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

Driving directions will be included with pre-camp information. If you want to look it up before then, the address is 1700 Marshall-Petaluma Rd, Petaluma CA 94952.

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.

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.

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.

You can arrive anytime after 2 PM on the first day of camp. Please don’t come earlier than that. Thanks.

Yes. On the first day, 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 that 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. the next day). You can also arrive early on the second morning. Regardless of when you arrive, you need to check in and register when you get there.


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.

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.

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 (parking cars, putting up signs, 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 November for the spring camp. Contact director Ingrid Noyes at 415-663-6030 after 9 a.m. or

Generally there will be some local California teachers hired for each camp, along with some from out of state. Most 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 sends e-mail)