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What is NESI?

The Northeast Squeeze-In is a weekend-long gathering of free-reed players, mostly from the northeastern USA but some who come from a much greater distance. Located in the scenic Berkshire Mountains of western Massachusetts, it’s a relaxing retreat from daily life and a day-into-night opportunity to learn new tunes, improve your skills, share what you know, sing, dance, and play with an eclectic bunch of friendly musicians. It’s not a music festival. It’s not an instructional (though there are a ton of free-form workshops) weekend. It’s just a lot of fun, run entirely by volunteers, and organized as a not-for-profit event by musicians like you.

If you are looking for it on a map, you want to find Becket, Massachusetts, just off the western end of the Mass Pike. The actual venue is Chimney Corners YMCA Camp, which becomes the Berkshire Outdoor Center when the summer camp season ends. It is used during the rest of the year by school groups, for corporate retreats, and for affinity gatherings such as NESI.

The Squeeze-In typically goes like this:

Things start around the middle of Friday afternoon,
as the first of us begin to arrive. On arrival, you’ll be given your room assignment, a site map, and other essential bits of information. Jamming starts almost as soon as the cars come to a halt. Most people have signed up for meals, and a buffet-style dinner is served in the dining room, augmented by wine or beer brought by participants. By Friday night, most of the participants are in attendance. There’s probably a pubtype sing somewhere, and lots and lots of players are squeezing out tunes in every available space.
After breakfast on Saturday morning
(did the jamming ever stop?), people begin drifting off to the workshops, and some sign up to perform in the concert. (See Activities below.) Lunch brings most of us together again, then off to more workshops and informal playing. After dinner, we march in ragged procession to the performance space near the dining room while playing the designated processional tune, and the evening concert starts. After an amazingly varied performance of tunes and songs, the chairs get cleared away and the pick-up band takes its place on-stage for the contra dance. Some folks go off to play some more or join the pub sing instead.  When the dance ends, there are snacks in the dining room available to everyone. Some dancers join up with the singers or players. Some stagger off to bed. This can be a very late night for the hardy types. Please make sure that your late-night activities are not taking place in a lodge.There are lots of public spaces available throughout the night.
Sunday morning is for winding down,
 more workshops, and, of course, more jamming.  Enjoy the breakfast, consider that instrument purchase one more time, track down the person with the funny song from last night and get the words . . . and by noon you’re back in the dining room for the last meal of the weekend. Sometime later, the cars roll away and NESI has come to an end for another year. Although it’s possible to come for just part of the weekend, it’s really a 3-day event and is at its best if you are there in residence for the whole thing.
Please also see the What's It All About Page and the Goodies Page


What do I need to do?
Download the registration form from our website. You also need to print out and sign the “Health and Liability Form” that is required by Chimney Corners. Send both forms with your check or money order made out to NESI to the address on the form. Everything to do that is here...
Can I pay by credit card?
Sorry, but we aren’t set up for that.
Why is there a "early bird" discount period?
The event is entirely run by volunteers who have day jobs. The sooner we can get people signed up, the easier it is to do all of the behind-the-scenes paperwork and database management...and avoid a last minute avalanche. The discount is intended to motivate you to commit early.
Is admission to the event a separate charge?
No. Admission is included in each option: lodge, cabin, camping, and attending but staying off-site.
What if I register ahead and then am unable to come?
There is a cancellation and refund policy published on our registration form.
Please also see the Registration & Attendance Information Page


What workshops are offered?
As we’ve said, this is a free-form gathering of players of all levels. People post workshop offerings on a event board located in the registration room off the north end of the dining hall.  More about the event board can be found here. People also post requests for things they hope someone else might agree to lead. Some “workshops” are really tune swaps, often focused on a particular genre, such as Morris tunes or Scandinavian waltzes.  Some are for specific instruments, such as Hayden duet concertinas. Sometimes there is a “slow jam” for people who are just learning the tunes or their instrument. There is usually one that is a rehearsal for the pick-up band that plays for Saturday night’s contra dance. It all depends . . .
Do I have to go to the workshops?
Definitely not. Some people never go to any and just join in the many jam sessions that spring up in every available corner. This is a weekend for fun and camaraderie, and nothing is required except your presence.
I’m a first-timer. Can I offer a workshop?
Of course. All you have to do, as noted above about the event board in the registration room, is write a brief description on a post-it (provided on the table) and put it in an available location and time slot on the schedule on the bulletin board. You don’t necessarily need to be a teacher, as such – you might just want to be a facilitator for something that interests you, such as an Irish tune seisiún. Post it, and they will probably come.
I’m a first-timer. There's something I need to learn; is there a workshop for that?
Maybe not, but if not you can post a request on the event board and likely one will occur or someone will give you a one-on-one to help you.
I don’t play a free-reed instrument yet but I’m interested in starting. Will there be anything for me to do?
Absolutely. First, you’ll be able to hear, see, and try out everything from big piano accordions down to a 20-key Anglo concertina. New and used instruments are offered for sale by the Button Box (Sunderland, MA) in the south room off the dining hall and attendees have a private sale table. You’ll be able to find people who will talk with you about what they play and why. You’ll hear all kinds of music being played on free-reed instruments and consider which ones seem to relate best to your own musical interests. You might be able to find a teacher who lives in your area. Some workshops are quite suitable for absolute beginners. This is an excellent way to take the first steps toward becoming a player. You can arrange for a rental instrument from the Button Box. Contact them ahead of time and work out the details.
I have an old free-reed instrument that needs to be fixed.  Is there someone there that can help?
Yes, again see the Button Box shop or just ask around.
My partner plays the fiddle (guitar, ocarina, nose flute, etc.) – can (s)he take part?
For workshops, it would be good manners to ask the workshop leader. Generally, there will be no objection as long as your partner is aware that the activity is primarily for the free-reeders and is probably not the time to ask for advice on bowing technique. Finding a jamming session to join is often a better option. All instruments are welcome in those, and they happen just about continuously.
How does the Saturday Night concert get organized, how do I sign up to perform?
It’s a lot like the workshops. There will be a sign-up sheet near the workshop bulletin board.  Sign up. You don’t need to be an expert or professional, just willing to share what you do with the friendliest and most supportive audience you’re likely ever to find. Because of the large number of people who usually participate, performers are limited to one song or one SHORT set of tunes. And you don’t need to play a free-reed instrument to perform. We’ve had fiddles, clogging, a hurdy-gurdy, bagpipes, and unaccompanied singers, among others. There are often ensembles that have connected by means of a workshop, so you might want to join one of those earlier in the day.  And, just between you and me, if you're not a strong or accurate player, the rest of the workshop players will carry things along and you'll the thrill of being on stage all the same!
Should my non-playing partner/spouse come along?
If your partner likes music, there is a lot to listen to, and some non-players decide to take up an instrument after a weekend of free-reed saturation. There are lovely wooded trails for walking on the extensive Berkshire Outdoor Center grounds, a large pond with canoes and kayaks available, a wood-fired sauna, shopping in nearby Lee and Lenox as well as in a large outlet center on Route 20 at the exit from the MA Turnpike, and lots of places to curl up with a book (to say nothing of a cozy library...with fireplace...stuffed with Nancy Drew and Lassie of SunnyBrook Farms novels...real comfort reading).  The cabin/camping area has tennis, basketball, and volleyball courts. The Saturday night concert and contra dance are fun for just about everyone.
Please also see the What's It All About Page and Chimney Corner (site) Information Page

Housing & Site Rules

Note:  You can find  Chimney Corner housing information here from our Chimney Corner webpage that lays things out from the NESI persepctive.  There is also Chimney Corners' own website which contains further photos of facility and descriptions of typical rooms in lodges and cabins, as well as a campus map. We usually use the Ina Gibson and Manor lodges, which have been renovated, and the “Junior” cabin area, which is near the camping ground. Towels and bed linens are not provided in any of the accommodations. Please bring your own sleeping bag, towels, etc. All beds are single beds. None of the lodge rooms or cabins have locks.

What are the lodges like?
The lodges are heated, multi-bunk spaces used by the YMCA girls’ camp in the summer and countless corporate retreats, youth groups, and common-interest groups like ourselves the rest of the year. Although most of the lodge rooms have beds for more than 2 people, we will be assigning rooms to just two people unless you are a family group with one or more children.  There are no private baths or bathrooms en suite. However, there are plenty of shared ones on every floor.
What are the cabins like?
The cabins are definitely rustic. Unlike the lodges, there is no heat and no electricity, so you should bring a battery-powered lantern and/or flashlight for the weekend. There is a central shower/toilet facility.
What are the campsites like?
It’s a large patch of open groundI which slopes a bit  and is used during summer camps for soccer and the like.  Campers share the wash-houses with the cabins. There are no grills or fire pits. If you plan to cook, you should bring a propane grill. You can’t build a fire except in designated fire pits, which are not located near the field used for camping. (Camping is not usually an option offered to groups, so there is no permanent camping area. NESI campers are actually on one of their ball fields. You Must Not Drive On the Field.  You can stop temporarily on the side road (not the field) to unload and walk your gear to your campsite.  You cannot leave you car/truck/RV on this side road; you must park it on one of the approve parking sites, see the map where parking is shown by big blue P symbols.
I’m coming alone. Do I still need to share my room?
All prices for accommodation (except camping) are based on 2 people per room. If you know that there is someone else coming that you would like to have for a roommate, note it on your registration form. Otherwise, we’ll set it up, and you’ll have a chance to make a new friend.
Can I bring my RV?
You can locate it in one of the parking areas (paying the same registration fee as for camping), but there are no hookups. NO vehicles – including a car you intend to sleep in – can be  parked on the grass in the designated camping area, but you can temporarily park on the camping field side road to unload your stuff. 
Can I bring my dog (cat, tiger, boa constrictor, wombat)?
Sorry, but the answer is no. Absolutely no. Not even if you’re camping, not even if you have the Most Well-Behaved Dog In The World, The Berkshire Environment Center is very concerned about protecting its wildlife. There are local boarding kennels if you want to bring your dog along for the ride – check the internet for possibilities.
Can I bring fireworks and things that go bang?
You also can’t bring fireworks, firearms, air rifles, tactical nukes or weapons of mass destruction (other than free-reed instruments).
Can I bring my own canoe/kayak/boat/cruise ship?
No, but the boating equipment owned by Chimney Corners will be available (for free) when the waterfront is open and supervised by their staff.
Please also see the Chimney Corner (site) Information Page


Do I have to sign up for meals?
Except for camping, the rates for accommodation include all meals from Friday dinner through Sunday lunch (six meals in all). Campers have the option of signing up for meals or fending for themselves. If you don’t want to stay on-site, there are two options. There is a threeday full-event package that includes all six meals from Friday dinner through Sunday lunch, and there is one that offers admission for the 3 days but includes no meals.
I’m allergic to [peanuts, strawberries, shellfish, etc.]. Will I be able to eat the meals?
There is a wide variety of food served at each buffet-style meal: salads, fresh fruit, bread, and vegetarian/vegan entrees as well as ones for carnivores. Most people can find plenty to enjoy. Note any food allergies or other serious dietary restrictions on your registration form and we will alert the kitchen staff. If we think we can’t meet your dietary needs, we’ll let you know.
I’m planning to camp and cook for myself. Can I buy a meal there if I change my mind?
The food is ordered and planned well in advance. The kitchen can handle a few extra people who decide on arrival to get the 3-day meal deal, but we may not be able to fit you in. It would be wise to make the food decision when you register.
Can I put my food in a refrigerator and/or get ice for my cooler from the kitchen?
There are shared refrigerators in various locations in the lodges. There is an ice machine in the dining room. Please make sure your name is on anything you put into the refrigerator.

Private Sales

I’d like to sell my old concertina, tune books, brother-in-law, whatever. How does that work?
There will be one or more tables set up at the back of the dining room for private sales. You place your item on the table with a description, selling price, and contact information. Some people who are selling such things as CDs and tunebooks choose to put a box out for payment on the honor system. We can’t be responsible for things that disappear, but nothing has vanished yet, as far as we know.


Is there any internet service available?
There is free Wi-Fi available in the dining room. In 2012, it worked some of the time, but definitely not all of the time. There are no wired connections. We make no guarantees, and the organizers will be more interested in making music, song and libations than messing around trying to improve the connection or bandwidth
What about television?
What about telephones?
There are no telephones in any of the rooms. Cell phones generally work there, but it is mountainous, so we can’t promise yours will work.

To get a good informal look at what NESIs about, take an amble through past NESIs as recorded, photographed and scribed in the Goodies section