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Playing Since: 1966
Experience Level: Expert/Professional
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Occupation: fiddle teacher and performer
Kenny Baker, Byron Berline, Aubrey Haynie,Jason Carter, Vassar, Stuart Duncan, and lots more
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Last Visit 3/25/2013
Thursday, February 23, 2012 @9:09:57 AM
I have spent a good part of my life trying to help others understand that what we play it is a product of our education and environments. I was trained classically, I have a violin performance degree, I played a lot of classical music while growing up along with a fair amount of show tunes. That's what was played on violins in my environment, that's what was available to participate in and I was educated and trained to excel in that direction. There was no "live" folk music in my life or my families circles. Around age 12 I discovered folk music with Peter, Paul & Mary, John Denver, and the turning point group was The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, where I heard the fiddle being used in music that reached into my heart. When talking to my classical musician friends, it was clear that they didn't really understand much about fiddling but had a picture in their minds of uneducated, impoverished mountain hillbillies, playing compromised violins, while drinking moonshine, and having little or no structure in their playing. No surprise there that they weren't impressed with my new found passion.
When I was finally able to move into the actual environment of Folk Musicians, local people that played old-time and Bluegrass the exact opposite of the description above occurred. They didn't understand that I was there to understand and learn about their styles of playing which I held in high regard. They were intimidated by my presence as a violinist, not a fiddle player. They felt as though I was judging their technical abilities and was there to "show-off". Nothing could have been farther from the truth. I was so impressed with their abilities to play an incredible number of tunes from memory, improvise the tune, take breaks as well as play back-up for others which was impossible for me to do at that time. To those folks what they played was natural, it was what they heard growing up, it was what they played on violins in their environment. So again it was no surprise that they weren't impressed with my violin playing because what came to their mind was very educated, rich people, from well to do families, playing expensive instruments, while drinking coffee from china teacups with their pinkies raised and reading dots in order to play.
So for my first 20 years as a fiddler I felt I had to try as hard as I could to hide the fact that I had a Violin Performance degree. If there was any hint of the violin thing to those players that I really liked around here,they would put their fiddles away and not feel comfortable. I held my fiddle different and took away any hint of vibrato tried my best to imitate their sound. The good thing was I had a really old wonderful instrument that would lure them in with it's beautiful sound.
Slowly, and I mean years later, most of this attitude has started to disappear. Nothing lifts my heart more than to hear the local school districts incorporating arrangements of fiddle tunes in their string concerts. This is something that I felt was so important 30 years ago but it wasn't time for it yet. Now I feel completely comfortable teaching my students of all ages all styles of music. In my humble opinion it's what keeps my students motivated and makes them better players. They can fit into any environment and share their passion and love of music without feeling judged or profiled for the styles that they embrace and are called to play. We all have the same goal to enjoy our music. I really don't thing you need to decide if Mark O'Conner is better that Ishak Pearlman. They are both inspiring. They are both musicians.
Sunday, November 06, 2011 @5:18:26 PM
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Wednesday, September 29, 2010 @8:23:13 PM
Sunday, February 03, 2008 @11:52:04 PM
Sunday, December 30, 2007 @1:09:19 PM
Friday, December 21, 2007 @9:55:26 PM
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Wednesday, October 17, 2007 @3:58:41 PM
Sunday, September 30, 2007 @12:40:51 PM
Tuesday, September 11, 2007 @9:40:40 AM
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Thursday, August 23, 2007 @11:02:33 PM
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Wednesday, July 25, 2007 @11:23:45 PM
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Thursday, June 28, 2007 @12:12:01 PM
Tuesday, June 26, 2007 @12:05:55 AM
Saturday, June 23, 2007 @12:12:18 PM
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