Fiddling around

One of the nice things about having done a fair bit of teaching is hearing what your former students are doing, and this morning I had an update on one of my cello students from my days teaching at Eastern Oregon University.

Jacie was already a prize-winning fiddler when she came to me. She’d been studying classical violin alongside fiddle, but decided, rather late in the game, to switch to cello. She turned out to be a very apt cello student, and within a year had auditioned successfully to be a cello major- no mean feat.

She’s got a new band called Celtic Air– their website has lots of great, informal video clips and audio samples. It was nice to hear her play again- I think the classical training was worth it in the end, as she can actually play off the string and in the lower half of the bow, two things that are rather rare in the fiddle world…. J (sorry, I have a running gag going with another fiddle player, wherein I say something snotty about fiddlers only playing in first position or the upper half of the bow, and he makes fun of classical musicians lousy ears).

Eastern Oregon, from Heppner moving East all the way to the state border is a fiddling Mecca, and I’m probably the only conductor I know who’s conducted Shostakovich symphonies with as many as three or four future national and world champion fiddlers in the group at any given time. I had one student at Eastern who played in the orchestra who refused to learn to read music, but could memorize the 2nd violin part to a Tchaikovsky symphony on two hearings. Funnily enough, his fiddle mentor asked him to write down his body of work for posterity, so he ended up becoming a very fluent reader and notator of music in the end.

c. 2007 Kenneth Woods

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About the author

American conductor, composer and cellist Kenneth Woods is Principal Conductor of the English Symphony Orchestra, Artistic Director of the Colorado MahlerFest and cellist of the string trio Ensemble Epomeo. He records for the Avie, Somm, Nimbus, Signum, MSR and Toccata labels.

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2 comments on “Fiddling around”

  1. ComposerBastard

    wow! I didn’t know you were that close to the edge. Exciting and daring stuff.

    Do you find any cross-cultural welshian references, assuming you have been exposed to any folkish nuances in your travels to and fro….

  2. Kenneth Woods

    Trust me, I’ve always been close to an edge, it’s just that I switch edges every few years (or hours)……

    Interestingly, the Evan Chambers quartet I played in Pendleton this summer is based in part on Evan’s impressions of Welsh folk fiddling from his trip to St David’s in the 1980s….

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