We have a special project this year at the Festival of Fiddle Tunes, featuring six winners of the National Heritage Fellowship – an honor awarded by the National Endowment for the Arts to recognize our nation’s diverse cultural heritage. It is given to musicians, but also to dancers, crafts persons, storytellers, instrument builders, etc. Fiddle Tunes has hosted many other National Heritage Fellows over the years, but this is the most we’ve ever had at one time!
- Liz Carroll, Irish fiddler (1994)
- Paul Dahlin, Swedish-American fiddler (1996)
- Wayne Henderson, Guitarist and luthier (1995)
- Dudley Laufman, New England contra dance fiddler and caller (2010)
- Mark Savoy, Cajun accordion player and builder (1992)
Each of these people exemplifies their own regional style of music, but perhaps even more important, each is champion of their culture’s unique music.
Some of the other National Heritage Award winners who have been at Fiddle Tunes are: Tommy Jarrell, Dewey Balfa, Howard Armstrong, Melvin Wine, Canray Fontenot, Clyde Davenport, DL Menard, Mick Moloney, Kenny Baker, Will Keys, Bob Holt, Joe Thompson, Ralph Blizard, Kevin Burke, Mike Seeger, and Bob McQuillen.
When I look at this list of heavy hitters, I am awestruck. These are people who have changed so many lives, including my own. As music becomes more and more homogenized, as musicians everywhere have access to every sound from all over the world, these folks who play a distinct regional style and take it to another level are becoming rarer and rarer.
What is great about Fiddle Tunes is that we get to experience the musicians “just playing” — not necessarily performing, or teaching, but just doing what they would do at home on the porch or at a community dance. Not so many bells and whistles, maybe, but for me, a deeper experience and a much more personal one.
– Suzy Thompson