Last fall, my boyfriend Adam went to a music retreat in Northern California. He jammed his heart out and later told me about his friend Anne, who had an itch to play the fiddle. I had met Anne several years ago when I played a house show at her place — that was fun! Adam informed me that Anne plays the guitar and has a beautiful voice. She was excited to learn how to play the fiddle, and at that time, we were running a special on the Beginner Fiddle Package, which Anne took full advantage of. She also joined us our Mastery 1 Certification program.

Fast-forward eight months…

Anne’s courage and inspiration are truly remarkable. She didn’t hesitate to start something new and put in her all. Her progress is a testament to how much she listened and applied herself to every tip, tool, and teaching. Anne is a shining light in our community, and I am proud to have her as a member. I can’t wait to jam with her this summer at the Mountain Retreat! Can you believe it? Jamming within one year of starting! Anne, I am so proud of you! Read on to learn more about Anne and join us in congratulating her on her fiddle journey so far.

How long have you been playing?

9 months.

How did you start fiddling?

I don’t know how, but my desire to plunge in was tied to my youngest brother’s death in April 2023. He had been sick for 6 months and I had been with him in New York that entire time, away from my home, my cats, my music friends (all in California).

I dove into playing fiddle as a challenge to myself to chase possibility and potential, to expand rather than contract. That is the big picture.

On a smaller scale, I ran into Adam Kulakow who told me that Katie has a Beginner’s Package that included a fiddle and a year’s worth of Fiddle School and i almost immediately jumped into the deep end.

What are your favorite styles/songs to play and why?

I suppose the style is called Americana, which is pretty broad. I can’t play this style yet on fiddle, but I’m hopeful that I can begin by playing double fiddle with friends and providing a drone before I can actually improvise. There are so many great singer/songwriters; the Small Glories, Doc Watson, Vivian Leva, among them. Their songs are perfect for harmony singing!

At this point I particularly like playing waltzes; Tennessee Waltz, Ashokan Farewell, Arran’s Boat and Irish Waltz.

How has Fiddle School influenced your playing?

I would not have begun playing fiddle if it weren’t for Fiddle School. It provides structure, accountability, a progressive approach to skill building and a community, which I’m just starting to get to know. I am in the Mastery 1 program, so have weekly touch points with others. I’ve attended a few office hours, with both Katie and Celeste and those are amazing.

Katie Glassman is Wonder Woman. I am astounded with her genuine commitment to all of her students. She is gracious, generous, enthusiastic and a very skilled teacher.

What’s the most important thing music brings to your life?

Music is my constant companion. I have a song running through my head nearly every minute of the day. I find great pleasure in singing along, especially finding harmonies. Playing music has, quite unexpectedly, brought me new communities of people that include a big group of Canadians I met at the Nimblefingers camp. I never imagined that when I started playing guitar 14 years ago that my life would change so much.

And those moments when a piece of music makes your heart swell and you must listen to it (or play it) over and over and over again.

Tell us about the musical activities you do outside of Fiddle School.

When I was 57 I borrowed a guitar from a friend and thus began my current musical journey. I had never played before. I attended an organized slow jam at the Freight & Salvage in Berkeley each Sunday and did that for 3-4 years. I met a number of people who have become close friends, have attended music camps, began singing for the first time in my life (other than in the shower), and am a member of a band. There are 5 of us and we get together once a week or so and perform out every couple of months.

During Covid I took up the upright bass, took 6 months of lessons and can hold my own on certain songs when we perform.

I also take began taking fiddle lessons from Catherine Manning, at Manning Music here in Berkeley, in November. I wanted something local – I can walk there – and they also hold old time jams there once a month that I have sat in on. It’s another community.

What is your practice routine like?

I follow Katie’s suggestions for how to organize practice. I practice every single day for 30-60+ minutes and begin with a Practice Pal or its equivalent to get warmed up. I then move on to either learning something new, or testing myself on something I’m learning.

I test myself frequently playing along with the play along tracks so that I know where I need work. Based on that, I’ll loop a few notes, a phrase or a song, depending on where I am to be sure I have the melody and bowing. I use the app Amazing Slow Downer to create loops and vary the speed (found out yesterday you can save specific loops within a song).

I usually end my practice by going through a few more songs to keep them fresh in my head and fingers. My practice routine is a work in progress as I’ve never been as diligent before. I am discovering that going much more slowly than my instinct tells me to go actually works. Who knew?

Are you enrolled in Mastery Certification? What are some wins or milestones you’ve experienced as a Mastery fiddler?

I am enrolled in Mastery 1 and have performed twice, posted a video and am now on lesson 5, having learned 10 songs. Every time I show up for a lesson, post a video, or perform for my group is a big win for me.

Join us in celebrating Anne’s ongoing musical journey at Fiddle School, and stay tuned for more spotlights on extraordinary fiddlers shaping the vibrant musical community we cherish.