ASU Fiddlers' Convention Feb. 19-20
Appalachian State University's getting in tune for its second annual Old-Time and Fiddlers' Convention Feb. 19-20.
The complimentary convention comes packed with music, workshops, jamming and luthier gathering, featuring live performances by bluegrass stalwarts Riley Baugus and The Stuart Brothers on Saturday.
"If you want to hear some good music, some of the finest musicians and luthiers (instrument builders) in the entire area will be here ... really bringing back those community events that people really like in this area," said Trevor McKenzie, a senior history major at ASU and chairman of the Appalachian Heritage Council, a student-run organization under the Appalachian Popular Programming Society (APPS) umbrella.
With few music festivals held during wintertime, the fiddlers' convention - located in ASU's Plemmons Student Union - offers residents, students and visitors a quick fix of fine tuning, all starting Friday.
"It's great to have an annual event establishing in Watauga County," said Mark Freed, folklorist for the Watauga Arts Council, which benefits from proceeds raised through the convention.
"There are fiddlers' conventions in most of the surrounding counties, and we have so much good music to celebrate here in Watauga. I think musicians in the region are itching for an excuse to get out and play some music, so lots of people come."
By McKenzie's estimate, about 600 people attended last year's convention, and he hopes this year's will net an even higher number. The events are many, designed to pluck the strings and attention of all old-time and bluegrass players.
On Friday, at 1 p.m., in the Table Rock Room, attendees can hear famed storytellers Gurney Norman and Orville Hicks spin some Appalachian yarns, followed by a square and contra dance at 7 p.m. in Legends Music Hall on Hardin Street.
On Saturday, contest registration opens at 10 a.m. in the Summit Trail Solarium, located near the primary entrance of the student union. All participants must be registered by 2 p.m. to compete.
From 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., musicians from all walks will test their mettle in fiddle, banjo, guitar and old-time competitions, also held in the solarium, with cash prizes for the winners. Young musicians can also take part in youth contests from 12 to 3 p.m., featuring fiddle and banjo, novice fiddle and banjo, and folk song categories, to be held in the Whitewater Room.
The luthier gathering will be in the Blue Ridge Ballroom, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., featuring a host of professional craftsmen showing off their handiwork, as musicians break into impromptu jams.
Last year's lineup included Herb Key, Clancy Mullins, Ray Dellinger, Kevin Fore (Roundpeak Banjos), David Finck, A.D. Norcross, Bob Kogut, Lyle Reedy, Greg Galbreath (Buckeye Banjos), Lo Gordon (Cedar Mountain Banjos), Gray Burchette (Burchette Guitars), Chris Capazzoli and John Cooley, and McKenzie expects many to return.
"The main luthiers' room was pretty exciting," McKenzie said of last year's convention. "It was really neat to have all the people with their instruments there, and then people playing beside the instruments - little jams just going on all over the room."
Workshops run from 1 to 3 p.m. in the Linville Falls Room, featuring Guitar with Riley Baugus at 1 p.m., Fiddle with Trevor Stuart at 2 p.m., and Banjo with Travis Stuart at 3 p.m.
At 5 p.m., a dance contest kicks off in the solarium, followed directly by the awards ceremony at 6 p.m.
To wrap up the convention in foot-tapping fashion, Riley Baugus and The Stuart Brothers will perform at 8 p.m. in the Blue Ridge Ballroom.
"We had Riley here last year ... and we really enjoyed the show so much, we wanted to get him back," McKenzie said.
The concert is the convention's only paid event, with tickets costing $5 and all proceeds benefiting the arts council's Watauga Junior Appalachian Musicians program.
"We are very fortunate to have the proceeds of the concert supporting our local Junior Appalachian Musicians program," Freed said. "Last year, the (Appalachian Heritage) council donated more than $1,000 to the program, which helped us buy some much-needed instruments and supplies. Donations like these help us keep our program going at very affordable rates, giving our local youth an opportunity to get involved with the traditional music of their home area."
The convention, itself, offers such an opportunity.
"The atmosphere was pretty exciting," McKenzie said of last year's event. "The entire student union was covered in musicians - every corner had people playing in it, and I hope to see that again this year. It's something for students and the community to enjoy."
For more information on the Appalachian State Old-Time Fiddlers' Convention, visit http://www.fiddle.apps.appstate.edu.