by Gene Marrano
Can’t make it to FloydFest this weekend to hear, among other genres, bluegrass and mountain music? Fear not, FiddleFest is also back, on the Hollins University campus this Friday and Saturday (July 29-30). Roanoke FiddleFest is a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of traditional bluegrass and string music.
The festival’s mission, according to its website, roanokefiddlefest.org, “is to provide the venue for performance, discussion, instruction, and preservation of this uniquely American art form.” FiddleFest was started in 2003 by Mike Conner, a Roanoke business owner and bluegrass lover who is also a bluegrass musician.
Since then Mike, his wife Debbie, and a team of volunteers have worked to make FiddleFest a premiere music event in the Roanoke Valley. FiddleFest has welcomed artists from legends such as Tony Rice, Charlie Waller, and genre icon Ralph Stanley, to modern acts like Cherryholmes, The Grascals and Mountain Heart. FiddleFest also showcases local talent from Roanoke and Southwest Virginia.
FiddleFest sets itself apart from other festivals through the availability of one-on-one opportunities with the artists. During the day, workshops are held by the performing artists. Open jams are also hosted on the campus, allowing festival participants to jam together with the artists. Festival attendees can meet the artists, discuss music with them, or just play a few songs together.
Highlights this year include Sierra Hull and Highway 111 (Friday, 4 p.m., Saturday, 9:30 p.m.) and returnee Paul Williams and the Victory Trio (Friday, 2:50, Saturday, 8:20).
See roanokefiddlefest.org for a complete schedule of concerts (indoor and outdoor venues) and workshops/jams. Tickets are $35 at the gate for a one day pass, $60 for the two-day festival.