Carroll County Times

Deer Creek Fiddler's Convention celebrates 40 years

From left, Dot Adams, of York, Pa., Wayne Morris, of York, Pa., Jerry Leitner, of Hampstead, and Debbi Kauffmann, of Glen Rock, Pa., jam together with Vance Bonner (not shown) of Bend, Ore., on the porch of the farmhouse during the Fiddler's Convention Sunday, June 13, 2010, at the Carroll County Farm Museum in Westminster.

When the competitors arrive for the Deer Creek Fiddler's Convention, organizer Walt Michael always spots a few surprise attendees.

They come from throughout the region and range from youths to senior citizens.


They compete for cash prizes, but they are also on hand for the appreciation and the enjoyment of roots music at a festival celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.

The Deer Creek Fiddler's Convention will take place from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday at the Carroll County Farm Museum in Westminster. The day of Celtic, old-time and bluegrass music includes a competition in multiple categories, including for fiddle, banjo, guitar and mandolin players.


Common Ground on the Hill, a traditional roots-based arts and music festival at McDaniel College each July, is organizing the event for the second year. Executive director Walt Michael was active in organizing the festival long before that.



caught up with Michael this week and discussed which performers tend to wind up at the festival, its history and how the event is judged.


Are there surprise attendees who perform at the festival or is it mostly returnees form past years?

A: People do return year after year and there are people who we wonder how they find out. They just show up, so I think there is a lot of word of mouth involved.

Q: And it sure seems at least a few of the performers are teenagers or younger?



I know people who played at Deer Creek at the festival in its first year. Now, we're on to third-generation players.

Q: Why do you think it continues to live on?


It really has become a traditional event over the years. It has been around since 1972. It's something that I think is a really positive community event. It's family-oriented. It represents the agrarian values of the county.

Q: What's the state of traditional music?


A: The popularity of traditional music goes through these cycles, and sometimes it is extremely popular like when the movie "O, Brother Where Art Thou?" was out [in 2000]. Then it sort of died down. We're in one of those lulls right now, but I firmly believe it will come back. So having this event is part of the responsibility of the people who love this music. It falls on our shoulders to keep it healthy. Events like this will do that.

Q: Has the Fiddler's Convention always been at the Farm Museum?

A: In its original incarnation, it was over in Hereford, and then it moved to the Farm Museum. When I returned to Maryland in 1994, it had been at the Farm Museum for a number of years.

Q: How is the event judged?

We have three judges. All are professional-level musicians who all weigh in. There is a judge from each genre: Bluegrass (Tara Linhardt), Old Time (Eileen Carson) and Celtic (Jo Morrison). I actually choose the judges and vet them. We want judges who have a deep experience in the music and that will also be fair in their judging.