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Carroll County Times

Fiddlers convention keeps traditional music alive

Despite the name, it's not just fiddlers who have a home at the Deer Creek Fiddlers' Convention, held Saturday, June 14, at the Carroll County Farm Museum. The event will feature traditional musicians of all stripes, and competitions for bluegrass bands, Celtic ensembles, banjo, guitar and mandolin players, as well as cloggers and vocalists.

Walt Michael, executive director of the convention, said the common ground the performers all share is an interest in preserving the history of the traditional music of the area.

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Eileen Carson Schatz, founder of Footworks Percussive Dance Ensemble, which is based in Millersville, will perform at the event. She said the cultural history of traditional music elevates it above other genres.

"One of the ways I define traditional music is that it's a window into American history and the American story, which is cultural diversity," Carson Schatz said. "When I first came to this music, I didn't have a conscious knowledge that I was listening to a very big slice of the American story, but I did hear the joy."

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Michael said traditional music represents a uniquely American blend of influences from all of the country's settlers coming together.

"It reflects a tradition of music that comes out of the southern Appalachian mountains," Michael said. "There's a strong undercurrent of the music in Carroll, because people came back here from the mountains during World War II to come work in the factories of Baltimore. They resettled here in Carroll and brought their music with them."

Though the primary focus will be on the performers on stage, Michael said musicians will be performing collaboratively throughout the grounds. He said visitors can eavesdrop on impromptu jams breaking out throughout the day.

The competition is more of an excuse to bring people together than an intense, competitive battle.

"It encourages musicians to get on their game and be as good as they can be," Michael said. "It's really just a way to provide a stage for people. There's competition, but it's not cutthroat."

Jo Morrison, of Westminster, a Celtic harpist who serves as a judge in the competition, said having these kinds of events is important to keep traditional music alive.

"Traditional music has been around as long as we've had instruments," Morrison said. "These tunes have been passed down for hundreds of years orally. It's important to present that music so that we can continue to enjoy these great tunes instead of losing them."

Carson Schatz said one of the greatest aspects of the festival is the multi-generational appeal of the music. She said because the performers range in age from young to old, children who attend the festival can be inspired to follow in their footsteps. Michael said this kind of inspiration is how the form stays alive.

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"It comes up through tradition that's passed down orally from generation to generation and person to person," Michael said. "It goes as deep as you want to take it. It's not driven by the latest thing; it's real music. You can't play it on synthesizers. You can't program it. It's wood and steel and flesh."


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