Fiddler Creation Myth

Elan’s Fiddle Story

Cousin of Kokopelli, Grassapelli plays the fiddle

I had my mid-life crisis early. At 32 I suddenly broke away from the life I had been living and started to play fiddle. No more violin, which had been neglected for some time anyway. I wanted to improvise. My first experience was in a folk trio. We played a lot of places, thanks to the guitar player who was not shy about getting gigs. There needs to be at least one in any group. It never has been me, sad to say.

We tried expanding to folk rock by adding a bass player and drummer. That ensemble had potential, but I kept spiraling down into crisis until my marriage failed. By then I was in a bluegrass band. That’s where my fiddle education began in earnest.

The bluegrass band evolved to a string band and even went to Galax for the weekend of Appalachian style fiddling. Saturated in the sound forseveral days, a certain light bulb came on over my head and improved my playing immensely.

Time moved on and so did the banjo player, a prize winning claw-hammer frailer. Then the guitar player moved to south Florida. No more band. I tried pulling together some players for bands. Limited degrees of success, but no serious failures until the last one. I finally faced up to the reality that I did better as a side fiddler than as a band leader.

Musical Theater with Fiddling

Along this time line I got to play in many music theater productions. It was back in the day in Pinellas County when dinner theater was seriously a big deal. I was in very long runs of Fiddler on the Roof, where I played both the pit orchestra and the on stage part. In Best Little Whore House in Texas, I also got to do a warm up act for the main show, along with the guitar player. Foxfire and Robber Bridegroom were shows that also allowed some improv and fiddling.

Early after the turn of the century I launched a web site called Fiddleguru. I sold a DVD, then a book and CD on that site. Sales were not great but enough to keep going with it until the competition got intense. The new fiddle instruction sites had way higher production values then I did. They clearly had some money and support under them. I was disenchanted with the name Fiddleguru by that time. I got and had some help moving my site to a new DNS. (Thanks Upwork.)

Also during this time line, back in 1986, I returned to USF to get a master’s degree in composition and violin. That also helped my fiddling and fiddle tune writing. About the time I graduated I started with the Richey Community Orchestra as concert master. That was a good run until my cataracts were severe enough to prevent me from seeing the little dots you have to look at when you play orchestra music.

Another Crisis for the Fiddler

When I left the orchestra I also bid farewell to my folkie colleagues. I focused on healing my cataracts with holistic treatment, but, alas, it did not happen. I finally had to go through the normal operation. After the second one, the right eye wad not healing, even with the two sutures in it. The optical place in Largo sent me back to get more sutures. The eye was still leaking. By this time my opthamologist in Largo was beside himself. What to do, what to do? I told him not to worry about it, I had it handled.

By that time I had already made an appointment to get vitamin C intravenously. I had been informed that the wound healing properties of vitamin C were without equal. And it did work. When I returned to optical central they were happy to see the healed eye. They did not ask me what I did. I didn’t tell them. Not my job.

That almost gets us up to the present. The big news lately is about the Mike
Block String Camp this summer
, which I’ve written about. And I plan to go again this July. I’ve been talking it up with local musicians and students. If you are reading this take a look at what they have. Don’t be put off by the youngsters in the photos. There were a number of older attendees, though none as old as I was at 75. I hope to hold the record again this time.

The other big thing is my new blog I’m putting in some serious time this month to get it going really well. It represents an interest I’ve had in strange stuff since I was 12 years old. It’s very satisfying personally. 

I left out a great deal of detail, and even some highlights that were very influential, like the very first Mark O’Connor Fiddle Camp and the Texarkana Fiddle Camp. Anyhow, that’s the story of how I got here.

(Cue “That’s How I Got to Memphis.”) And I see that I neglected the myth of Grassapelli, whose image decorates the top of the page. That will have to be a story for another day.

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