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UIS to present two programs of American fiddle music

February 13, 2006

SPRINGFIELD – The Music Program at the University of Illinois at Springfield will host two programs focusing on American fiddle music and featuring guest artists and lecturers Howard Marshall and Ron Adams, who will share the stage with Sharon Graf, assistant professor of ethnomusicology and director of music at UIS. Both events are free and open to the public. 

Marshall, Graf, and Adams will present selected American fiddle tunes to members of the UIS Chamber Orchestra in a workshop/master class titled “So What IS the Difference Between a Fiddle and a Violin?” from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, February 23, in room 33 of the Communication, Psychology, and Visual Arts Building on the UIS campus. The three will discuss the basic traditions and styles of American fiddle heritage and lead a hands-on discussion of major differences between old-time fiddling and classical violin playing. Participants will learn how “parts” are improvised and hear arrangements of several American fiddle tunes.

Marshall, Graf, and Adams will also give a brown bag lecture on “Dancing Around Controversy: Styles of American Old Time Fiddling” beginning at noon on Friday, February 24, in the UIS Visual Arts Gallery, located in room 201 of the Health and Sciences Building. This presentation will discuss and illustrate two basic folk fiddle styles: sawstroke/Appalachian/Ozark/short bow, and longer bow/hornpipe style. The program will follow evolutions of these two broad styles, such as bluegrass and Texas swing, show fiddling, and “national contest style.”

Friday’s discussion will be followed by an open jam session. Musicians in the audience are welcome to bring their instruments and join in.

Marshall is professor emeritus of Art History and Archaeology at the University of Missouri-Columbia.  He has worked at the Country Music Hall of Fame; the Smithsonian Institution; Conner Prairie Pioneer Settlement, a living history museum in Indiana; and spent five years in the Library of Congress’s American Folk Life Center. Long involved in documenting and conserving traditional music, he was project leader for the documentary album Now That’s A Good Tune: Masters of Traditional Missouri Fiddling, which garnered two Grammy Award finalist nominations for the University of Missouri in 1989. 

Adams is a guitar player who has accompanied many champion fiddlers and is among their preferred “back up” musicians.  He is on the board of directors for the National Old Time Fiddlers Association.

Graf is the 2004 Illinois State Old-time Fiddle Champion. At UIS, she teaches music history and appreciation courses including world music, American folk and ethnic music, jazz, and Western classical music.

For more information about these and other music programs at UIS, contact Todd Cranson at 206-7549 or e-mail rcran2@uis.edu.


    The University of Illinois at Springfield, one of three U of I campuses, is a small, public liberal arts university that offers 42 degree programs – 21 bachelor’s, 20 master’s, and the Doctorate of Public Administration. UIS has a special mission in public affairs and service and is known for extraordinary internships, a wireless campus, extensive online offerings, and a commitment to teaching.