University of Illinois at Springfield
UIS Home  |  Search UIS  
UIS Press Releases

Sharon Graf

Click here to go to the UIS Home Page


This Year



“Fiddling in the Classroom” examines folk music and curriculum

September 28, 2004

SPRINGFIELD - “Fiddling in the Classroom,” a brownbag lecture and demonstration, will be presented by champion fiddlers David Algeo Smith and Sharon Graf at noon Friday, October 8, in the Visual Arts Gallery at the University of Illinois at Springfield. The gallery is located in room 201 of the Health Sciences Building on the UIS campus. The program is free and open to the public.

The discussion will focus on the socio-cultural role the fiddle has played in North American history, from Colonial times to the present. Smith and Graf will also share ways they have found to incorporate fiddle tunes from various eras into their teaching.

Smith is the 2004 Indiana State Hot Fiddle Champion. He currently teaches Suzuki violin at Aurora Suzuki Violins in Aurora, Illinois, and at the Oshkosh Suzuki Music Program in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. One of the first Suzuki students in the United States, Smith continued to study classical violin and in the 1980s spent time in New York and abroad performing with a variety of street bands, including the Overexcited and the Rhythm Pygmies. He spent the 90s in northern Thailand performing with a “country and eastern” group called the Banjoman Band, which added Thai folk melodies to his repertoire.  Most recently he released an album of American old-time music titled This Big String Band: The Next Small Thing.

Graf, the 2004 Illinois State Old-time Fiddle Champion, is assistant professor in the Sociology/Anthropology program at UIS. She became interested in American music history research when, presenting a lecture on Scott Joplin for a school “history day” competition, she performed the “Maple Leaf Rag” on the piano. This also proved to be a turning point because “The contest committee had a difficult time finding a piano for me to play, so I decided to learn how to play a smaller instrument -- the fiddle,” she explained.

Graf is presently at work converting a 1999 dissertation about the National Oldtime Fiddlers’ Contest into a book.  At UIS, she teaches music history and appreciation courses including world music, American folk and ethnic music, jazz, and Western classical music.  She also directs the UIS Chorus and plays violin in the UIS Chamber Ensemble.

“Fiddling in the Classroom” is sponsored by UIS Music and the Sociology Anthropology program.  For more information, contact Graf by phone at 206-6570 or by e-mail at
    The University of Illinois at Springfield, one of three U of I campuses, is a small, public liberal arts university that offers 40 degree programs – 20 bachelor’s, 19 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.