by Dan Schram
The Fiddle, a production of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Southern Folklife Collection, happens Friday and Saturday on campus. Friday evening at Memorial Hall begins with three performers, each with intriguing backgrounds. Emily Schaad holds a masters degree in Appalachian Studies from Appalachian State; she also studied with late Piedmont legend Joe Thompson and has taken first prize in numerous fiddle and stringband competitions. Matt Glaser was the chairman of the String Department at the famed Berklee College of Music for 28 years. His styles range from jazz to bluegrass—the Boston Herald once called him "possibly America's most versatile fiddler." He also served on the board of advisers for Ken Burns' documentary, Jazz. Today, he works as the Artistic Director of the American Roots Music Program at Berklee.
The final individual performer is Byron Berline, a fiddler with a stunning list of career credits. He joined Bill Monroe's Bluegrass Boys in 1967 and continued as a sought-after session player in Nashville. He sat in on both of Gram Parsons' solo releases and The Band's "Acadian Driftwood," "Country Honk" by The Rolling Stones, and Stephen Stills' Manassas. It seems that Berline's heart has always stayed with bluegrass music, though: Besides sitting in with North Carolina legends Merle and Doc Watson and Earl Scruggs, he has released a string of records with Sugar Hill during the last 30 years. Today he's settled in Guthrie, Okla., where he runs Byron's Double Stop Fiddle Shop. Two-time Grammy winners Nashville Bluegrass Band end the evening.
Saturday at the Wilson Library, The Fiddle offers a four-part symposium, with speakers covering a range of topics related to the roots of the instrument. The talks include "A Survery of American Traditions," "Examining The Irish Connection In The Southern American Fiddle Repertoire," and "Recording Regional Fiddle Music In The Late Twentieth Century." It all ends with a panel discussion led by Matt Glaser, with fiddlers Emily Schaad and Byron Berline.
The wonderful program by the Southern Folklife Collection is free and open to the public. Tickets are required to the Friday performance but can be picked up at the Memorial Hall box office. For more information, please call 919-843-3333 or visit the venue's website. For more information on performers, set times, and the symposium location, please visit the Southern Folklife at UNC.