FIDDLIN’ is a hopeful and inspiring film that shines a light on what is best about America. Filmed in the Appalachian Mountains at the World’s Oldest Fiddler’s Convention, FIDDLIN’ shows the uplifting and healing power of music. With multiple generations jamming together and kids holding instruments instead of cellphones, it truly feels like a step back in time.
FIDDLIN’ takes us to a unique place in the beautiful Appalachian Mountains, home of the World’s Oldest Fiddler’s Convention in Galax, VA - a little known culture full of traditions as well as the heart and soul of Old Time and Bluegrass music.
Every year in August, multitudes of fiddlers and pickers gather to compete for the top prize of the coveted blue ribbon. Show-stopping youth talent jam alongside local legends in a joyous celebration of Americana. A frenzy of music is heard from the campgrounds as musicians from around the world gather to play together for the weeklong convention.
With the beautiful cinematic backdrop and authentic portraits of these generous and humble multi-generational musicians, we discover the history of the music, the mentoring that is taking place, and the passing on of the culture and the music.
Despite difficulties and hardships, these musicians find joy and community in their music, claiming they will play until the day they die.
Wayne Henderson, a world-renowned luthier known as the “guitar god,” is both a master craftsman and enthralling storyteller. He gives a rare look into his guitar vault showing his prized guitars. Wayne also introduces us to his late friend, “Doc” Watson. “Doc” is an icon for folk, bluegrass, and country music due to his mastery of the flat-top guitar and was a huge influence on many of the musicians in the film, including the young Presley Barker.
Wayne’s friendship with 11-year old guitar prodigy, Presley Barker, shows just how closely knit this community of musicians can be. The endearing relationship between Presley and Wayne is a testament to the music’s power.
3 Musicians relay their stories of how the music has profoundly changed or even saved their lives. Karen Carr shares that she was in an “insane asylum, well it was a nice insane asylum” and that after she picked up an instrument the voices in her head were silenced and she was able to stop taking dozens of pills a day.
Young female musicians reveal how they are trying to make it in a bluegrass world dominated by males, while an LGBTQ musician discusses connecting via music in a culture where she is able to walk up to total strangers and learn some new tunes. Viewers come to know JAM where youth are being introduced to music after school by the Junior Appalachian Musicians program. Despite thousands of kids playing instruments in four states, the program is now in jeopardy, due to continued threats of de-funding the National Endowment of the Arts.
Stories are intricately woven together all with the backdrop of the fierce and friendly competition taking place between and amongst the musicians. As the competitions and Convention draw to a close, everyone is nervous and hopeful, though they claim they’ll celebrate either way, by playing even more music.
The Adult Guitar Competition is one of the more competitive with 250 participants. When the top 10 finalists are announced they include 11-year-old Presley Barker and his mentor, 67- year-old Wayne Henderson. They shake hands and wait. Regardless of who wins, they will be singing each other’s praises and looking forward to coming back next year to do it all again.
Sister filmmakers, Director, Julie Simone, and Producer, Vicki Vlasic, grew up in these mountains and traveled back home to capture and share their heritage. Once the Moose Lodge learned the sisters were locals and that the Lodge knew their Grandpa, Julie and Vicki were given permission to film for the first time in the Convention’s 80-year history.