The first thing I remember doing is playing violin, and I hope fiddling is the last thing I do before I die. Nothing brings me more joy than creating music, so when I perform on fiddle, flatfoot, or folksong, I always strive to share that joy with my audience.
I come from a musical family that had me reading music before reading words. I even perform on my great-great-grandfather’s fiddle. My family mostly sticks with classical music and musical theater (consequently, I’ve danced and performed theater my entire life). However, in high school, I discovered bluegrass—beginning an adventure into country, rock, western swing, and pop that dominates my life to the present.
Furthermore, I’ve been studying and sharing music history since college. After specializing in ancient Greek music history as an undergraduate at Yale University, I focused on American music and museums in the Public Humanities master’s program at Brown University. Early in college, I began combining my love of performing and history through public programs.
This fusion began while interning for the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in 2009. After graduating college, I returned to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History where I played fiddle tunes on the National Mall and performed a Civil War music program in the war exhibit. While working with the Ancient Department’s music collection at the Yale Art Gallery, I created an educational program on ancient Greek music and society. Later, while teaching at the non-profit Living History at a Providence, RI vocational high school, I won a year-long arts education grant from the Rhode Island State Council for the Arts to run a program on “Living Music History.”
I’ve also expanded my repertoire by fiddling, singing, and dancing in various bands. In college, I performed with the Connecticut bluegrass band Ragweed. After graduating, I joined the house band at Smugglers’ Notch Ski Resort where I formed a pop cover duo called “Sam and Sage” which performed throughout Vermont. In Nashville, I performed with a variety of bluegrass, western swing, and rock/country bands on Broadway and the backwoods. While pirating with Tom Mason and the Blue Buccaneers , I performed at libraries throughout the south, Tall Ships festivals across the Great Lakes, Pilgrimage music festivals in Tennessee, the Minnesota state fair (twice), and pirate festivals from North Carolina to Florida. These bands give me a continual source of bluegrass, classic country, and western swing inspiration.
I began my solo fiddling, flatfooting, singing act while studying at Brown, where my performance won the student “Battle of the Bands.” Consequently, I became the “student headliner” at the 2014 Brown University Folk Festival and returned for the 2015 Festival. As a final project, I wrote, produced, and performed a one-woman, electric-violin, looping, and tap-dancing musical–“Fiddlers’ Green”–inspired by the Civil War waltz “Lorena” (my show version was “Lorena’s Ghost.”). I later produced another Civil-War inspired solo show as a benefit tour for the national non-profit Braver Angels (my “It’s About U.S.” project). I have also performed extensively for Braver Angels, including recent performances in an original theater piece on the Battle of Gettysburg (at Gettysburg College), opening the annual convention’s closing concert, and performing with the band, Gangstagrass. My original music video, Bonny’s Lament, also won 1st place for best music video in the 3rd Annual International Women’s Freedom Song Contest.
In my current act, I take inspiration from 19th century display fiddlers. As described by historian Charles K. Wolfe, these performers strived to “entertain a crowd with nothing more than his [or her] fiddle and his skill.” Admittedly, my materials extend beyond voice and acoustic fiddle: I also use 5 string electric violin, looper and pedalboard, tap shoes, and mandolin. However, like my theatrical predecessors, I design my songs for live performance and aim to make my musical process visible and entertaining from start to finish.