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Versailles State Park Bluegrass Festival

Fiddle champ Carwile and wife
to appear in Ripley County

By Levi King
Staff Writer


(October 2005) – As a curious 7-year-old, Daniel Carwile found his first fiddle while snooping under his father’s bed. The instrument was meant to be a surprise gift, but the youngster couldn’t wait.

Daniel & Amy Carwile

Photo provided

Daniel and Amy Carwile will perform
at noon on Oct. 2 in Versailles, Ind.

Carwile, now 31, hasn’t stopped playing since. He had plenty of influence getting started – his father played in a bluegrass band and his grandfather was a competitive fiddler in Tennessee and Alabama.
One of Carwile’s earliest victories was the 1987 Tennessee Valley Old Time Fiddlers Convention. Carwile won the event again in 2001, making him a seven-time “Fiddle King.”
Now the reigning U.S. Grand Master Fiddle Champion, Carwile will perform at this year’s Versailles State Park Bluegrass Festival with his wife, Amy. Listeners can expect to hear a blend of styles from the duo, Carwile said in a September telephone interview from his studio in Lexington, Ky.
“My wife and I play a mix of things. We play twin fiddles on bluegrass, old time, Celtic and classical.”
The outdoor festival runs from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 1; and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 2. Admission is $5. Several favorites will perform, including Hoosier Hills, James Kramer Project, Skynny Lynyrd, Rural Route 2, James White, Born Again, Sons of Thunder, Lost Mill String Band and others. A jam session and bonfire will take place Saturday at 7 p.m. The Carwiles will perform at noon Sunday.
“I’m looking forward to it,” said Carwile. “We’ve been playing a lot of festivals lately, and we always enjoy the reception we get.”
Carwile studied music at the University of Northern Alabama before earning his bachelor’s degree in music education from Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music. He spent three years as a band director in his hometown of Athens, Ala. While judging a championship in Idaho, Carwile met his wife, and the two eventually moved to Nashville, Tenn., where Carwile taught fiddle lessons. He also found work recording and performing with artists including Bela Fleck, Martin Hayes, Allison Krauss and many others.
Just last year, the Carwiles moved to Lexington and opened Carwile String Studio. There, they produce instructional videos and teach lessons and workshops on fiddle and other instruments.
“I’m looking for a balance. I feel gifted as a performer and a teacher,” Carwile said.
In October 2004 at the International Bluegrass Music Association’s annual contest, Carwile captured the coveted U.S. Grand Master Fiddle Champion title. The rules of the contest make it especially difficult, he explained. Carwile was selected through a preliminary audition as one of the five walk-ons.
“In the first round, there are 25 fiddlers, and 20 of them are by invitation only,” he said.
During the first round, fiddlers are limited to six minutes and must perform a breakdown, a waltz and a song of their choice. Ten fiddlers proceed to the second round, and must again perform a breakdown, a waltz and a song of their choice, this time with eight minutes. A team of judges, who listen to all performances in a remote booth, unaware of the contestants’ names and appearances, select a winner from the 10 finalists.
As the reigning champion, Carwile is ineligible to compete in this year’s contest but will judge the event later this month. While there, he will perform at the Grand Ole Opry’s Ryman Auditorium as part of the IBMA’s awards show, held annually in conjunction with the fiddle championship. Carwile has played at the Opry before as part of a tribute to Roy Acuff. This time, the fiddler will play in another tribute, called “Moody Bluegrass,” which honors the Moody Blues.

• For more information on the Versailles Bluegrass Festival, call the Ripley County Tourism Bureau at 1-888-747-5394, or visit: www.versaillesbluegrassfestival.com.

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