Hooked on Bluegrass

Caroline Disney

Bluegrass struck me late in life. I started playing violin in 4th grade in the school system. Even though I grew up in Wyoming, I don't remember hearing bluegrass music, but I remember sneaking on the country station in my car when nobody else was around! :0) Nobody else in my family played music, and there was not much encouragement, but I kept on anyway! I played strictly classical, changing to viola in 7th grade, through high school and some college. I joined the Air Force, moved to San Bernardino. The next 10 years my music was put aside to ride Harleys, raise babies (2 daughters) and move around the state of California. We landed our family in Bishop--a small, very remote location.

After a couple years I connected with some classical players to play in a small chamber group. My stand partner, "Fiddling' Pete" Waterston offered a class in fiddling through the local Jar College outreach. He became my mentor and re-introduced me to those old Irish tunes I used to play for my mom, only now I realized I could memorize them! I used to tell myself that I couldn't play without music notes on a page! Soon a family band in town invited me to join -- "Blue Moon String Band". About that time a group of us started the Millpond Music Festival that still goes on today in September. That's when I met Laurie Lewis, who has taught me so much over the years. Next, I met a rock-n-roll guitarist who encouraged me to learn how to improvise, and introduced me to my Zeta electric violin. "Play a scale in "C". OK, now just play whatever comes into your head!" What a concept, but I loved it.

In 1998 a series of crises plopped me into Auburn. After a couple of months I met Penny Allen who took me to a jam in Woodland. That's when I really got hooked on bluegrass! I wanted to keep playing all night! I got the Fake book and obsessed about learning songs. I had heard about the Grass Valley festival from the Blue Moon Band in Bishop, but hadn't been to a festival other than Millpond. I was so excited to be in the middle of all this playing! -- Around the campground till I couldn't see! I started going to jams every weekend, and festivals whenever could. I got a job with the State in downtown Sacramento, and as I was walking around the Capitol Park one day, I heard some bluegrass music and met another group -- we still jam in the rose garden at Friday lunch hour. I loved the house jams--still do! Judy and I formed "Sidekick" with the others and played for 4 years doing gigs all around the area.

In 2006 I introduced the idea of a bluegrass festival in Auburn to a local committee (for the theater), and it was a huge success! I've met so many inspiring musicians and downright interesting people around bluegrass! Today, I'm playing less bluegrass than I'd like, but keeping up my chops playing in the Auburn Symphony and in a blues trio -- "Confluence." Looking forward to an active summer of bluegrass pickin'.

(posted 3/13/2008)

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