Old-time country fiddling program at Kenyon features Kenny Sidle

Staff report

A fiddler who has won the National Heritage Fellowship Award will perform with one of his top students in a workshop that will spotlight the traditional music that has echoed across Knox County since its founding.

Kenny Sidle of Hanover will play at “Old-Time Country Fiddling,” the last of this spring’s Visits series at Peirce Lounge in Kenyon’s Peirce Hall in Gambier. The free event will be April 21 at 11:10 am and will be moderated by Judy Sacks, an affiliated scholar in American studies at Kenyon.

“Kenny’s playing is fast, articulate, and note-y — meaning he is very melodic,” Sacks said. “All the music he plays is fundamentally dance music.”

Sidle was born in Licking County in 1931 and began playing professionally in the 1950s for local radio shows and square dances. In 1988 the National Endowment for the Arts named Sidle a Heritage Fellow for his technical precision in his bowing and noting, his affable personality and his impact as a mentor to numerous students. In 1994 he won Opryland’s Grand Masters Fiddle Championship.

Sacks said Sidle uses a long bow technique made popular by Texas players to emphasize the melody of a song.

“There are pockets in the United States where fiddling matters and is a part of everyday life. People sit down and play in their living rooms for fun,” she said. “And Kenny is a part of that. In rural central Ohio, fiddling is a thriving tradition.”

The earliest settlers from the East brought their violins as they built towns along the Ohio rivers. As early as 1800, travelers reported hearing fiddling by both black and white folk musicians.

Sidle will be joined by his student Adam Jackson, a champion fiddler who plays with the Back Porch Swing Band in Ohio. Professor of Sociology Howard Sacks will add rhythm guitar to the April 21 event.

The Visits series is organized by the Rural Life Center at Kenyon, which promotes education, scholarship and public projects about Knox County and has won awards for its model of college-community engagement.

Staff report