Thursday, January 5, 2012

Fiddle experts visit Skokie

FiddleImage by grepsy via FlickrRachel Baiman and Christian Sedelmyer aren’t just fiddlin’ around with their music.

They’re serious, committed young musicians, living in Nashville, and immersed in performing, writing, and exploring a wide range of folk and related styles, from traditional and bluegrass, to folk-rock, swing, and progressive. They are multi-instrumentalists but concentrate their music on the fiddle, and both recently switched to playing the more advanced 5-string fiddle.

Baiman and Sedelmyer perform Jan. 7 at the Ethical Humanist Society in Skokie for its Second Saturday Coffeehouse series hosted by Vicki Elberfeld. Special musical guest will be Matt Brown.

Baiman, 21, is an Oak Park native, and began playing violin at age four, learning to read music traditionally, but also using Suzuki books. She grew up involved with fiddle contests, music camps, and workshops, and has studied with Mike Casey, Jeff Midkiff, and, most recently, Matt Combs at Vanderbilt University, where Baiman is a student majoring in anthropology and music. Baiman is also part of the Nashville-based progressive folk quartet, Rockin’ Acoustic Circus.

Folk roots

Her evolving musical path began early, Baiman explained. “In the past, I’ve always been really focused on and influenced by music that has a built-in role for an acoustic fiddle. The first music that I fell in love with was old-time and bluegrass fiddle music. However, my parents always listened to a lot of folk singers, and some of my earliest memories involve being huddled up in a tent at some random folk festival in the pouring rain.”

It’s drier these days, she added. “Since moving to Nashville and hanging out with a lot of different musicians, I’m sort of being re-exposed to the folk and folk-rock traditions. I think my current musical choices really reflect this return to the idea of a great song, and songwriting, but obviously I’m still completely obsessed with the fiddle, so there is a lot of that there too.”

Sedelmyer, 27, a native of Erie, Pa., grew up exposed to the music of the ’60s and ’70s, artists like Crosby, Stills & Nash, and Neil Young, among many others, and was involved in bands in high school and college. But he didn’t originally plan on a career in music, and earned a degree in Business Management at Wake Forest University in North Carolina.

But he recognizes the value of his education as applied to his current pursuits. “I think studying business management in college taught me conceptually about how to think strategically and always keep a bigger picture in mind. That said, I gained most of the knowledge I have now about the music business playing and touring with The Farewell Drifters,” he said.

“As an equal partner in a nationally touring band that ran the strategic elements of the business almost entirely on its own, we learned how to manage all of the necessary components, creating original music, booking, promotion, distribution, merchandising, and financial management to keep the wheels turning.”

Working together

Baiman, who met Sedelmyer at a jam session in Nashville, said the duo aims for a “full sound.”

“We both have instinctual ideas about how to play a tune or a song, and luckily they tend to be different
and complementary, but there is still the issue of making sure somebody is fulfilling the rhythmic and melodic aspects at all times,” she said.

“Usually, our instincts are telling us to play the fiddle like a fiddle, but in this case, we have to think about playing the fiddle like a mandolin or a banjo. We will listen back to a song and find places where the groove drops out or it’s just getting too repetitive, and through the process of ‘fixing’ these issues, we usually come up with our best ideas. Singing is also a challenge, as the fiddle is a physically difficult instrument to sing with.”

The upcoming show in Skokie will be focused on American folk music.

“We’re going to play a blend of American folk music utilizing primarily two 5-string fiddles and vocal harmonies,” said Sedelmyer. “We’ll play original instrumental compositions, old-time, bluegrass and folk music, re-defined and orchestrated through the sonic landscapes of two fiddles. The multi-talented Matt Brown will also perform on claw-hammer banjo, guitar, fiddle, and vocals.”

Fiddle experts visit Skokie - Lincolnwood Review

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