Fiddle Club: tunes in the market

Amongst all the sights and sounds of the downtown Appleton farmer’s market, you may have noticed a group of Lawrence students drawing their bows back and forth across their instruments and festive folk music filling the air. These are the students of the Fiddle Club, an organization that president and fifth-year Kiara Didier says is dedicated to providing a space for students to engage with fiddle music on a deep — and yet relaxed — level.  

“It’s something that gives me a space to make music where there’s not the pressure to be correct about how I’m doing it all the time,” Didier said. “And it’s a space where I can come and hang out with folks that just like to play music, and it doesn’t have to be for performance … it’s just for fun.”  

Didier was first introduced to folk music during their freshman year of high school through a string band. Upon coming to Lawrence, they were looking for a club that functioned similarly. The Fiddle Club president at the time was also a member of their studio class, and thanks in part to that familiarity, Didier began attending the club immediately as a first-year.  

Each week, Fiddle Club members spend the greater part of their sessions together learning a new tune by ear, often taught by Didier. However, as of late, Didier mentioned that new students have begun taking up the role of teaching as well, bringing songs they know and sharing them with the rest of the club. After practicing the new tune, members decompress from their hard work with a jam session, where they revisit songs they had previously learned together.  

Despite the name “Fiddle Club,” fiddles are not the only instrument offered; pianos, guitars, banjos, bassoons, clarinets and even mandolins are just a few examples of the many different sounds the club has incorporated into their music in the past. Even for people without prior instrumental experience, the Fiddle Club can serve as a gateway to learning how to play.  

Fiddle Club has had guests come in to share their knowledge of folk music, such as renowned fiddler Alasdair Fraser and cellist Natalie Haas, as well as semi-local bands to play with. In Spring Term 2023, Fiddle Club collaborated with Lawrence Swing Dance (LSD) to bring in a Madison-based string band for a line dancing workshop. The experience was one of Didier’s favorites of being in the club, since they thought it helped to contextualize for club members the spaces where fiddle music is traditionally played.  

The season of the farmer’s market is quickly approaching yet again, and with it, the sights and sounds that make it a College Avenue hallmark are also to soon return. Of course, this includes the Fiddle Club, so next time you’re browsing the market, be sure to tune in.