Name: Lissa Schneckenburger
How did you get into fiddling? How long have you been fiddling?
I've been fiddling my whole life. I started when I was a kid, about 6 years old, and my very first lesson was with my mom's college roommate who was also a fiddler. My parents are big folk fans, they love dance music and traditional music, so it was easy for me to fall into. It was just a really fun thing I did with my whole family. And I've had the good fortune to mentor or study with a lot of wonderful fiddlers.
Who are some of your favorite fiddlers?
Oh my gosh, you could probably write an entire article just on amazing fiddlers. But people I've studied with closely that I really admire are Greg Boardman, David Kaynor and Alasdair Fraser. Those are kind of my main mentors. And then there are a million other people that are inspiring. There are so many inspiring fiddlers.
How do you select the right fiddle? Are there differences from one to another?
I've only ever played two violins in my adult life, and they each have different qualities that I love. I have a French violin built in 1951, and I love it because it has a dark sound. It's a very sweet, moody kind of instrument. Violins often have personalities just like the players themselves. My other one is a Bob Childs violin. He's a maker from Boston, and he made this one in 2005, so it's a relatively new instrument. That one is cool because it was made by a friend of mine who is a wonderful craftsman. It has a richer tone, a little bit more like a viola, and it's bigger so it has a bigger dynamic range.
What other instruments do you play?
I do a lot of singing in my performances, and a little singing in my teaching. I think right now I have four students who are learning how to sing and play the fiddle at the same time. And also at home, I play a lot of ukulele. I'm actually working on a new recording, we're in the studio for a new CD, and that one has a lot of ukulele on it. It's the first time I've ever recorded with it.
What is the most difficult part of playing the fiddle to master?
For a beginner, the hardest thing is patience. It's not a very forgiving instrument at the beginning, so for beginners it's difficult to be able to think ahead and know it won't always squeak and scratch forever. You've got to live in the moment and just enjoy it where it is, whatever your level of ability. You have to find a way to enjoy the sounds, no matter what sound you are making.
What direction do you see fiddle music going in the future? Will it always be traditional, or is there a market for newer fiddle music?
There is definitely a vibrant and healthy fiddle scene, and I think that will probably mean there's going to be lots of new music always being composed and played within the community of folk musicians. People definitely do love the old traditional tunes, but man, people love the new ones, too. If you go to a jam session currently, you'll probably see a mix of old tunes and new tunes. I like it all, and I've had different focuses at different points in my career.
Who wins in a fiddle off, you or the devil?
I don't know, but it reminds me of my new favorite song, by the Wood Brothers, and the lyrics in the chorus are "I've got a soul that I won't sell and I don't read postcards from hell." Then the final line is "that's how I play the blues so well."
In what part of the house does a fiddle sound best: basement, main floor, or roof?
I'm going to go with the roof. I'm a big fan of heights. Of course, the musical Fiddler on the Roof lends itself to some ridiculous gigs from time to time. I have literally been hired to play a fiddler on the roof, and I've done it. I don't even remember what it was for. (next page »)