Chris Stuart, award-winning songwriter and journalist continues...
But let me introduce her to you. She’s from Redding, California (where Black Bear Diners is based—so it’s sort of the Comfort Food Capital of the West), and began taking fiddle lessons at the age of four. It took Megan four long years to win the National Fiddle Championship at eight years old at the famed Weiser National Fiddler’s Contest, considered the premier fiddling event in the world. She didn’t win the next year—I suspect Colonel Mustard in the parlor—then won three straight championships, following up with two more in 2003 and 2004. When I introduce her on stage as six-time national fiddle champion, I hear gasps from fiddlers in the audience. They know how hard it is to win one. Megan has also won six California State titles (which I consider more difficult since you have to invent a new form of social media while you fiddle), as well as the Minnesota State Championship, and served as a board member of the Grand Master Fiddler Championship.
She may not want me to say it, but Megan’s contest fiddling is really not what she’s about. As a songwriter, I lift an aggressive eyebrow whenever someone plays over the singing or tries to show off to the detriment of the song. Megan is a musician who listens to, and respects, lyrics as much as melody. She knows exactly what to play—and when—and is always about the song, not herself.
This selflessness comes across in her teaching, too. She’s a world-class fiddle teacher, but it’s all about the students’ goals. When we teach at camps, her students seem to have more fun than mine, which is fine, except they also learn more, which I think is rubbing it in a bit. And she teaches clogging and singing, too! Of course, I’ve never seen her do all three at once, but now that I’ve thrown out the challenge, I look forward to our next encounter. She’s taught at Augusta Heritage Week, the British Columbia Bluegrass Workshop, Sore Fingers Bluegrass Week in the UK, and the California Bluegrass Association Camp, among many others. Her latest adventure is FiddleStar Youth and Adult Fiddle Camps. If I were crazy enough—I mean, smart enough—to take up fiddle, I’d sign up for her camps. And if there are biscuits involved, I’m there. She has a wide range of students from professionals and contest winners to rank beginners, but she has the knack of making them all feel like they were born to play fiddle.
If you can’t make it to one of her camps, she’s just recorded an excellent CD called The Comprehensive Fiddler on Dark Shadow Records. It distills everything you need to know to get started with bluegrass fiddling.
I said before that I’ve heard her play with a few other bands. She’s currently playing with Pam Tillis and Lorrie Morgan, two country music legends who have high standards of musicianship and professionalism.
Megan has also played with a Who’s Who of bluegrass stars (maybe that should be a Hee Haw of bluegrass stars), such as Dale Ann Bradley, Roland White, Larry Cordle, Jim Hurst, and Chris Jones, and she’s a former member of 3 Fox Drive, Due West, and BEML, the duo of Bill Evans and Megan. I also recall the Honeydews, a fiddling act with Barbara Lamb, and one of the great band names of all time.
But go listen to her play, take a class from her, buy her records, and send her a text message (I find that’s the best way).
She may play bluegrass, folk, old-time, country, celtic, punk, motown and Texas styles, but really she’s her own genre. The brilliant ones are like that. Now, if she could just get her suitcase back.