Michigan Fiddling

Michigan has historically been home to a diverse and multi-ethnic tradition of fiddling and music. This tradition interacts with European, Canadian, and United States traditions and engages in regional interactions not limited to the political boundaries of countries or the State of Michigan, itself. Michigan traditional fiddling is part of a pan-northern style of fiddling with marked differences and disconnects from the often-more-familiar Southern, Western, and Appalachian styles of fiddling and traditional music. Michigan fiddling in many cases has much in common with Ontario fiddling, New England fiddling, and old Scottish and Irish traditions of fiddling. There is also significant influence from German, Polish, Scandinavian, Finnish, French, and other traditions of fiddling. Michigan fiddling is often highly creolized.  Michigan also interacts as a region with the Metis tradition of fiddling.  Though traditional forms of American music are often referred to as "Old-Time," this term carries so much baggage and so many preconceptions in the United States that the term "traditional" is often used on this website.



This website is dedicated to promoting, analysing, and collecting Michigan fiddling and traditional folk music. Previously, much information existed about the history of fiddling and folk music in Michigan, but locating it was not easy. This website's goals are to bring these disparate materials together as much as possible. In this way, we hope to promote and raise awareness of the rich tradition and history of Michigan fiddling.



A. Trae McMaken is the webmaster of the Michigan Fiddlers website. He began this project in conjunction with the suggestions of Michigan fiddler and fiddle historian Glenn Hendrix. Besides his interest and work in Michigan fiddle, folk music, and cultural history, Trae is an active performer, both as a fiddler and multi-instrumentalist and as a storyteller. His website can be found here: http://www.traemcmaken.com. Trae can be contacted at the above website or the below contact form for bookings related to traditional music and storytelling. For a more complete biography, see the About Trae McMaken page. Any questions or comments regarding the Michigan Fiddlers website can be directed to him via the Contact Form.


Glenn Hendrix is an active collector and historian of Michigan fiddling and a long-time member of the Original Michigan Fiddlers Association. He currently produces the OMFA newsletter. Glenn has transcribed numerous Michigan tunes and his books can be purchased online at the Elderly Instruments website. One book,  An Island of Fiddlers, is a collection of transcriptions of Beaver Island fiddler Patrick Bonner's tunes, including historical information. The other which he co-authored, Michigan Jamboree, is a more wide-scale tune collection with history. They are valuable resources for tunes and tune histories. Glenn has been recording and preserving Michigan fiddle music for years. He is a skilled fiddler, having learned from many musicians around Michigan, including Finnish music in the U.P.



Jim McKinney has been playing guitar since 1978 and fiddle since 1987.  He co-authored Come Dance With Me: Original Fiddle Compositions and Favorite Tunes of Les Raber and currently plays for dances in the Great Lakes region with The Golden Griffon Stringtet. Visit their website to see schedule and recordings. Jim also heads up the Michigan Old-Time Fiddle Championship at the Huron Applefest. This contest supports traditional Michigan style through its requirements for performance.




Jim Leary: Bio from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Website: I'm a folklorist who was born and raised in Rice Lake in northwestern Wisconsin.  Since the early 1970s my research has focused on the traditional songs, stories, customary practices, and handwork of indigenous and immigrant peoples and their mostly rural and working class descendants in America's Upper Midwest, resulting in numerous museum exhibits, folklife festivals, public radio programs, documentary sound recordings, films, essays, and such books as From Hardanger to Harleys: A Survey of Wisconsin Folk Art (1987), Yodeling in Dairyland: A History of Swiss Music in Wisconsin (1991), Wisconsin Folklore (1998), So Ole Says to Lena: Folk Humor of the Upper Midwest (2001), the "Folklore" section of The American Midwest: An Interpretive Encyclopedia (2006), Polkabilly: How the Goose Island Ramblers Redefined American Folk Music (2006), and a critical 3rd edition of Richard M. Dorson's Bloodstoppers and Bearwalkers: Folk Traditions of Michigan's Upper Peninsula.



Eliot Singer is an East Lansing folklorist, who trained at the University of Pennsylvania. He has been living and researching in Michigan since 1980 and for many years taught in the College of Education at Michigan StateUniversity. He primarily studies traditional stories and storytelling. During the mid-1980s, although out of his comfort zone, he interviewed and recorded several Michigan fiddlers, as part of a collaborative effort to documentand educate about Michigan traditional music. He has not continued with this research, but is excited about the possibilities of using new technologies to better accomplish the goal of educating about Michigan fiddle traditions than was possible at that time.