Stephen Burwell engaged to Haley Rhea

Veteran fiddler, Stephen Burwell, is the latest professional bluegrass musician to announce his engagement. The Texas native will be marrying Haley Rhea of Sevierville, TN.

Burwell, known for his time as a member of Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, and more recently with Chosen Road, met his future bride-to-be last September at Doyle’s festival in Denton, NC. There to twin fiddle with Matt Flake and appear as a guest performer with Lawson’s band, Burwell noticed Rhea from the stage.

“It was love at first sight for me!” he expressed his feelings for Rhea.

“Haley is my wife’s sister,” Matt Flake interjected. “Our whole family was at the Denton festival and Stephen and I were on stage. He leaned over and said, ‘you see that girl sitting next to your wife?’ I said, ‘yea, that’s my sister-in-law.’ He said, ‘you’re gonna have to introduce me to her,’ and I said, ‘I already had that planned out.'”

With matchmaking in the works, things progressed quickly.

“I knew that I was going to ask her out,” Burwell admitted.

Rhea works as a hair and make-up stylist. Though not a picker, she is a big music supporter and enjoys bluegrass as well as other genres.

“We had our first date in October,” Burwell explained. “Everything has been great since that first date. She’s the sweetest thing.”

The professional musician soon knew that he had met his person. Burwell plotted his proposal with the aid of Haley’s sister, Betsy Flake.

“We arranged to have family pictures taken at a friend of Haley’s in the Smokies. It was beautiful. It worked out great because we already had a photographer there. I waited until Haley wasn’t looking, then Betsy handed me the ring. Thankfully, she said yes.”

Rhea shared, “Stephen is a huge blessing in my life, and I thank God for all the things big and small that came together and allowed me to meet him in Denton. He is truly an answered prayer. A prayer that God answered exceedingly above what I could have imagined. I absolutely could not be more excited to marry him!”

Burwell, who grew up in Seattle, was homeschooled. At age eight, his parents enrolled him for classical violin lessons at church. Once he was introduced to fiddle tunes, he was forever changed. Sold on bluegrass, he took fiddle lessons for four years from Washington instructor, Pete Martin. As he grew and became more proficient, he played in multiple bands, including Shannon Slaughter and County Claire before joining Quicksilver.

“I had met Eli Johnston at IBMA. When Doyle was looking for a fiddle player, Eli threw my name out and I got to audition.”

Burwell traveled with Lawson for more than five years. In May 2020, he stepped away from that position to focus on studio work in Nashville.

Now Burwell’s other big news is that he is returning to Quicksilver to play twin fiddles with Flake. Following Burwell and Rhea’s September wedding, Doyle with have twin fiddling brother-in-laws in his ensemble.

“I can’t wait to marry her,” Burwell concluded.

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About the Author

Sandy Hatley

Sandy Chrisco Hatley is a free lance writer for several NC newspapers and Bluegrass Unlimited magazine. As a teenager, she picked banjo with an all girl band called the Happy Hollow String Band. Today, she plays dobro with her husband's band, the Hatley Family.