The Fiddle Mercantile presents The Fiddler in Question workshops

I recently caught up with Brandon Godman (Laurie Lewis, Dale Ann Bradley, Doyle Lawson, etc…) on a morning hike up one of our many hills in San Francisco. Brandon opened The Fiddle Mercantile a couple of years back, and is now excited to present a new online workshop series, the Fiddler in Question alongside his trusty cohort – and wonderful fiddler in her own right – Leah Wollenburg. They have a wonderful lineup of 90-minute workshops where they “explore these varying styles through the eyes and ears of each fiddler, focusing on how they play, how they learn, and what inspires them each time they pick up their fiddle.”

As usual, Brandon was quite happy to answer some questions on this current project.

Hey Brandon, tell us about the new Fiddler in Question series?

The Fiddler in Question is a series of online workshops featuring 7 master fiddlers from various styles that I’m hosting through my shop, The Fiddle Mercantile.  It’s running every other Saturday from January 23-April 17. In the series we are seeking to not only learn HOW these fiddlers play, but WHY they play the way they do, exploring the various ingredients that compose their unique fiddle voice.  

Who all is lined up to participate?

For these sessions, we will feature IBMA Fiddler of the Year Deanie Richardson, old-time great Tatiana Hargreaves, jazz master Jason Anick, Canadian fiddle king Calvin Vollrath, Irish fiddle icon Liz Carroll, old time scholar Jake Blount, and Texas fiddle champion Megan Lynch Chowning. If you aren’t familiar with all of these fiddlers, I highly encourage you to check them all out!

2021 Winter/Spring Schedule

What is the format and is it for all levels?

Sessions are online using Zoom, which is something we’ve all become masters of thanks to COVID-19. Each session will be moderated by myself or Leah Wollenberg, and will feature good amounts of playing, Q&A, and a round table discussion at the end. Don’t worry if you can’t attend the workshop live. If you sign up you will get a link to download the recording to watch and study at your leisure. All levels are encouraged to attend, as we are trying to create a program that everyone can take away something from.

It’s always a challenge to engage participants, but must be even harder when it is all remote. Are you doing anything special to that end?

That’s a good point. We start each workshop with the featured fiddler leading us in a familiar community tune that we all play together.  Throughout the workshop, I encourage questions from the attendees. We have various moments of playing, and we finish everything up with a roundtable discussion where I encourage everyone to highlight things they found particularly interesting. Learning through the lens of others is very interesting!  

How has the response been?

The response has been great so far! We have many folks attending all 7 sessions, which I highly recommend, and are even picking up some international attendees.  

What has surprised you about it so far?

I’m always delightfully surprised at how eager people are to learn. That in itself is very inspiring.  

What would take for you to consider it a success?

I want to support these amazing fiddlers and their artistry during this especially trying time, so I would like to get enough participants to make this financially helpful to each of them. It’s also my continuing goal to help build and nurture the fiddle community. Music is a way I can escape my troubles, connect with others, bridge gaps, and recharge. I hope this gives folks another opportunity to do that.  

How does one sign up and does it have to be for the entire series or just one session?

You can sign up for one session or the whole series.  For more information and to sign up, visit The Fiddle Mercantile online.

Who’s next on tap?

Tatiana Hargreaves is our next Fiddler in Question on February 6 at 11:00 a.m. (PST).  Here is a video of her playing a killer version of Buffalo Gals with Allison de Groot.


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About the Author

Dave Berry

Dave Berry is a California based author, mandolin picker, and composer who writes the California Report column for Bluegrass Today. He grew up in the Ohio Valley right between where the Big Sandy and Big Scioto rivers dump into the Ohio. His articles, Morning Walk album, and video are available on streaming sites and his website at