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In three-quarters of a century, the annual Old Fiddlers’ Convention has grown into a weeklong event that draws thousands of tourists from all over the country to Galax.
It has become an American institution; a means of preserving and promoting bluegrass and old-time music.
The Galax Moose Lodge works hard every year to put on the event and it’s a beloved part of summer for music fans and people who use the event as an enormous family or class reunion.
Since 1935, many of the legendary performers have passed on, but what keeps the fiddlers’ convention going is its ever-growing legion of young musicians.
The event is a showcase of professional-quality talent from around the world on Tuesday through Saturday nights, but Monday is the night for the young stars to shine.
Hundreds of contestants age 15 and younger take to the stage in Felts Park, proving that traditional folk music has a bright future. The music that the Moose Lodge created the convention to preserve is in very safe — and skilled — hands.
This is the 10th anniversary of youth night, the best idea the Moose had since starting the event 75 years ago. Even when overall musician registrations were dropping earlier this decade, the number of young contestants grew steadily. Today, those contestant numbers are rising again as these youth, given a chance to hone their craft, have grown up and taken to the main stage.
Going to fiddlers’ any night is fun, but Monday night is an awe-inspiring experience. Competitors range from tykes with just a few fiddle lessons behind them to child prodigies that outshine their adult counterparts.
As the old-timers pass on and the longtime competitors age, it’s vital to keep passing down the songs and styles that will keep the music of Appalachia alive.
The fiddlers’ convention encourages these youngsters to strive for excellence and gives them an opportunity to meet adult mentors and peers who share their love of music.
It’s hard for even a seasoned competitor to be jaded about the convention when you watch a tiny tot stand in front of thousands of fans, play “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” on a fiddle with confidence and receive a standing ovation.
Here’s to the Galax Moose Lodge, the hundreds of volunteers, the music teachers and parents who help preserve the past and plant the seeds for the future of mountain music in their children.
May it grow even stronger over the next 75 years.