MONMOUTH — Bows up!
That was Kelly Thibodeaux’s way of asking his workshop students to stop playing their fiddles.
He smiled when not all of them stopped right away.
“It’s hard to stop song once you start,” Thibodeaux said. “I started 42 years ago and haven’t stopped.”
Songs didn’t stop at the fourth Polk County Folk Life Festival held Saturday at Western Oregon University’s Werner Center. The annual festival celebrates music, dance and crafts from a variety of culture, and puts them on display in one place. Music filled the center, whether it was from one of the two stages or in the jam room, where musicians sat in a circle and played for an ever-rotating audience.
For some in Thibodeaux’s hour-long workshop in the children’s area at the festival, the songs had just begun.
Near the end of the workshop, Thibodeaux asked for volunteers to play a fiddle tune they just learned as he played guitar with them — with a bit of coaching along the way.
“That’s what fiddle players do. We play with guitar players,” Thibodeaux said. “I will be your guitar player. Don’t be shy, we are all friends here. It’s a life-changing experience.”
Josiah Balint, 5, was the second to volunteer to play the song, with a fiddle that was just his size. Thibodeaux strummed his guitar and provided just a little instruction to the youngster sitting crisscross in the chair next to him.
“Josiah that was totally awesome,” Thibodeaux said. “Are you sure you are only 5? Is that the first time you played fiddle. You’re what we can a natural-born.”
Yes, Josiah is sure he’s 5, and that he enjoyed the fiddle lesson.
“I just like it,” he said in matter-of-fact manner.
Thibodeaux played with his Cajan band Etouffee on the Jane Keefer stage to close out the festival. He joked that Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau taught him to play the fiddle, but really he picked it up when he was 20 years old and taught himself.
“I like the Marie Laveau story best,” he said laughing.
Now he makes the rounds at schools teaching others the instrument.
“I go all over the state of Oregon, and I work through art councils. I have this program based on four days. On the fourth day, they can do a recital. They come up one by one, and they play that little fiddle tune and they sound like they’ve been playing for months,” he said. “It’s an incredible program. I’ve been doing it for quite some time.”
Folklife Festival staff member Corrie Bruce was the last to perform with Thibodeaux during the workshop.
She said she’s had two fiddle lessons: Saturday’s workshop and the same workshop Thibodeaux gave at last year’s festival.
“I played it again this year because I had so much fun last time,” Bruce said. “He just makes it so easy and so fun.”