Folk with friends: Faces of the Fiddler’s Convention


Max Correa

Passerbys listen to musicians playing bluegrass music in a stairwell alcove in Plemmons Student Union during the Fiddler’s Convention Feb. 5, 2022.

Lily Kincaid, Associate A&C Editor

Sounds of folk music filled the Plemmons Student Union as musicians, dancers, vendors and patrons gathered to check out the 14th Annual Old-Time Fiddlers Convention Feb. 5. 

In past years, the Old-Time Fiddlers Convention included workshops, presentations and square dancing competitions. Due to COVID-19, those events were canceled this year; however, this year’s event included a handmade market, jam sessions and adult and youth competitions. 

The Hogslop String Band’s performance with the Trailblazers kicked off the convention weekend at the Schaefer Center Feb. 4. The next day, vendors set up their booths and competitions began.

Attendees at the Fiddler’s Convention dance while musicians play in music circles Feb. 5, 2022 (Samuel Cooke)

Everything from handmade jewelry to pottery to upcycled clothes was on display at the market, and the vendors ranged from students to folk artists who have been vending for over a decade. 

Thirteen-year-old Bayla Davis said she has played banjo for most of her life. While she’s been to other conventions like this with her family, this was her first one at App State. She entered the youth banjo competition and the string band competition.

“When I was six years old, for a random reason, I said, ‘Since my name starts with a B, I’m going to do everything that starts with a B.’ So I wanted to join basketball, and I wanted to do baseball,” Bayla said. 

She asked her mom if there were any instruments that started with the letter B, and her mom told her “banjo,” which is how she started playing. Bayla’s interest in the banjo inspired her siblings to play the banjo too, she said. That’s when her mom suggested they learn other bluegrass instruments. 

Now, five of the seven Davis children play some type of bluegrass instrument. Ranging from ages seven to 13 and playing banjo, fiddle, guitar and mandolin, the Davis children competed in several different competitions at the convention. 

Bayla’s younger sister Sylvie Davis took up fiddle when she was around five years old. Now, the 12-year-old goes to fiddler’s conventions alongside her siblings to show off her “unique talent.”

Richard Hood stands with his fretless banjo made out of a gourd Feb. 5, 2022. (Lily Kincaid)

“It kinda seemed cool to actually be able to do something else that not a lot of other kids did,” Sylvie said. 

Richard Hood, a two-finger style banjo player from Greene County, Tennessee, has attended the Old-Time Fiddlers Convention for six years. Hood has played banjo since he was 13, when he taught himself to play by listening to slowed down records. He used to play bluegrass for a living, but after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, he’s moved more toward old-time tunes.

Hood said he isn’t as interested in playing bluegrass anymore, though. When he’s sitting at home or sitting on his porch, he’d rather “play something pretty that has some character to it,” he said. 

This year, Hood brought his fretless banjo made by Barry Sholder out of a gourd, which he’s only had for less than a year. He loves it, and the sound is great, he said, but it can be hard to play. 

While this is the first time Hood used the gourd banjo in a competition, he said it would probably be the last. 

“This, I think, is probably the last banjo contest in my life because Parkinson’s is getting to me. So I figured I’d show up one more time and try the old gourd banjo,” Hood said.