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I began this blog in order to share my experiences learning instrument building from my dad, but along with those stories I look forward to sharing my memories of growing up with two busy, musically inclined parents as well as my current experiences stepping out on my own as a female luthier promoting environmental sustainability in her instruments while working to alter gender stereotypes in a male dominated field. If you'd like to use quotes from this blog for interviews or in your own work, please contact me first! (email is henderson.elizabethj@gmail.com)

Thursday, August 15, 2013


It is currently 1:13 on Sunday morning. I figured I would start this blog post while listening to the competition results of the Galax Fiddlers Convention. The voice crackling over the air waves reminds me of so many August nights that I spent running between jam sessions barefoot looking for some debauchery amid twangs of guitars and banjos. (Side note: my dad just won second place in the guitar competition.)

When I was younger, I used to love going to fiddler's conventions with my dad. Most of the time I would stay up way past any normal hour for bedtime, and eventually fall asleep in a friend's camper listening to the folks huddled in tight circles playing bluegrass tune after bluegrass tune.

Heading to conventions like Galax, I always had a family of friends that I rarely saw outside of such gatherings. After my dad pulled into a parking spot at each festival, I would race to find my friend Liza, and while I had no idea where she lived, or what she did in her real life, we would continue on seamlessly where the last festival left off, talking and playing and finding things to do while our parents played music together.

I was obviously pretty into Aaron... (Photo credit: Cheryl Davis
One particularly special family was a huge part of my festival family. Gary and Cheryl Davis are two of the kindest, most thoughtful people I know, and one summer, while at Galax, my dad allowed me to spend several days with them. To me it felt like a year, and every second was the greatest second of my life. Gary and Cheryl have two sons, Brandon and Aaron, both of whom were twice my age at the time of my visit; I was six and Aaron was 12 and Brandon was 14. Even though there was a pretty significant age gap between us, they always let me join in playing with them and shared their Duck Hung Nintendo game with me. Cheryl took me everywhere with her and made me feel so special to be included in their lives. I will always cherish that time with them, and the Galax Fiddlers Convention set into motion the opportunity for me to get to know them, and other great folks, while my dad was busy being stopped every few steps to chat with fans and friends.

Me with Cheryl Davis (Photo credit: Cheryl Davis)
Galax this year :-)

I learned very early on not to hope for any meaningful time with my dad while he was at these events as every one is the same. I would ask if we could go somewhere, typically places along the lines of the sno cone booth or the funnel cake maker (he calls them Funeral Cakes), and he would always oblige, but we would rarely make it before I grew bored of listening to him chat with each new person he encountered. Now, I haven't been to Galax in several years, and this year something really strange happened. I got to hang out with my dad little bit. I announced to whoever was listening at the time that I wanted to go watch the bluegrass band competition, and my dad offered to accompany me. We made our way to the stage, and made it in record time. I figured we would just stand, or go sit in the bleachers because the area in front of the stage was filled with camp chairs and folding nylon recliners. To my surprise, he said, "Oh, just go pick out some good chairs that nobody is sitting in. If the owners come by, they will tell us." So we did. And only got kicked out once. With each band, my dad would say, "They are gonna win something." Or, "Hm, maybe their sound wasn't set up quite right. Good job anyway though." It is great to hear how encouraging he is of his peers and up and coming musicians. I love that about him.

Me and my dad in our stolen camp chairs. 
I had a great time meeting new Galax friends and felt so happy to see the new generation of kids running around barefoot, and learning to love this type of music. There are some incredibly talented people who all convene at this one big festival, and I am so lucky I get to call them my friends.

New generation of Galax goers. 


  1. Thanks for the blog post. Very interesting to read and great pic of the New Generation Galax'ers.
    thank ya
    thank ya

  2. Great overview of the yearly Galax experience! You write so well, especially for 1:13 am! Thanks for sharing this little snapshot in time from your personal story of life with family and friends at the Old Fiddlers Convention!