Rembrandt of Appalachian fiddlers performs

Photo by High Street Concerts
Bruce Molsky
Bruce Molsky

Bruce Molsky grew up in New York, studied architecture and engineering at an Ivy League college and wears an earring. Not exactly the profile you’d expect from one of the world’s premiere fiddlers, according to Bloomberg News.

Even more surprising is that Molsky didn’t start playing the fiddle until he was 18 and didn’t become a full-time musician until he was 41.

“Most people this good start out when they’re five years old,” says Jerry Douglas, a dobro virtuoso and mainstay of Alison Krauss’s Union Station band.

So how did a guy from the Bronx become the “Rembrandt of Appalachian fiddlers,” as violin master Darol Anger calls him.

Molsky, 55, said it all began when he was 11 and longtime Kennedy Center jazz director Billy Taylor visited his school.

“I heard him play and thought -- man I want that,” he told Bloomberg.

Molsky bought a guitar and took lessons for a year. He discovered old-time music while spending two years at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. “That was the end of Cornell for me,” he said.

Alone or with fellow musicians, guitar, fiddle or banjo in hand, Molsky explores traditional music from an astonishingly broad range of cultures over the past two decades – synthesizing them and refracting them through his own evolving sensibilities to the point where the sources of his inspiration transform themselves into a sound that is uniquely his. While most identified with traditional American old-time music, Molsky’s influences range from the Appalachian soul of Tommy Jarrell to Delta blues; from the haunting modal strains of Irish music to the rhythmically nimble music of Eastern Europe.

Bruce Molsky performs Sunday Oct. 2 at The Lyceum, 201 S. Washington St., Alexandria at 8:00 pm.

Read more here. Tickets here.