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No Fiddling Around 

The Blue Waters Bluegrass Festival reminds us that the violin is alive and well in the Spokane area

click to enlarge All-female bluegrass group Della Mae brightens up Medical Lake this weekend..
  • All-female bluegrass group Della Mae brightens up Medical Lake this weekend..

A high-end violin boasts the same price tag as a brand-new luxury vehicle. This means that when fiddler Kimber Ludiker has to fly, her instrument always comes along with as a carry-on.

“If they ever told me there wasn’t enough overhead space and I had to check my violin, I wouldn’t fly,” says Ludiker, a member of the bluegrass group Della Mae.

While this philosophy may seem extreme, consider the horror stories of precious instruments smashed in the belly of a plane.

Ludiker and her fiddle have safely made it to their next destination via air travel. Her band will start in Utah, then go to Wyoming for a bluegrass workshop and festival. It’s from the airport that she answers her phone.

“Since our trip to Central Asia last November, we’ve changed the way we tour,” Ludiker says. “We do a lot of teaching and have talks lined up. We hope we can continue to spread the word about this kind of music.”

This weekend, the group is off to Medical Lake to play the Blue Waters Bluegrass Festival for the second time. For Ludiker, it’s a homecoming. Her mom, JayDean, still lives here, giving fiddle lessons.

“My mother has helped turn Spokane into the fiddle Mecca that it is,” Ludiker says proudly. “Spokane is known as a hotbed in the fiddling world, as unlikely as that may seem.”

Ludiker not only comes from a long line of fiddle players, she’s a two-time national fiddle champion. Three years ago, she had an idea to start a bluegrass band that would showcase women who, as she says, have skills.

“I didn’t know any of the girls before the band,” Ludiker admits. “We met through mutual friends.”

The group, which also includes mandolinist Jenni Lyn Gardner, bassist Shelby Means, guitarist Courtney Hartman and singer/guitarist Celia Woodsmith, came together in Boston.

“For a long time it was something we shied away from, promoting our all-femaleness,” Ludiker explains. “We just thought it speaks for itself, and whatever novelty there is at the beginning, we hoped that would disappear once people heard us.”

But in a male-dominated genre, the difference also makes for opportunities other bands wouldn’t necessarily get — like the trip to Asia, serving as cultural ambassadors for the State Department.

Now on the same music label as childhood idol Alison Krauss, Ludiker couldn’t be more proud of how far Della Mae has come.

“I think one thing about all the ladies in the band, we really love what we do,” Ludiker insists. “It’s about getting to the gig and then, when we’re actually there, that’s our fun.” 

Blue Waters Bluegrass Festival with Della Mae • Fri, Aug. 9, 4-9 pm; Sat, Aug. 10, 11 am-9 pm; Sun, Aug. 11, noon-3 pm • Waterfront Park, Medical Lake, Wash. • $15-$45 • All-ages • bluewatersbluegrass.org

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