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Deering native gets grant to study fiddle music

For L. Scott Miller, keeping local musical traditions alive is just one of the reasons he plays the fiddle.

“I have been in jam sessions in Tennessee and Alabama and they want to play tunes from the Tri-State area,” said Miller, who grew up in Deering. “That has really helped spur me on to learn, preserve and perpetuate the traditional fiddle tunes and styles from my home area.

“If a younger generation doesn’t continue, the tradition will face away.”

Miller, who currently lives in Alabama, was recently awarded a grant from the Kentucky Arts Council to study old time fiddle with Roger Cooper of Lewis County Ky.

Cooper is a master fiddler who has won old-time fiddle state championships in Ohio and Kentucky and placed in the top 20 at the World’s Old Time Fiddle Championship.

As a teenager still living in the Tri-State area, Miller started playing guitar for fiddlers. It was during his time at Morehead State University that he played guitar for fiddler Dan Kelly of Connellsville, Pa. Kelly was a contest fiddle champion. This allowed Miller to meet and play with some of the best fiddlers in the country.

Rather than being inspired, Miller was intimidated to learn the fiddle.

“I felt I was too old to be able to reach a mastery of the instrument as they had,” Miller said.

It wasn’t until years later while working as a musician in Nashville that Miller began learning the claw hammer old time banjo. The instrument became the catalyst that sparked his interest in playing the fiddle.

“I started playing the fiddle and as time went on, I have been around players who have challenged and pushed me to get better as a fiddler,” he said.

Miller said the apprenticeship has given him an opportunity to learn and perpetuate the musical culture in which he grew up. He is also documenting and notating a number of songs that will be made available to the public as a part of the apprenticeship.

“This will allow others from our area and around the globe via the Internet to keep this traditional music thriving,” he said.

Miller said he has enjoyed getting to know Cooper and the subtle genius of his fiddle playing.

“I am learning not only the local tunes but also about the fiddlers that played them,” Miller said. “For me, this is invaluable. When I was becoming a teenager and getting interested in music, these fiddlers were passing away.

“I missed out on learning from them first hand even though most of them were within an hour drive or less. So now I’m getting to learn indirectly from them through Roger.”

For more information on Roger Cooper, visit http://kentuckymemories.com/