Fiddle-L Anthology 1999

A Tour 'Round The World Of Fiddling

Performer Bio


Roger D. Olsen, Liberty Lake, Washington, U.S. (

Roger was born January 31, 1946, in Bremerton, Kitsap County, Washington. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, and a Master of Social Work, and is a counselor by profession.


Roger's heritage is Norwegian, Irish, Scotch/Irish, English; his parents were born in Seattle, Washington, and Corpus Christi, Texas. His maternal granduncles and maternal/maternal great grandfather (his mother's mother's father) played the violin; all were from west Texas. When Roger was 29, he began playing the fiddle while at the Makah Indian Reservation in Washington state. He has taken half a dozen fiddle lessons, but no formal training. He attends fiddle festivals in Port Townsend. The first tune Roger learned was probably Soldier's Joy; he heard another fiddler play it. His favorite fiddler is Frankie Gavin.


Roger enjoys playing many types of fiddle tunes, including some in cross tuning, from hoedowns and waltzes to jigs, marches, strathspeys, airs; also he plays folk dances from the Balkans, Israel, all of Europe, Scandinavian dance tunes, Mexican folk dance tunes, assorted tunes from Japan, South America, etc. Roger also plays guitar, and prefers the guitar for backup. He plays for dances, parties, and in church; he plays in two bands, including Folkdance, a Baha'i sponsored group playing for Baha'i and public audiences with the emphasis on international music and song.


Roger says he enjoyed the few fiddle contests he attended. He entered a contest in 1981, in Alger, Washington; Bill Cheatham was the tune, and it got him free entry into the event.


Roger's fiddling style is self-described as eclectic. He feels there are innumerable styles when considering the whole world. In his home region, several styles dominate, including Celtic, New England, Southern, West Coast, and Klesmer and International.


One of the violins Roger owns was made by Ifshin in California and China; another was made by Hornsteiner in Germany. He describes the Ifshin as having a full, rich sound throughout its range. Roger prefers a Willy Wolf shoulder rest, and likes Tonica, Zyex, and Helicore strings. One of his bows is a round wood made by Emile Richaud; another, octagonal, was made by Enrico Morelli. He does bridge setup and changes strings, but no other repair work.


"I can't help it."


Roger wrote the three tunes chosen for the tape: Down in Dusty, a jig -- the title refers to a tiny town south of Spokane and its friendly inhabitants; Reel d'Jeune Geralyn, a 3 part reel -- named for his wife "who loves me more for my fabulous foot rubs than my music"; and Ferryman's Reel -- inspired by a Jean Houston workshop. His wife, Geralyn West, provides guitar accompaniment.

"Let every morn be better than its eve. Baha'u'llah" (Roger's signoff message on his list posts)