Fiddle-L Anthology 1999

A Tour 'Round The World Of Fiddling

Performer Bio



Callahan Dylan Miller, South Bend, St. Joseph County, Indiana, U.S. (

Callahan was born April 4, 1986, in South Bend. She is a 6th grade student.


Both of Callahan's parents were born in Indiana. Her family heritage is Irish/Scotch/German/French/Choctaw. She is the first in her family to take up the violin, which she began playing at age 4, in 1990, at Indiana University in South Bend. She has taken Suzuki Method lessons for 5 years, classical lessons for three years, and fiddle lessons for two years (some of these methods overlapped in years). She has also learned informally in parking lot jams with old time players at music festivals. Callahan has attended Mark O'Connor's Fiddle Camp (Tennessee) for two years, as well as fiddle workshops at Wheatland Music Festival (Michigan). The first fiddle tune Callahan learned was Boil 'Em Cabbages, which she learned from an audio learning tape. Her favorite tune today is Skinner's Bavoglies Plaid, best played by Alasdair Fraser. Her favorite fiddlers include: Mark O'Connor; Crystal Plohman; Natalie MacMaster; Johnny Gimble; Matt Glaser; Claude Williams; Darol Anger; Stuart Duncan.


Callahan enjoys playing many types of tunes, including classical, folk tunes, jigs, strathspeys, country, bluegrass, Celtic, and Cape Breton. She also plays the mandolin and bones. Her favorite backup instrument for fiddle tunes is the guitar. She has played for dances, in church (with harps and/or piano, or solo), in her school orchestra, in a harp trio (Havalan String Trio), her father and uncle's band (Loaded Dice), and at music festival jams. She plays in a band, "sometimes -- if my schoolwork is all finished".


Callahan says she loves attending fiddle contests. She sometimes competes; her first entry was in June, 1996, at the Kendallville Fair, Indiana. She played Ashokan Farewell, Rubber Dolly, and Devil's Dream. Her father, Tom Miller, provided backup on guitar. She won 2nd place, receiving a trophy and $75. She believes a good contest judge is a fair person and a good, patient listener, and that they should play the fiddle to be a competent judge.


Callahan is trying to develop her own unique style. Mark O'Connor has been a major influence, as "he always encourages kids to take a tune and 'make it our own'". She believes the number of styles that exist is uncountable. Bluegrass and old time styles are the most common ones heard in her region.


The violin Callahan plays was made in Germany around 1912. "It is Italian style - Caspar da Salo in Brescia. It has a deep, rich quality to it. I can feel it ring through my body." She uses a Kun shoulder rest, and Dominant or D'Addario strings, except when in humid outdoor conditions when she prefers Super-Sensitive. Her bow is an Erich Steiner. Her collection of violins consists of "the ones I've already played, from size 1/10, 1/8, 1/4, 1/2, 3/4 and my full size." She makes sure the bridge is kept straight and changes her strings, but performs no other maintenance.


"It gives me an indescribable sense of accomplishment when I finally 'click' with a tune and feel I got it right. Music for me makes me feel like I can achieve anything if I put my mind to it. And the fiddle feels like an extension of me because the vibrations resonate through my body and helps me feel the music more. There is no happier feeling than knowing I touched an audience with my music. My 4th grade teacher said I had a passion for fiddle music. I know what that means."


Callahan chose to record Rubber Dolly, Red River Valley, Cripple Creek, and Ashokan Farewell. She learned Rubber Dolly from Crystal Plohman, who also taught her many of the ornaments in Ashokan Farewell. The other tunes she learned from listening to recordings and improvising. All tunes have been learned in the last two years. Tom Miller "(my Daddy)" plays his Michael Heiden Acoustic guitar to provide backup.