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Kip Lornell and Black Fiddlers

Updated: Nov 24, 2022

On October 27, I participated in a discussion with students following the screening of Black Fiddlers at George Washington University. The screening was part of "Musical Cultures of Black Americans" a course taught by Dr. Kip Lornell. Lornell's research in American vernacular music has led to the publication of 33 articles in music journals, nine chapters in books, 29 encyclopedia entries, 16 record notes, 31 record or book reviews in journals, 27 record projects, two documentary films, and 26 hour-long radio documentaries. Lornell has also published 14 books, including textbooks, ethnographic studies, and reference books. His awards include a 1997 Grammy for co-authoring the program notes for the Anthology of American Folk Music (Smithsonian/Folkways).

During filming for Black Fiddlers, Kip Lornell welcomed me, and my camera to his home in Silver Springs, Maryland, and he has since remained advisor during the research, production process.

Following is the unedited text from a letter from Dr. Lornell’s that we received today and that I we are pleased to share with the larger community dedicated to the exploration, and understanding of the complex and centuries long tradition of Black American music.

Dear Eduardo, Thanks so much for making your hour-long documentary film "Black Fiddlers" available to my students as part of this fall's "Musical Cultures of Black Americans." Their experience was enriched by your and Earl White's 75-minute Zoom appearance in this class on October 17, 2022.
"Black Fiddlers" proved invaluable in helping my students to understand the complex and centuries long tradition of Black American fiddle playing and string band music as well as raising issues related to cultural interchange, the importance of community music making, and the impact of race relations in music-making.
Your film and the conversations among you, Earl, and I when you appeared in my class also addressed thorny, contemporary questions about cultural appropriation. We spoke about your film and the Zoom conversations in the following class, which cemented the fact that they learned a great deal from both the film itself, Earl's perspective about his place in the small world of Black fiddle player, and your role as a documentary film maker who created a film that evolved from “The Other Madisons,” your earlier documentary film about the African American ancestors of James Madison.
I hope that other classes across the county can benefit from watching "Black Fiddlers" and hear from you about the making of the film, which could not be more timely in its intent and content. Sincerely, Dr. Kip Lornell

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