Bluegrass group helps celebrate Opry’s 2nd anniversaryWritten by Vanessa Olson | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Michael Cleveland, five-time Fiddle Player of the Year award winner, will perform with his band, Flamekeeper, at the two-year anniversary of the Glass City Opry, Aug. 21.
Flamekeeper plays traditional bluegrass music, and Cleveland is known in the bluegrass world as the best fiddle player in the country.
“We have a lot of fun when we play,” Cleveland said. “We play old school bluegrass with a modern edge mixed in.”
Cleveland has been playing the fiddle since he was 4 years old, when his grandparents introduced him to bluegrass music. He said he doesn’t remember a time when he wasn’t exposed to music.
“I remember listening to the music and I was fascinated by all the things you could do with a fiddle,” said Cleveland. “After I heard that it was do or die.”
Cleveland, who is blind, learned to play violin by ear, and then attended a classical music program in Louisville, Ky. The violin and the fiddle are the same instrument, the difference is in the way the musician sets up and plays the instrument. After learning to play classical violin, Cleveland began going to jams and learning traditional bluegrass from local musicians.
“I took classical music, but that wasn’t really what I was into,” Cleveland said. “If I had my choice, I would’ve just learned bluegrass.”
After high school, Cleveland started playing professionally. He toured with Rhonda Vincent and The Rage in 2000. In 2001, he won the International Bluegrass Association’s Fiddle Player of the Year award, which he has gone on to win four more times. He also shared the title of Entertainer of the Year with Rhonda Vincent. Cleveland’s credits also include recording on one grammy-winning and one grammy-nominated song.
The Flamekeeper band is made up of four artists who all play different instruments. Jesse Brock does vocals and plays mandolin, Marshall Wilborn, vocals and bass, Tom Adams, guitar, and Jessie Baker, banjo.
Cleveland met all of the band members through playing with other bands.
“I feel really fortunate that I have been able to get these good musicians together in one band,” Cleveland said. “Because they could go and do a show on their own.”
The Glass City Opry operates in the Maumee Indoor Theatre. The group formed two years ago when a local group of blue grass musicians decided to start a consistent, traditional blue grass show in Toledo. They have monthly shows, and for the next three months, nationally known acts will be featured. David Davis and the Warrior River Boys will play in October and New found Road will be featured in November.
When possible, the Opry donates 10 percent of their proceeds to local charities. In the past, it has donated to the Toledo Area Humane Society and Habitat for Humanity.
“We’re excited about bringing in bands that are nationally known and play all over the county,” said Jeff Birdwell, promoter for the Glass City Opry.
This will be the first time that Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper will perform in Toledo, though they have performed in Ohio many times before. Cleveland said he is excited about playing in the area.
“I think it was a great idea to get the Glass City Opry started,” Cleveland said. “The more bluegrass is exposed to people, more people will get into it.”
Birdwell said there is a small, but loyal, bluegrass following in Toledo, enough to grow a show. He said the Opry hopes to reach fans who don’t know they’re fans yet.
“Bluegrass musicians are like a big family or a small town because everybody knows everybody,” Cleveland said. “You get to know who the good players are.”
The Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper show will begin at 7 p.m. and the doors will open at 6 p.m. Admission is $15 and children under 15 are free.
On the Web: visit www.glasscityopry.com and click on links for more information.