Winnipeg fiddler named one of North America’s best

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Patti Kusturok is now officially among this continent's greatest fiddle players.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 02/08/2016 (2317 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Patti Kusturok is now officially among this continent’s greatest fiddle players.

The Winnipeg musician was inducted Sunday into the North American Fiddlers’ Hall of Fame.

Kusturok, known as “Canada’s old-time fiddling sweetheart,” is a three-time Canadian Grand Masters Champion who is a fixture in festivals, performances, music camps and kitchens across North America.

“It is such an incredible honour; it really hasn’t sunk in yet even though I’ve known for a couple of weeks,” she said. “I’m still walking on Cloud 9,” said Kusturok, who accepted the award in a video message. She couldn’t get a flight in time to attend the ceremony in Osceola, N.Y., after performing the previous night in North Dakota.

“It’s surreal. To see the names that are in there now and to be alongside them, I can’t believe it.”

Kusturok joins Canadian fiddling icons such as Don Messer, Al Cherny, Ned Landry, Ivan Hicks, Calvin Vollrath, Graham and Eleanor Townsend and Andy Dejarlis in the hall.

Kusturok’s acceptance video included a three-song performance, accompanied by Winnipeg musician Jeremy Rusu, which she opened with her original composition Memories of Eva, written with her son Alex Kusturok in honour of her mother Eva, who died in 2007. Her son Alex is also an accomplished fiddle player.

“I had half of the tune in my head and couldn’t think of something to go with it and apparently Alex had the same thing going on in his head. It was after my mom had passed away, we just sat down and put the parts together and it fit well,” Kusturok said. “It was in 2008, Alex was only about 16 years old at the time. It felt like I had the middle of a fiddle tune in my head so I asked Alex if he could write something to go with it and he said he already had something. It was kind of eerie, actually, because we put it together and it seemed to fit so nicely.”

Kusturok said she was proud to play the song for the induction ceremony because of its emotional connection to her family.

“That was the only time we’ve ever written anything together,” she said. “My mom would have been just so proud. She was my biggest supporter and took me to all these fiddling things as a child. If I wanted to play, she made it happen.”

Kusturok said she began playing at age four in the Suzuki Method which involved the accompanying parent learning at the same time. It gave her a solid musical foundation and strong belief in the importance of music for children.

“Music is really important because it brings people together as a family,” Kusturok said. “The kind of music that we play, it’s all about getting together with your family and friends in a kitchen or living room and just sharing music. We do that all the time. Wherever we travel, going to fiddling events, there’s always a jamming element that happens.”

Kusturok teaches fiddling to 40 students and estimated that she performs 50 to 75 times a year in addition to teaching at workshops and music camps each summer.

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Patti Kusturok

“It was a fitting honour to be given to Patti. She has devoted her life to the preservation of fiddle music as an iconic art form in Canadian culture,” Graham Sheppard, president of the Canadian Grand Masters Fiddling Association, said in a statement. He attended the induction ceremony.

The North American Fiddlers’ Hall of Fame recognizes “individuals who have made a significant contribution to traditional fiddling in North America,” a media release stated. Fiddle associations and fiddle experts across Canada and the United States nominate and vote for deserving candidates. Inductees receive a commemorative plaque.

While she said her son is her favourite fiddle player at the moment, Kusturok mentioned several of her greatest influences as Vollrath, Reg Bouvette and Graham Townsend.

Local fiddle fans can see Kusturok perform Aug. 18 when she plays at Louis Riel House at 6 p.m. and then at Stonewall Quarry Days on Aug. 21.

She will also be participating next month in the Mass Appeal Winnipeg event, a series of concerts performed by and for the public presented by the Winnipeg Arts Council, and encouraged other musicians to participate. Events are Sept. 1 at Union Station (choir), Sept. 8 at The Cube (horns), Sept. 15 (ukuleles) with Kusturok serving as the music director for the Sept. 10 fiddle event at St. Norbert Farmers Market.

ashley.prest@freepress.mb.ca

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