West Virginia as arts destination Mountain State is fertile ground for fiddler
By: Gordon Simmons
In order to pursue an artistic career, more than a few of
West Virginia’s most talented have felt the pull of other places. For writers,
actors, filmmakers, painters - you name it- success has often meant relocating.
But West Virginia, with its own rich cultural heritage, can
sometimes be a destination for artists. So it was for musician Jake Krack.
At the age of 19, Krack’s accomplishments as a fiddler of old-time music have
already earned him near-legendary status. He’s been featured in the New York
Times, the Chicago Tribune, CNN, NPR, and just about everywhere in between.
In 2000, Governor Wise selected him to perform at the Kennedy
Center. He was chosen for the Smithsonian Folklife Festival and has performed at
Vandalia, Berea, Merlefest, Galax and Gallia County. He has been a protégé to
such renowned Mountain State talents as Melvin Wine and Bobby Taylor.
Krack has just released a new double CD entitled Second Time
Around. It follow six sets of recordings, the first made when he was 11. And,
despite a phenomenally successful performing career and many contest wins, Krack
is now attending Berea College in Eastern Kentucky.
Unlike many others who have flourished in the state’s
tradition of fiddle playing, however, Jake Krack started out in Indiana, not
The route from the Hoosier State to our green hills is a story as exceptional as
Krack’s talent. Growing up in Indiana, he began playing music in imitation of
his father, who took up the violin while Jake was four.
At six, the younger Krack got his first real violin and began
classical lessons in the Suzuki method. Finding Brad Leftwich, a teacher of
old-time, West Virginia fiddle playing, began a series of events for that Krack
family that culminated in their decision to move to Calhoun County to let Jake
immerse himself in a musical style for which he was already showing great
Krack credits that move for advancing his music. In a 2002
interview with folk works magazine, he was asked his reasons for coming here
instead of a typical music destination like Los Angeles.
After citing the wealth of mentors available to him in West
Virginia, he mentioned his intention to learn to play “just like” those
teachers, “to keep the tradition alive and to someday pass it on.”
It’s a goal that Krack is already accomplishing, according to
Bobby Taylor. Taylor attests that “He continues to preserve the older West
Virginia fiddle styles.”
Krack went on to note, however, that part of his experience
was leading him to make West Virginia music his own, blending the styles he had
learned was learning from Wine, Taylor and others, making his own contribution
to the musical heritage.
Taylor said, “Jake has surpassed all my greatest
expectations. I wasn’t sure anyone would carry on my style until Jake took an
interest. I couldn’t be prouder of his accomplishments.”