2023 ASTA National Conference

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Learn more about the music and events at conference!

Interviews


Darol Anger

Darol Anger: ‘Music Teachers Bring Meaning to Life’

Don’t miss Darol Anger’s performance at ASTA National Conference. Register here today!


Freestyle Fiddler, composer, producer, and educator Darol Anger will receive the prestigious ASTA Artist Teacher Award at ASTA National Conference, March 15–18, 2023, in Orlando. The award is given annually by the ASTA National Board to a pedagogue of renowned stature from North America.

One of the most influential fiddlers alive, Anger is an innovative and popular clinician who works with string teachers, professionals, and students of all ages in school, university, camp, and festival settings across the world, helping grow interest in contemporary improvising and vernacular strings. He helped drive the evolution of the contemporary string band through his involvement with numerous pathbreaking ensembles such as Mr Sun with fellow virtuosos Grant Gordy and Joe K.Walsh, his Republic Of Strings, The Turtle Island String Quartet, The David Grisman Quintet, The Montreux Band, The Anger-Marshall Duo, and other ensembles. Anger can be heard on the popular Sim City computer game soundtracks and on NPR's "Car Talk" theme along with Earl Scruggs, David Grisman, Mike Marshall, and Tony Rice.

In addition to performing all over the world since 1977, he has recorded and produced dozens of important recordings, is a MacDowell and UCross Fellow, and has received numerous composers’ residencies and grants. He has been a featured soloist on dozens of recordings and motion picture soundtracks.

A professor emeritus at the prestigious Berklee School of music, he now runs an ambitious online fiddle school at ArtistWorks.com. He is interested in 5-string violin technology and has built two. With his other performing groups at countless music festivals and string camps, he brings over 40 years of experience to teaching and residencies in jazz, blues, fiddle, chamber, and orchestra settings. International workshops and clinics include Campo Do Jordao in Brazil, the Music Conservatories at Bremen, Germany and Copenhagen, and the Royal Academy Of Music in Stockholm. 

He is committed to promoting appreciation of musical diversity and the evolution of personal musical styles based on strong cultural roots throughout the world. In this exclusive interview, Anger talks about what continues motivating him to work in the music profession, even with all the recent challenges and changes.

In addition to receiving the ASTA Artist Teacher Award next March, you will be performing at the ASTA National Conference, right?

Anger: It’s such an honor to get this award. I hope I can come up with something cogent and appreciative to say that expresses how wonderful this it to me. And thank you for reminding me about the performance. I’m doing a one-hour set, so I’ve got to think about what I’m going to do and do it well. It’s very intense to perform for people who do what I do — and many do it better. 

You are a fiddler, composer, producer, and educator. Which of those do you identify with most?

Anger:  I did a 10-year stint at Berklee, and it was an amazing experience when the students performed. I was so spoiled because they are all so talented, with really good focus, and motivated. The challenge is usually the motivation. Some students had issues with their technique, but they were motivated to change. Quite a number of my students are in Nashville and other places, working and playing all over the world. 

Did you have a teacher or mentor who motivated you?

Anger: Actually, I had an English teacher in high school who encouraged my creativity. I was always pretty self-motivated through high school and the early years of college. David Baker inspired me — he was one of the best jazz teachers of all time. My mentors are Tony Rice and David Grisman. The first time I was at David’s house, I was 20 years old. I was astounded by his large eclectic record collection.

How did you get started into strings?


Anger: Originally, I was a trombonist, but then I got in a car accident and messed up my mouth, so I had to switch to cello. That evolved into playing jazz on strings. My main interest is in improv, but I’ve learned from classical teachers as well.

Why do you attend the ASTA National Conference?

Anger: I love going to ASTA. The sessions are brilliant. That’s where I get my insights and approach to teaching. I’ve had so many wonderful aha moments there. And it’s always great to see my colleagues and friends.

The music education profession has certainly changed since the pandemic. How has that impacted you?

Anger: There’s been a big upswing in online teaching, which many have found challenging, but I’ve been doing that with my online fiddle school at Artist Works for some time. I’ve got over 600 individual video lessons on that site. Just as useful as the lessons are the videos interacting with the students. Over 3,000 students have uploaded videos of them playing, and then I upload a response to each one.

Music has always been a challenging profession. Every 4–5 years, we have to fight to be recognized as a useful avenue of education. Every few years, the bean counters try to get in there and stop everything.

What would you say to the bean counters?

Anger: That students do better on every academic test if they are studying music. Minds work better when doing music. I would tell them that music is fun for students and puts meaning into their life.

People ask, “Why are you working so hard? Why are you doing this?” It can be discouraging sometimes, but at least when you teach music, you know you are always doing something good and adding purpose to life.

Don’t miss Darol Anger’s performance at ASTA National Conference. Register here today!