Sarah von Rackwitz (born Sarah Naylor) is one of Scotland’s leading young traditional musicians with a fiddle style that is both technically accomplished and emotionally communicative.
The assured playing that has impressed judges at competitions including The Young Scottish Traditional Musician of the Year 2005 and The Oban Fiddle Masters 2004, which Sarah won, belies the reluctant first steps that she made as a nine year old on her first instrument, the home-made fiddle which Sarah’s mother created out of a man-size Kleenex tissue box.
Sarah was born on the Isle of Skye and grew up in the small fishing village of Uig at the north end of the island. Her grandmother, June Halliday, played fiddle and having been taught by the much-loved and
respected Highland fiddler and tunesmith Donald Riddel, was keen for Sarah to carry on the family tradition.
Sarah wasn’t so sure, but after wrestling with her cardboard box while lessons were being arranged, she took to her first proper fiddle enthusiastically and within a year was playing in a fiddle group and busking on Uig pier during the summer months for modest returns. She also became a founder member of the award winning show Skye Scene, which she worked with for seven years.
Attending summer courses in her teens at Sabhal Mor Ostaig, the Gaelic college on Skye, brought Sarah into direct contact with world famous musicians, including Buddy MacMaster, Bruce MacGregor and Alasdair Fraser, who introduced her to material and techniques that have greatly influenced the energetic and fun side of her playing.
Another visitor, Hanneka Cassels, a fiddler from Boston and a graduate of Berklee College of Music, in Massachusetts, was particularly influential, encouraging Sarah to invent her own tunes and giving her the confidence to experiment with all styles of fiddle music, As a result, Sarah has a real love for contemporary music and for developing grooves and riffs from the traditional Appalachian and Bluegrass fiddle strains and working them into her own style.
At the same time, as a student of the old style of Scottish fiddling, which she originally learned from Christine Martin on Skye and continues to study with Hugh MacGilp, Sarah also remains passionate about Scottish music.
She was runner-up in the Glenfiddich Fiddle Championship 2004 and she enjoys passing on old Scots tunes and fiddling tips to school pupils through her education work for Celtic Connections in Glasgow, the Hebridean Celtic
Music Festival on Lewis, and the Feisean movement throughout the Scottish Highlands and Islands
In March 2004, as part of her BA Applied Arts course at Strathclyde University, Sarah travelled to the United States, where she taught traditional music to young children and small communities and played concerts in New York and Pennsylvania. She returned to the US in December 2004 to play more concerts in Chicago and will perform main stage this September at Chicago’s Celtic Festival. As well as reaching the final of the Scottish Young Traditional Musician of the Year 2005, Sarah has won a Celtic Connections Danny award.
Sarah graduated with First Class Honours form Strathclyde University, Glasgow, with a BA in Applied Music. She was awarded the Alexander Stone prize for excellence in Solo Performance and she hopes to continue developing as a soloist and in her duo with Douglas Millar.
visit Sarah’s website Fiddle Passion