Maggie Estes White is a stylistically versatile fiddler who also plays
mandolin, sings, and dances. To date, Maggie has opened for Neil Armstrong
and has also performed multiple times on the Grand Ole Opry with the likes
of Mike Snider, the Nashville Irish Step Dancers, and Keith and Kristyn
Getty. She has shared the stage with the legendary Buddy Spicher as well as
Leahy, and has won and placed in many prestigious fiddle competitions
including the Jr. Jr. division of the National Old Time Fiddle Competition in
Weiser, ID and the Georgia State Fiddle Championship. Maggie was also a
part of the Young American Bluegrass Idols at the International Bluegrass
Music Association Awards Show in Louisville, KY. She has two albums to
her name, one a solo album, and the other, a duo album with Buddy Spicher.
Before graduating Belmont University in Nashville, TN, she was awarded the
Presser Scholarship and was also a winner of the Classical Performers
Concerto Competition. Originally from Kentucky, Maggie now resides in
Nashville, TN. She is currently pursuing her own musical style in addition to
touring the United States and internationally with Keith and Kristyn Getty,
Peter Mayer Group, RUNA, and Vickie Vaughn Band.
EDIT: Interview questions for Maggie Estes White
Thank you for taking time to answer a few questions. Your fans and the readers of iFiddle Magazine are going to really enjoy it.
What new events do you have on the horizons? Any recordings or concerts in the future?
The remainder of this year consists of touring and/or performing with RUNA, Vickie Vaughn Band, Peter Mayer Group, and Keith and Kristyn Getty.
RUNA is a contemporary Celtic group that just won Top Group and Top Traditional Group at the Irish Music Awards. I have been with them since 2013, and we just released a brand new album titled “Current Affairs.” Our Nashville album release is scheduled for October 22nd.
Vickie Vaughn Band is a bluegrass group that grew out of some great college friendships at Belmont University. We have been featured on Music City Roots and the Station Inn and written about in the Nashville Scene. Our newest endeavor, an EP produced by Ronnie McCoury, should be released at the beginning of 2015. We will be making our New York City debut at Rockwood Music Hall on September 7th.
I’ve been with the Peter Mayer Group since 2006. Peter is the lead guitarist for Jimmy Buffett, and he has been a huge inspiration to me in all my music endeavors. We will be performing in Panama City, FL at the Aaron Bessant Park Amphitheater for the Chasin’ the Sun Music Festival on September 12th as well as in Key West, FL for Meeting of the Minds on October 31st.
Keith and Kristyn Getty are modern hymn writers from Ireland. I have been with them since 2012 and was with them for their performances in Ireland last May. I will be a part of upcoming fall and Christmas tours which include a date at Carnegie Hall in New York City on December 17th.
Growing up, when did you decide you loved music and wanted to play fiddle?
When I was four years old, my parents took me and my brothers to Suzuki lessons. I absolutely loved it and thus continued taking lessons. At some point I decided that I wanted to tour and play music for a living. I really don’t know when that thought entered my mind, but I was very much inspired by Natalie MacMaster. Maybe that’s what gave me the idea, but it seems as if the thought of a music career has always been in my head.
A lot of our readers are fiddlers and musicians and like to know about practice techniques and time in the practice room. How much time did you practice growing up? What are some of the exercises you used to help you play at a high level?
Growing up, I would practice between three and five hours a day. I played through many etude books, shifting exercises, and bowing techniques. A couple of my favorite techniques…
For a fast passage or any finger twister, one of my teachers taught me to play two notes slow followed by two notes fast throughout the entire passage. Do this a couple times and then reverse the order–two notes fast followed by two notes slow. Then make up your own patterns e.g.: two notes fast, two notes fast (with a pause in between); three notes fast, three notes fast (with a pause in between). The combinations are endless.
I also love when my teachers have used a classical piece as an exercise. In the end, you not only have a new technique under your belt, you have also learned a beautiful piece of music. For example, few things have helped me more with intonation than carefully learning a solo violin piece by Bach. Your intonation must be precise for these pieces to work.
Most fiddlers have a favorite instrument they use for shows, recording that they love playing. What kind of fiddle do you have and why do you like it?
My fiddle that I play now was brand new when I got it from Stan Howe in Montana. It was hand made in China. When we first got it, we set it up on the radio speaker and turned it up loud when we left the house so the vibrations would help “break in” the fiddle. It is now fourteen years old and has a beautiful warm and strong tone.
One time at a contest, I dropped my bow. I felt like the whole audience was staring at me. What’s the most embarrassing moment you’ve had while performing?
I also do Irish step dancing, and once while competing in a band competition, we had incorporated that into our competition piece. Somehow my feet got mixed up, and I began to fall. I didn’t catch myself until the last little bit, and fortunately the fiddle didn’t touch the ground either. It was a bit awkward!
I’ve talked to the master, Buddy Spicher and he’s going to do an interview and teaching video for iFiddle Magazine. What did he teach you?
Oh I love Buddy…he is absolutely amazing. I’ve never heard anyone play or write harmonies for the fiddle as beautifully as he does. He’s never afraid to change a tune when he finds an idea that makes it better, and he is always exploring the instrument to bring out the best.
You’re playing with the Vickie Vaughn Band. Are you also playing with the Peter Mayer Group?
Yes, I do play with the Peter Mayer Group.
I know you step dance. A while back I interviewed April Verch, who’s not only a great step dancer, but an amazing fiddler as well. Do you dance professionally?
Yes. I do Irish step dancing on the Keith and Kristyn Getty tours. When I can, I also incorporate it in my own endeavors.
Do you do much teaching? If so, what’s your teaching style like?
Currently, I don’t teach any private lessons, but I have taught a few Celtic camps. I teach tunes quite often, and I incorporate a lesson on improvisation when possible. That’s something that too many students avoid. The longer your wait, the more uncomfortable it is to learn to improvise. We start by learning a simple tune, then the chords, and then we take turns soloing over those chords.
Do you have a preference for strings?
For my fiddle, I prefer the Pirastro Obligato. Sometimes I switch between the heavy and medium gauges. I like both thus far.
How about a shoulder rest?
I use a Kun shoulder rest…the one that has the wood on the top side and the foam on the under side. This enables me to tape my wireless pack onto the shoulder rest and not have to clip it on clothing.
Playing fiddle is hard. What would you say to encourage someone not to give up?
Have fun with it. It can be hard, but if you enjoy playing, then make sure your practice is enjoyable. That doesn’t mean that you avoid practicing the tough stuff. I heard Peter Mayer say once, “If you always sound good, then you’re just practicing what you know.” So don’t be afraid or embarrassed to sound bad when you practice. That’s how you know what to work on.
Do you feel there’s a difference between skill and talent? If so, what do you think it is?
I believe that God has given everyone a gift or gifts. That is often interpreted using the term talent when we see someone who has a knack of doing something very well and very naturally. However, talent is not synonymous with “easy” or “lucky.” Often times, there are hours upon hours of work behind the talents we see. Our skill comes in to play when we practice, develop, and improve our talent. The ability to do that is also a gift.
Thank you for this interview. I wish you all the best in your future endeavors.
Thanks so much for asking me! 🙂