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News / Life / Clark County Life

Fiddler comes with strings attached

Former Vancouver resident Aarun Carter making her mark

By Emily Ostrowski, Columbian staff writer
Published: April 16, 2016, 6:05am
5 Photos
Aarun Carter plays fiddle on stage with Jonathan Trawick at the Clark County Folk Festival.
Aarun Carter plays fiddle on stage with Jonathan Trawick at the Clark County Folk Festival. (Courtesy of Scott Docherty) Photo Gallery

Playing the fiddle has always come easily to Aarun Carter, and music has always been a part of her life. Her mother, Denise, an accomplished musician herself, competed in a fiddling contest when she was eight months pregnant with her daughter.

In addition to performing, her mother also frequently taught classes at home, so Carter grew up constantly listening to music. At 18 months she picked up her first fiddle and was immediately hooked. “As a child, I was always very enthusiastic about playing fiddle,” said Carter. “I would often be able to play anything I heard.” By 4 years old, Carter was already bringing home awards, with a win at the Colorado State Small Fry Division.

That early natural ability, along with a love of music, has turned Carter, now 27, into an accomplished and decorated musician. She recently came in first place in the 2016 Oregon Oldtime Fiddlers Association State Contest Championship, one of many contests she’s won in her young career.

“Aarun Carter is one of the best all-around fiddlers I’ve heard, and is certainly one of my favorites,” said Eileen Walter, contest director for the Oregon Oldtime Fiddlers Association. Carter beat out 59 other contestants to win the championship.

Born and raised in Denver, Colo., Carter moved to Vancouver after attending South Plains College in Texas for commercial music. While she moved to Portland in 2014, she still teaches private lessons in both Vancouver and Portland, in addition to having online students. She and her mom also teach a Suzuki group class twice a month in Vancouver called “Fiddlocity.”

Teaching has become one of Carter’s most cherished activities. “I absolutely love giving someone the gift of music, and I always challenge my students to work hard and become skilled musicians,” said Carter. “It always means a lot to me when I am able to help someone achieve their goals.”

National title

When not helping others achieve their goals, Carter is setting and accomplishing many of her own. One of her early highlights came in 2011, when after 15 consecutive years of competing in the National Old Time Fiddlers Contest in Weiser, Idaho, she won the title of National Young Adult Champion.

She’s felt honored every time she’s won a state title, which includes five Colorado state champion titles, as well as ones in Wyoming, Arkansas, and this year in Oregon. Carter acknowledges the win in Oregon this year was extra special because her mom is originally from the state, and it is where Carter now calls home.

In 2014, Carter placed eighth at the Grand Master Fiddle Championship in one of the country’s most eminent music cities — Nashville, Tenn.

While awards and accolades are always welcome, like many musicians the act of touring around the world and playing for different audiences remains one of the most rewarding and ongoing highlights.

“Every time I go on tour, I always feel like I grow — not only as a person, but in my music as well,” said Carter. “I really enjoy meeting new people on the road, and all of the new experiences that come with it.”

Jonathan Trawick, a fellow musician who first met Carter in Texas and has been performing with her as the duo Aarun and Jonathan for the last three years, marvels at Carter’s ability to pick up on different styles of play.

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“Aarun can literally play anything,” said Trawick. “She has mastered the technical aspects of fiddling so well that she can play any regional style she hears. This country is so beautifully quilted with regional and individual styles and influences from near and far. Aarun just wants to learn all of it.”

Carter has toured with numerous bands in addition to working on studio projects, such as recording 59 fiddle songs to accompany the instructional Mel Bay book “Anthology of Contest Fiddle Tunes.” She plays with multiple bands, operates the graphic design company Innovative Formations and is the founder and executive producer of the music documentary production company Fiddle TV.

While busy for now, Carter acknowledges the ambiguity that comes with being a career musician, and plans to stay open to all the possibilities it might offer her. “There are always so many unexpected opportunities,” said Carter. “That being said, I hope to still be teaching and performing on an international level. I really love traveling, and I can’t wait until I can take my music overseas.”

To learn more about Aarun Carter, her music, and upcoming performances and projects, visit www.aaruncarter.com.

Columbian staff writer