TOTFA Stories

Dr. Kimberly Brady ~ Violinist Turned Fiddler

Girl, you just have to lose that vibrato! Those were the first words of advice given to Dr. Brady by a champion Texas fiddler. With her introduction into the world of Texas Style Fiddling, Dr. Kimberly Brady took that advice to heart. She quickly realized that the Texas-Style did not use the intense vibrato that is inherent in other musical styles. A classically trained violinist with a degree in Performance Violin, Kim became fascinated with fiddling in 1995 when she attended a fiddle contest in Wimberley, Texas. "There was just something about the music that made me happy," she reflected. "I couldn't stop moving my feet!" Even though Kim had grown up in Amarillo, Texas, she had never heard the unique music created by the blend of fiddles and guitars that she experienced that day.

Kimberly is no stranger to the violin and to performing. Her degree and career path took her on the road through the United States and Europe playing with ballet and opera companies, as well as performing with companies in Houston, Texas, where she has lived for 30 years. She moved to Houston in 1972 to study music at the University of Houston, and later attended Baylor College of Medicine. Sidetracked by her career as a gynecologic surgeon, Kim has only been able to study fiddling seriously for the last 2 years. She is currently studying with Michael Weise, a legendary champion fiddler.

After not playing at all for over 15 years, Kim found the finger patterns and rhythms of the Texas-style breakdowns very useful for reconstructing her technique. Since she had never trained in learning music by ear, Michael's treasure trove of written transcriptions were instrumental in her efforts to begin playing these tunes quickly. Contained within the files of over 500 fiddle tunes that Michael has transcribed, Kim discovered some wonderful pieces that are written note-for-note from performances by Major Franklin, Jim Chancellor, Terry and Dale Morris, Jimmy Don Bates, Johnny Smith, and others. Kim has also come across tunes not commonly played at contests, such as Cannonball Rag and Jenny Lind Polka. She takes great pleasure in "discovering" these priceless tunes that are filed away within Michael's historic collection. In the future, Kim is interested in writing a technique book for classical violinists based on some of these fiddle tunes.

"When I was playing in orchestras," Kim explained, "we would groan when we had to play warhorses like Beethoven's Fifth Symphony or other pieces that we had played over and over. I think the fiddlers feel the same way about "Orange Blossom Special," or "Listen to the Mockingbird." I want to learn the rarely-performed tunes, so we can all enjoy them. I feel this music is such a part of our heritage. The breakdowns are fun, but I have found incredible beauty in the waltzes, and great liveliness in the polkas, hornpipes, and schottisches. They may not be contest show-stoppers, but I still love playing them. I attend the contests to hear everyone else and to have a good time. Even though I get very nervous competing, at home I find it relaxing to play the fiddle after listening to women talk about their hormones all day! In addition, if I hit a wrong note, nobody dies, and I don't get sued!

Dr. Brady currently practices gynecology at Memorial Hermann Memorial City in west Houston. Her area of special interest is laparoscopic surgery; she performs over 150 surgical procedures a year. She also advises women from adolescent to menopausal years about their preventive health care.

Kim's real love, however, continues to be music. In addition to fiddling, she has recently joined the Doctor's Orchestra in Houston, a volunteer orchestra that donates the proceeds to medical charities. Her audition piece for the orchestra was "Bill Cheatem."

"I feel privileged to be a member of the Texas Old-Time Fiddlers' Association," Kim concluded. I've met so many wonderful people who share my growing love for fiddling. I am truly impressed with the excellence of playing that I have heard, especially the young fiddlers. They offer so much to the future of Texas-Style Fiddling. The jam sessions are like nothing I've ever experienced in my life. I'm also fascinated by the stories and tunes that are passed down from the older association members. These members offer a wealth of historical knowledge and incredible talent that will benefit us all. The Texas Old-Time Fiddlers' Association is essential in preserving our wonderful musical heritage. I'm looking forward to continuing my involvement with this group for years to come.