The Old-Time Herald Volume 12, Number 1

An Interview with Mark Campbell
By Laura Chessin
Mark Campbell

When it’s not festival season, Mark Campbell can be found Saturday mornings in the back-yard workshop of a local instrument builder, leading a banjo workshop followed by a fiddle workshop. Each week Mark introduces a different Virginia-based tune and breaks down rhythm, bowing patterns, and fingering details with local musicians committed to bringing their playing up to a level that reflects the heritage of Virginia old-time music. Campbell’s new role as a teacher is backed up by his forty-plus-year commitment to exploring and preserving the traditions of his home state, Virginia. In 2007 he was designated a Master Fiddler in the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities Apprenticeship Program, honoring his accomplishments as a collector and now as a teacher and mentor of Virginia traditions. He has won the West Virginia State Folk Festival fiddle and banjo competitions, the Clifftop fiddle championship, and the Virginia State Fair fiddle championship, and is currently the judge for the Virginia State Fair fiddle and banjo competitions. In the tradition of old-time family bands, the Campbell Family Band features Mark on fiddle, his wife Marty (Gravett) on cello, and their daughters Molly on banjo and mandolin and Mauren on guitar. They perform for workshops and dances throughout Virginia. Mark also performs with Jimmy Costa (banjo) and Jim Lloyd (guitar); and with daughter Mauren, Gregg Kimball (guitar and banjo) and singer Cheryl Warner presenting a range of Virginia roots music.

The idea for this article evolved over a period of a few years as I experienced first-hand the evolution of Mark Campbell into an insightful and effective teacher: leading his students not just to learn tunes, but to think about style in a consistent and specific way. I sat down with Mark, a friend, neighbor, and teacher, on several occasions and recorded our conversations.


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