Student Spotlight: fiddler, dancer Kathryn Young

Most artists are exposed to their trade at a young age, and their continued passion is what sets them apart as they reach adulthood. Geneseo senior Kathryn Young's love for folk music, however, is a fairly recent development.

Young started playing the violin in 5th grade, and her musical repertoire was limited to classical music until February 2004 when, as a high school senior, she participated in the Saratoga Springs Dance Flurry. Dance Flurry is a weekend festival for dancers and musicians of all types. "I went to sing back-up vocals for a friend," she explained, "and while I was there, I tried contra dancing."

Contra dancing, which is best described as an infusion of square and line dance, is set to folk music. Young was instantly intrigued. That summer, she attended the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival for the first time. The annual festival, which is held in Hillsdale, N.Y., is four days long and includes several concerts and dances, as well as classes for beginners.

In addition to contra dancing, Young began to play folk music, eventually abandoning her classical roots altogether. Today, she classifies herself as a fiddle player, not a violinist.

Young now attends several folk music festivals each summer and has become fully immersed in the folk music scene. She even finds time to contra dance in Rochester during the school year.

While Young majors in anthropology, she also has a music minor, which has led her to dabble in piano and a few other instruments in addition to the fiddle. She also enjoys singing and was a member of one of the most competitive vocal groups on campus, the Geneseo Chamber Singers, for three semesters.

Young's favorite extracurricular activity, however, is the Geneseo String Band. "I don't think people hear a lot about us," Young said, explaining that the band plays in a lot more than the one or two square dances per year at Geneseo. Under professor Jim Kimball's direction, the string band plays a wide variety of folk songs, from Irish music to traditional waltzes and jigs, at events both on and off campus.

When asked what drives her to continue playing the fiddle, Young said, "I like the feeling it gives me. And it's great to have an active audience. Not only is the audience listening, but they're actively participating [by dancing]." When asked about her pursuit of contra dancing, she simply replied, "I'm just obsessed with it."