(Tennessee Valley Old Time Fiddlers Convention/Facebook)

Every year, sounds of bluegrass and old-time music drift through the Athens State University campus at the annual Tennessee Valley Old Time Fiddlers Convention. The annual event brings hundreds of contestants to what has become affectionately known as the “Granddaddy of Mid-South Fiddlers Conventions.”

Additionally, musicians and fiddle enthusiasts gear up for the October convention with a six-part concert series, each showcasing the sounds of old-time music through a rotating lineup of talented musicians.

The Tennessee Valley Old Time Fiddlers Association presents the concert series during the year for bluegrass fans to enjoy old-time music year-round. Introduced in 2019, the series is supported by the Fiddlers Steering Committee, the Livingston Concert/Lecture Series at Athens State University, Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area, and the Alabama State Council on the Arts.

“The goal remains the same as it did over 50 years ago, which is to continue the tradition and keep old-time music alive,” says Keith Ferguson, the university’s VP of University Advancement. “This concert series is an attempt to provide year-round entertainment in that effort, all at an affordable cost.” All concerts are held on the Delmore Brothers Stage in historic McCandless Hall on the campus of Athens State University.

Most recently, the concert series hosted Tina Adair, a Grammy-nominated artist whose name has become synonymous with excellence in female bluegrass voices. Her family’s band, The Adairs, introduced her to the exhilarating world of bluegrass, and she hasn’t looked back since. 

Tina Adair (Tennessee Valley Old Time Fiddlers Convention/Facebook)

Next up in the concert series is Nashville’s East Nash Grass, who will take the stage on May 7th. The band’s high energy and musical precision will make it an unmissable show. “If you are a lover of traditional bluegrass, then it goes without saying that you will enjoy the works produced by this band,” says fellow musician Kara Kundert. “This band lives and breathes sparkling instrumental solos and driving rhythms; you would be hard-pressed to find a group of musicians with as much deep bluegrass cred as these pickers.” 

The camaraderie and community of these concerts culminate on a beautiful fall weekend in October, which combines professional entertainment and friendly competition. Musicians can compete in nearly two dozen categories, including fiddle, harmonica, mandolin, bluegrass banjo, dulcimer, and old-time singing, among others. The grand prize winner of the Tennessee Valley Fiddle Champion category is crowned the “Alabama State Fiddle Champion,” along with cash awards that total more than any other bluegrass competition in the country.

(Tennessee Valley Old Time Fiddlers Convention/Facebook)

If competition isn’t your style, thousands of musicians and bluegrass enthusiasts come to enjoy the music or participate as “shade-tree players,” or musicians who bring their own instruments and perform impromptu jam sessions. You can soak in the sounds of fiddle and mandolin players while browsing the talent of over 150 craft vendors.

“It’s four days of extreme talent, great music, and good food,” says Ferguson. “Attendees come to the event to not only compete but to watch and listen to the amazing talent the competitors bring. Additionally, the craft vendors sell one-of-a-kind, original pieces that are not found anywhere else.”

The convention is also one of the largest fundraisers for the Athens State University Foundation. All proceeds from the event benefit the Athens State University Foundation, which provides scholarships and assistance to Athens State University and its students.

The 57th Annual Tennessee Valley Old Time Fiddlers Convention will take place October 2nd-5th—but don’t miss the incredible talent of the concert series musicians in the meantime. Concert tickets, season passes, and the full concert series lineup can be found on the Convention’s website here.