Walnut Valley family feel brings fiddle player back

Rebecca
Rebekah Workman plays fiddle with her band, Driven, on Stage 3 at the Walnut Valley Bluegrass Festival in Winfield, Kan. (Bailey VenJohn/Staff photographer)

By Bailey VenJohn
Online Editor

While exploring the Walnut Valley Festival Thursday evening I wandered upon a campsite as I was drawn in by the sounds of people jamming. I stood on the outskirts not sure how to approach the group.

After a minute of observing a woman walked up to me and complimented me on my hair. I said thanks but was a bit thrown off as my hair was thrown on top of my head in typical Bails fashion.

We struck up conversation about why I was at the festival and she gave me permission to take photos of the jam as I pleased.

Little did I know the woman I had been talking to was the fiddle player for a popular bluegrass band, Driven.

I approached her again stating how excited I was to learn she was the fiddle player for the band. I mentioned that Driven was the one bluegrass band whose music I am familiar with and that I even have a couple autographed copies of their albums.

Rebekah Workman first got started with the fiddle when she got one as a Christmas present when she was eight years old.

“My mom bought me a fiddle and gave it to me for Christmas. It was pretty exciting and completely unexpected.”

Workman said all her life she grew up listening to bluegrass music and her parents had told her they wanted her to be a fiddle player. Her dad is from Tennessee and his heritage is in bluegrass.

Besides playing the fiddle Workman says she does a little singing but not much else.

“I sing sometimes but as far as my musical skills go on everything else I’m not good. I can kind of play the mandolin if you like the way horrible things sound but that’s basically it,” said Workman about her musical abilities.

Although Workman may not be talented on many instruments she plays the fiddle very well. Her favorite thing to play is fiddle tunes.

“I love to play fiddle tunes because it’s fun to do just a melody like that. As far as singing songs anything Jimmy Campbell, our banjo player, sings I absolutely love to play against him. I love playing anything that is that good lopey tempo, I don’t think I can think of one songs that’s like my favorite. The jam just has to feel right or the song just has to feel right.”

As far as being in the band, Driven, Workman got lucky and had an in with the guitar player.

“I couldn’t have hoped to be in a band until I met my husband Jake, who is the guitar player. He was already a member of Driven and he pulled me in after their other fiddle player parted ways with them,” said Workman. “They needed a fiddle player and I was married to Jake so I basically married into the band.”

Workman became a member of the band in 2011, the same year she married Jake.

This was the fourth year for the band to play at the Walnut Valley Festival. Workman had been to the festival previously with the band, they just weren’t booked to play. On her visit, Workman says Winfield stole her heart.

“I just completely fell in love with this festival, it’s the coolest festival of all festivals.”

She claims on her first trip to Winfield she was just a “freaky fan” of Driven. She had met the band members but was not married or their official fiddle player yet. On her second trip Jake participated in the contest but they still were booked to go on stage.

When she isn’t playing fiddle with the band Workman can occasionally be found jamming, although she prefers to stay close to the camps she knows.

“I usually stay close to camp, I know my husband Jake is a jamming nut and he’ll go everywhere. He’ll go over to the Pecan Grove and just jump in with the people he’s never met,” Workman said. “That’s how he met the guys at this camp. I usually stay here because I feel like this is great jams and my own little happy camp.”

Workman will jump into jams now but she claims she didn’t really get into the jamming thing until later, about the time she joined the band.

The Walnut Valley Festival isn’t the only place Driven and Rebekah and Jake have played.

“Jake and I go to a lot of festivals and stay pretty busy. The band Driven plays a bunch of different festivals that are mainly in the Midwest.”

While the band sticks to the Midwest, Rebekah and Jake call Utah home. The distance keeps Driven from playing in as many festivals as they’d like due to the face that Rebekah and Jake have to fly everywhere.

“We don’t play a ton of festivals a year, I wish we could play more. It kind of sucks but it’s worth it because we love the guys so much.”

The band has also ventured out of the Midwest. This past June was the first year that they played in California. Previous to that in October they traveled to the International Bluegrass Music Association Jamble in North Carolina. With these two venues added to their repertoire the band can officially say they’ve played coast-to-coast.

Besides playing with the band Rebekah and Jake go to a bunch of different festivals on their own.

“We’ve gone to Rocky Grass in Colorado which is an amazing festival and the Grass Valley Festival in California and that’s way fun. We’ve also attended IBMA a few times,” said Workman.

At of all the places Workman has played, she states Winfield is still her favorite.

”I love Winfield. There’s something really magical about this festival. They just have a total hidden treasure here, maybe it’s the family thing. It’s a great family environment.”

Bailey VenJohn is a senior majoring in communication. You may email her at bailey.venjohn@sckans.edu.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *