Alice Clemens (1922-1999) was known as “The Queen of New York State Fiddlers.” She was hooked at age three when she heard great-uncle Art Colvin fiddle for a dance, and by seven she was learning his tunes on her own instrument. Although Alice learned how to read music, she always found it easier to pick up a tune by ear.
most of her life she played for parties and country dances near home, although
she also had some memorable experiences performing well outside of the
Adirondack foothills. Some of her
personal highlights included playing in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New
York City, playing for Russian and American wrestlers on Long Island, and
playing for nursing homes and developmentally disabled populations around the
Alice usually performed with guitar or piano backup, and sometimes with other fiddlers as well. From 1960-1975, she also worked with the group “Alice and Her Country Cousins,”and she played at the Redfield Hotel for many years.
In her own words, “I pound on a piano to chord with other fiddlers, but I am really just a fiddler. I like jigs, reels, waltzes, and pop and country.”
She collected hundreds of nearly-forgotten fiddle tunes from old-time musicians of the region, providing the Library of Congress archives with 27 tunes thought to have disappeared from public knowledge.
tireless advocate for old-time fiddling and old-time fiddlers of the region
(and beyond), Clemens founded the New York State Old Tyme Fiddlers Association
(NYSOTFA) and co-founded the North American Fiddlers Hall of Fame and Museum in
Osceola. NYSOTFA encourages the
gathering of fiddlers from all over the state in regional groups to learn and
play the old fiddle tunes together, and the Hall of Fame maintains an extensive
archive and sponsors fiddling contests each year. For more information on the
Association’s North American Fiddling Hall of Fame, their summer concert
schedule, and other activities, go to http://nysotfa.homestead.com