Ari & Mia — Fiddling & Teaching & Spreading The Americana Gospel

Mia & Ari Friedman. (Courtesy)
Mia & Ari Friedman. (Courtesy)

Americana duo Ari & Mia have their musical eyes set beyond playing the stage. They want to spread the love for an old musical tradition to as many people as possible.

While Ariel and Mia Friedman trained and graduated from Northwestern University and the New England Conservatory respectively, the sisters share a passion for a style of playing stringed instruments called fiddling. Rooted in 10th century Europe, the music has inspired various other types of music including bluegrass, country, blues, folk and, more recently, Americana music through the combination of violins, cellos and other string instruments.

With its tradition of bringing people together, Ari & Mia not only inspired the Americana style of their two albums, “Unruly Heart” and “Land on Shore,” but it also opened another way to share their gifts — teaching at fiddle music camp like the one this weekend at Brookline Music School.

Ari & Mia In New England

Ari & Mia will be at the FiddlePAL Camp in Newton Aug. 19-22 and at these other sites this summer.

“Fiddle music has a different, really wonderful community happening, which is why I think we end up teaching at so many camps,” Ari says. “It feels really important to spend time with people of all ages. All these camps are family based and all ages. And people are just starting out or have been playing for years. So it’s really neat and has its own competitive edge.”

Teaching at these camps has helped them improve their own craft. “It’s become a really essential core part of what we do,” Ari notes. “When teaching, you’re really working closely with other people with the thing we love the most, music. These songs that we’ve been teaching at the camps have been around for hundreds and hundreds of years. It feels like we’re this group keeping this tradition of American fiddle music and other world fiddle music alive.

“It also just helps with general people skills,” she says. “I teach all ages. So I love learning how relate to a 4-year-old versus how it’s like to teach a 65-year-old something.”

So how did Ari and Mia get involved in this scene anyway? “We have an older sister and both of our parents play music, and we all sing,” Mia explains. “So our family dinners would be very musical experiences, and our dad is a singer-songwriter and played professional in the '60s and '70s. Both our parents are super supportive of us being musicians and are helpful, which is good.”

Cellist Ari, 28, has been playing classical music since she was a child when she also picked up the piano, and has continued to play both classical and popular music today.

“I still play classical music so I wouldn’t say I switched over at any point. I played classical music all through undergrad, and I chose not to play in a symphony because that feels complicated and hard to do,” Ari explains. “And there’s no creative control really. I really like the music but in a smaller, intimate setting. So I play in a string quartet. I play solo classical repertoire, and I have other classical projects. So for me it’s an expansion of what I do. Classical music is my foundation, and this music is incredibly accessible, which I thought classical music should be.” And there are people working towards making it that way, including myself.”

Meanwhile Mia jumped onto the fiddling style as early as junior high when she realized that classical music just wasn’t the genre for her. “When I was 12 actually, I realized there was such a lively scene of young people and old people playing this music in this tradition all over the world,” she says. “And there are fiddle camps around the country and abroad that are just so lively and community based, and I don’t know it’s really accessible and really full of joy.”

While the sisters enjoy the indie route of handling their careers, there are challenges. “We’re not trying to hunt down a major label,” Ari says. “That’s true. We wouldn’t mind a small label, but the indie route is challenging because back in the day the only way to do it was to be on a label. You get to work on your art or music and somebody else is taking care of the booking and the promo. So we’re getting help where we need it.”

Next up is an Australian tour in September and recording their next album, which they hope will be ready in the spring. Perhaps they won’t have to wait much longer to get to that next level.


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