Elana James


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About Me

I am a professional fiddle player based in Austin, Texas and have toured and been the co-leader of the Western swing and hot jazz trio Hot Club of Cowtown since Whit Smith and I started the band in 1997. My website has my official bio, but I will say that: I haven't taught too much because I am almost always on tour (!). But I do enjoy working with motivated, self-directed people of any age who are looking to work on improvisation or moving from Classical music into improvisation in swing or folk music. I grew up playing Suzuki violin from when I was three and did not learn about improvisation until I was out of college, so I enjoy helping people move through the process of applying Classical technique and ideas to a new way of playing. My favorite violin/fiddle players and greatest influences so far are Tommy Jackson, Bob Wills (and lots of the fiddle players in his band in the 1940s, including Johnny Gimble, Joe Holley, and Louis Tierney), Wade Ray, Stephane Grappelli, Joe Venuti, Dorado and Tchavolo Schmitt, Stuff Smith, Hugh and Karl Farr (who played as a hot duo and also with the Sons of the Pioneers), and the fiddle players who played on early recordings with Jack Guthrie and Hank Williams. I also love the Carter Family, Nat King Cole and Blossom Dearie.

Teaching Style

The best fit for me is someone who may already be playing in a band or ensemble (on whatever level), and is looking to understand what a fiddle can add in that environment. Also, Classically-trained players who are looking to improvise or who would like to play roots music and would like to figure out how they can fit into it. What are the chords? How can I solo? How do I know what to play when, and what are some ideas I can bring to my playing to grow and broaden my musical vocabulary? I like to work with a student to address music itself--what would you like to say?--then offer tools to say it, and work together to apply those tools to all kinds of different styles and contexts. Someone who already has musical interests and tastes (but is open to broadening them!) and a context for performing would be an ideal student for me. Alas, in real life, my favorite thing has always been to play together, whether with my own teacher or with my own student. So even though that is really not possible to do on video (for now), I like to hear the student play a lot, demonstrate back and forth what we are learning, and show me what they know as we go, and keep going back together again as much as is needed to absorb new information. I like to hear a student play as much as possible during a lesson, as opposed to me doing all the showing and talking.

Available By

  • FaceTime
  • Skype

Payments Accepted

  • PayPal
  • Venmo

Link to Additional Work

Some Supplies You Might Need

High speed internet, your fiddle, a metronome, pencil and paper, a recording device if you'd like to record the lesson

*TRAIN is a free service offered by the Virginia Folklife Program at Virginia Humanities, which receives no proceeds from instruction. Our mission is to connect artists directly with students, and all instructional arrangements and financial agreements are made exclusively between the artists and the students. The Virginia Folklife Program does not assume responsibility or liability for these arrangements.