Argued by many as one of Canada’s greatest fiddle sensations ever, Calvin Vollrath was born in St Paul, Alberta in 1960 into a musical family. His father was Art “Lefty” Vollrath, an accomplished fiddle player, and Calvin was barely a toddler when he was playing along at home. First it was with spoons or knives. CBC was a staple in rural Alberta at the time, and after graduating to the fiddle at age 8, watching Don Messer’s Jubilee became engrained into him.
By the time he was a teen, he was already entering competitions, winning his first ‘championship class’ at 17, and has been twice crowned the Grand North American Old Tyme Fiddle Champion. He moved to Edmonton before he was 20, and joined the upcoming Clear Water – a band which ultimately went nowhere anyway. But a year into the gig, modern country music wasn’t where his heart was, and he returned to more traditional fiddle music.
As the 1980s were in full swing, Vollvath guested on just about every country music variety show on TV numerous times, and was on his way to writing to date well over 600 tunes, many of which have become standard contest and dance numbers worldwide. He’s appeared on countless records, 65 of his own, and his writing several music books, as well.
As one of the driving forces behind the revitalization of fiddle music, Vollrath has taught at many fiddle workshops across the North America, including the Canadian Grand Masters’ camp in Ottawa since it formed in ’96. He also started the aptly named ‘Camp Calvin’ near his St Paul, Alberta home. During this period, he also served as the musical director for Hank Smith’s band on his European tours. He’s also taken his own shows to Europe on several occasions over the decades, including the 2000 World Music Expo in Berlin.
He’s received the Lifeitme Achievement Award from the Canadian Grand Masters Fiddling Championship and the Alberta Men of Country Music. He represented Alberta in ’06 at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, and a year later, received the Bev Munro Award from the Association of Canadian Country Music Legends, named after the traditional country music legend and radio host. He was tasked with writing five numbers showcasing the various fiddle styles in Canada for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics’ opening ceremonies. During a ceremony in upstate New York in 2011, he was also inducted into the North American Fiddlers Hall of Fame.
Vollrath has recorded with the proverbial ‘who’s who’ of every genre that requires a fiddle, including Ian Tyson, George Fox, Colleen Peterson, Brian Sklar, Rene Cote, Samantha Robichaud, Laura Vinson, and dozens of others. He’s shared the stage with a similar list that includes Natalie MacMaster, John Arcand, and Donnell Leary, and has appeared on dozens of TV programs, including “Sun Country” and “Number 1 West” on CTV, CBC’s “Native Nashville North” (where he was also musical director) and “Adrienne Clarkson Presents,” as well as many others Stateside.