Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper
Allegheny RiverStone Center for the Arts proudly presents 2019 Grammy Award winner
MICHAEL CLEVELAND AND FLAMEKEEPER on Saturday, September 23 at 7:30 PM at Foxburg’s
Lincoln Hall. This performance is quickly approaching a sell-out – don’t delay in getting tickets.
ARCA is grateful for the very generous gift of Tom and Nancy Hovis to sponsor Michael
With a Grammy for his 2019 CD TALL FIDDLER and a record-setting 12 wins as Fiddle Player of
the Year by the International Bluegrass Music Association, Michael’s indomitable spirit, rare
talent and work ethic have taken him to the pinnacle of his profession. His newest album, The
Lovin’ of the Game, was released in March.
Called “the ultimate fiddler in the world”, it has been said of the virtuosic phenom that he
“played that fiddle so fast that you’d expect to see smoke coming from his fingertips”.
With FLAMEKEEPER – the 7-time winner of Instrumental Group of the Year by the International
Bluegrass Music Association – this will be a once-in-a-lifetime bluegrass experience in the up-
close-and-personal acoustics of Lincoln Hall… not to be missed!
Tickets are Adults $35, ARCA Members $30, Students $5 and can be purchased online at
alleghenyriverstone.org or call 724-659-3153 to reserve and pay with cash or check at the door.
The inspiring documentary Flamekeeper – The Michael Cleveland Story – shows us his path from
child prodigy to the present in overcoming partial deafness and being born blind. Vince Gill of
the Country Music Hall of Fame describes Michael’s playing in the documentary: “He plays
fearless and it’s intoxicating to play with him because he makes you play fearless. It’s wicked to
see how much music he pulls out of a bow. He’s untouchable.”
Michael lives up to Gill’s lofty praise, showing off the verve, dexterity and intensity that have
made him one of the most transfixing performers today. It’s remarkable, superhuman even, to
imagine what Cleveland had to overcome to become the bluegrass superstar he is today —
even if he humbly prefers to joke about his height rather than laud his own talents.
As a boy, Cleveland heard a local fiddler play “Orange Blossom Special,” sparking a lifelong
obsession with the tune that mimics the sound of a train. Cleveland’s improvisational versions
push the piece’s descriptive tones and percussive bowing to a new level. With an encyclopedic
memory for melodies and an uncanny intuition for improvisation, Cleveland’s music is both
rooted in tradition and fueled by his melodic imagination.
His grandparents hosted regular bluegrass gatherings and at age four, he began playing the
fiddle. He attended the Kentucky School for the Blind where he learned the Suzuki method of
violin. While he practiced the violin at school, he played fiddle at home.
Traveling with his grandparents to bluegrass festivals, he heard many legendary players at Bill
Monroe’s Bluegrass Festival in Bean Blossom, Indiana and at age nine, Cleveland got to play
with Monroe at the festival.
When Cleveland was 12, he met music historian Dave Samuelson, who curated several Braille-
labeled tapes for Michael, which served as Cleveland’s essential listening guide to bluegrass
music. Cleveland’s repertoire and musicianship grew, and in 1993 he played the International
Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) awards show with the Bluegrass Youth All-Stars.
He began playing professionally after graduating from high school, first with Jeff White and
later with Dale Ann Bradley and Rhonda Vincent. Since he was young, however, Cleveland had
dreamed of leading his own band. In 2006, he formed Flamekeeper, the seven-time recipients
of the IBMA’s “Instrumental Group of the Year” award. Flamekeeper includes Josh Richards,
Nathan Livers, Jasiah Shrode, and Chris Douglas.