They played the same songs and wore similar cowboy hats, but the youth fiddle band who played Saturday at Saline Summerfest was altogether new.
Saline Fiddlers Philharmonic, the product of a merger of the Saline Fiddlers and Fiddlers ReStrung, debuted this week after a camp at Whispering Lakes Resort. The new band, directed by Jimmy Whitman, debuted Friday afternoon at the Saline District Library. Saturday the group played, sang and danced at Saline Summerfest -- looking and sounding like a band who'd been together for years.
Saline music teacher Bob Phillips founded the Saline Fiddlers in 1994. As the band gained popularity and toured the US and the world, its members became great ambassadors for the community. When Phillips retired from the district, young music teacher Ben Culver took over the program. After disputes between some parents and the band's leadership, Culver was fired as director of the band by Saline Community Education director Scot Graden. Eventually, the Saline Fiddlers left the school system and became privately funded with Culver as director. Fiddlers ReStrung was formed in 2004 as a Community Education program at the urging of parents who wanted their kids in a program under the umbrella of the school system. With the number of orchestra students declining, both bands were shrinking. Talks about uniting the two bands gained steam as new parents became involved in the program and when Culver passed the baton to Brad Phillips.
The news fiddlers band is privately funded. There are still fiddle programs for middle-school aged students through Community Education. Click here for more information.
Follow the band on Facebook by clicking here.
(Correction: Director Brad Phillips has left the band)