Some Remarkable Facts From 30 Years of Youth Fiddling in Saline


If you live in or near the Saline Community, you’ve probably heard of the Saline Fiddlers Philharmonic and likely have seen them perform at least once. What you might not know is how unique (and emulated) this group has been, and the impact it has had on so many people over the years.

Then Saline Fiddlers were the brainchild of Bob Phillips when he was the orchestra director in Saline Schools in 1994. His idea was to introduce students to the fiddle and bluegrass genres as a supplement to the typical orchestra teachings. Fiddle music is fun to play and listen to and its upbeat energy caught on quickly with the students. Soon the group was performing live and audiences were blown away. As a stark contrast to orchestra concerts, here was a group of high schoolers playing 1-1/2 hours of upbeat music, without sheet music, on their feet, with singing and step dancing mixed in. Word began spreading fast about this amazing group of high school performers from a small town in Michigan. Music venues began asking for the Fiddlers to perform and the touring schedule grew to 50 plus shows a year, including summer tours to various parts of the country, and even overseas. The Fiddlers famously played at the White House and auditioned for “America’s Got Talent.” Over the last thirty years, aside from the COVID years it has never really slowed down. The Saline Fiddlers remain a popular draw throughout the region and the schedule is quite demanding.

You can catch the Saline Fiddlers at a Special 30th Anniversary Hometown Show on April 6, at 7pm at the Ellen Ewing Performing Arts Center at SHS. The show’s special guest will be Grammy-nominated Saline Fiddler alum Jeremy Kittel and his quintet, Kittle and Co.. 


A special thank you to THE PICKNELL TEAM OF REINHART REALTORS for their financial support and helping make this show possible.

The history of the Saline Fiddlers’ first thirty years is a storied one, and far too long to cover here. What we can do is share some quick facts about The Fiddlers you may not know as we near their 30th anniversary celebration.


  • While exact numbers are not known, it’s estimated that The Fiddlers have performed at over 1,700 shows over the years and over 350 students have been in the program. 
  • Countless alumni have gone on to have careers in teaching, performing, or producing music, or even acting.
  • The group has exhibited amazing resilience and longevity.
    • It started as a part of the Saline Schools music program and eventually transitioned to an independent non-profit.
    • The make-up of the group changes year-to-year. Some years the group was nearly 30 members with a large rhythm section, while other years it’s closer to 10 members. Regardless of size, the group always amazes its audiences with their talent, youthful charm, and uplifting music.
    • One constant and unique feature over the years is the inclusion of Appalachian step dancing, choreographed by Sheila Graziano (who has been the group’s dance choreographer sine 1995).
  • The list of people in the Saline community who have made large contributions to this group over the years is VERY long. There have been directors and artistic staff, students, parents, alumni volunteers, and donors who given huge amounts of time, energy, and resources and left a remarkable and unique legacy.
  • The group has always been, and continues to be, a parent-run organization with guidance from alumni parent volunteers.
  • For a 10-year period from 2003 to 2013 there were two separate fiddle groups in Saline; the Saline Fiddlers and Fiddlers Restrung. In 2014 they re-merged into one group – the Saline Fiddlers Philharmonic.
  • The group has always been a point of pride for Saline. They have inspired other communities to establish their own youth fiddle groups – often with Saline Fiddler alums leading the group.
  • Running a professional performing ensemble is never easy. Consider too, that the group’s students and parents experience roughly 25% turnover every year. Amazingly, 30 years on it continues to thrill and uplift audiences, nurture our young musicians, and make Saline proud.

“It’s a Special and Unique Group”

The group’s current Artistic Director, Sarah Vaujin, has been part of the group for the last 15 years. First as a student in Fiddlers Restrung, then as an Assistant Director, and now the Artist Director. She’s also a music teacher in the Ann Arbor school district. When asked why she chooses to make the Fiddlers such a big part of her life, she said this: “For many reasons. It’s unique and there really is no other group like it. The kids must learn the music, of course, but they’re also learning many other skills. There is the teamwork and collaboration with the rest of the group. They have shows to prepare for, they learn stage and tech set-up and tear-down. They commit to rehearsals, traveling to shows, and performing professionally for paying audiences. And they learn how to do it even when they’re tired, or busy. They’re learning skills that translate to all aspects of life. But they also have a lot of support. The group is like a family. There are so many people behind the scenes, all pulling in the same direction. It’s the parents, the artistic staff, and the alumni family volunteers. It’s a special and unique group, and I love it.”

For tickets to the 30th Anniversary Hometown show with special guest Kittel and Co. CLICK/TAP HERE

If you would like to make a donation to support the Saline Fiddlers financially, please CLICK/TAP HERE

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