CHARLESTOWN, Ind. (WHAS11) -- Kentucky may be known as the Bluegrass State, but Michael Cleveland is making waves with his distinctive brand of bluegrass that this Hoosier credits to his Southern Indiana roots.
“My grandparents absolutely loved bluegrass,” said Cleveland. “They helped to start a local bluegrass association in Henryville.”
To this day Michael Cleveland remembers the exact moment he decided to pick up a fiddle.
“When I was 4-years-old I heard a fiddle player play the Orange Blossom Special, and that’s what made me want to play,” said Cleveland.
But it wasn’t until he enrolled in the Kentucky School for the Blind that his musical talents hit a high note.
“I think the main thing that always drew me to bluegrass is just the energy of it,” said Cleveland. “I’ve heard people say oh man he’s so good he’s born with it. He just picked it up and started playing. I don’t care who you are that ain’t true. I got to learn from the best. They were all really patient with a little kid trying to learn how to play.”
A student of music he took notes straight from the strings of Kenny Baker, Chubby Wise, and Dale Potter while tagging along to music festivals across the country.
“You might end up in a jam session with one of your heroes,” said Cleveland. “You’re not going to do that with Eddie Van Halen.”
Now Michael is mentioned in the same breathes as the greats after being nominated for his first GRAMMY.
“It’s hard to imagine being alongside those guys,” said Cleveland. “A lot of those guys set the standards for this music.”
As nice as it would be for Michael to win a GRAMMY he says the most important thing to him are his students.
Cleveland currently trains about 10 fiddle players across the country, and he says it’s important to them to carry on the Bluegrass tradition.
Cleveland says he hopes the exposure from the GRAMMY nomination will allow his band to play more local gigs in Kentuckiana.
The Louisville Symphony Orchestra is working on adapting some of Cleveland's music into a string performance, that could debut as soon as this March.
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