The Cat and the Fiddle in Capon Bridge welcomes newcomers to Appalachian folk music.
The Cat and the Fiddle is bringing community to Capon Bridge through music. Owner Dakota Karper’s favorite nights growing up involved sitting around and listening to her dad play music in the hills of West Virginia. They’d gather with family and neighbors in a friend’s old cabin that had been turned into a bona fide jam session space, sometimes staying there so late that music continued even as the morning sun started to peek over the mountains.
When Karper began taking fiddle lessons, she joined in, too, always loving folk music that had been passed down for generations. “Growing up there was a wonderful thing,” she remembers. She moved away to Baltimore for college, met her husband there, and stayed for several years, all while continuing her personal musical journey. But something about the homey feeling of a small town kept calling Karper back. In 2016, she and her husband made the transition back to West Virginia and leaned further into music than they ever had before, sowing the seeds of what is now The Cat and the Fiddle music school in Capon Bridge.
It started out with Karper teaching fiddle lessons in the front room of their home. After massive community support, a fundraising campaign, and the addition of talented teachers, The Cat and the Fiddle has now blossomed into a sizable school with its own dedicated building and a slew of students eager to learn. The focus remains on folk music, which Karper says is both integral to the spirit of Appalachia and a relatively accessible genre for beginners to learn. “I love the term ‘folk music,’ because it’s for simple folk,” she says. “It’s simple music that people can just gather around and have a community experience.”
Whether it’s the fiddle, the banjo, the guitar, or any other instrument that fits under the folk spectrum, there’s something for the wide range of students the school welcomes. Karper says they’re just as likely to see a six-year-old picking up an instrument for the first time as they are to see a retiree who wants to use their free time to pick up a new skill. “Our slogan is ‘music is for everyone,’” Karper says. “And so to have resources that would meet the needs of every age group was definitely something on my heart.”
It’s clear that the school is close to Karper’s heart, right down to its very name. In a way, the name’s origin is emblematic of the sentimental, warm, family-oriented space she’s sought to cultivate with her school and its music. It’s an ode to the first time a fiddle came into her life in any form. It wasn’t through a music class or her own research, but through the words of someone who loved her. “It was my mom telling me that nursery rhyme,” she says. “‘Hey diddle diddle, the cat and the fiddle.’” 152 Capon Shoot Street, Capon Bridge, 443.860.2461, thecatandthefiddlewv.com, @thecatandthefiddle on FB
written by Taylor Maple