The Daily Tar Heel
Printing news. Raising hell. Since 1893.
Friday, Sept. 29, 2023 Newsletters Latest print issue

We keep you informed.

Help us keep going. Donate Today.
The Daily Tar Heel

Fiddling Poet Back in Town to Perform

Ken Waldman, a resident of Alaska, combines fiddling with stories of the American frontier in his performances.

Waldman, who will perform in Graham Memorial on Tuesday, waited tables at Pyewacket Restaurant while he attended Duke University before finding his fiddling muse.

"(After Chapel Hill), I eventually moved to Alaska," he said. "I don't know why I had to go that far, but the moving allowed me a certain perspective; it was a certain quiet."

Waldman, who has been a resident of Alaska since 1985, specializes in an eclectic combination of simultaneous poetry reading and fiddling. He began to compose poetry about 16 years ago, taking elements of everyday life and making them the focus of books such as "Nome Poems."

As for the fiddling, Waldman said he considers it to be life's little way of allowing him to make music.

"Some groups try to get three words to describe what they do," he said. "The mix of what I do is the fiddle and poetry -- and I live in Alaska." Hence Waldman is known as the "Alaskan Fiddling Poet."

Waldman said that he appreciates the chance to return to North Carolina, where he recently performed at the Carrboro ArtsCenter and at Duke. He will be performing at UNC as part of a collaboration between the James M. Johnston Center for Undergraduate Excellence and the Ackland Art Museum.

"I listened to (Waldman's) music and read his work, and it seemed as though there should be a place for him in this program," said Randi Davenport, associate director for the Johnston Center.

Davenport said Waldman's old-time fiddle music and stories of the American frontier will be a part of a series of symposiums and performances meant to supplement the Ackland's "Young America" exhibit.

"The collaboration brings to life a lot of the things that are explored in the exhibit," said Andy Berner, Ackland's director of communications. "By having a performance like (Waldman's), we can have the music of America as well."

Waldman said UNC audience members can expect a little more storytelling and talking than is typical of his albums and live performances. Nonetheless, Waldman said his intent in performing remains the same.

"To catch somebody's interest, the music has a certain energy; the writing has a certain depth," he said. "I'm trying to make this accessible because it's not taught that much, and it's not hip in a certain way."

Waldman will perform at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in the John Lindsay Morehead II Lounge in Graham Memorial.

The Arts & Entertainment Editor can be reached at

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.