Some people grew up surrounded by fiddling and come by it quite naturally, whereas others take a winding path to get there, through education, careers, cities and other styles. Dr. Kimberly Brady took the windy route. Brady studied classical violin obtaining a degree in Performance Violin at the University of Houston and she played in Houston companies in addition to touring North American and Europe playing with opera companies and for the ballet. Kimberly continued her education at Baylor College of Medicine, going on to become a gynecologic surgeon. It wasn’t until 1995 that she became enthralled by fiddling and began to work her way into the fiddling world. She soon discovered that playing the fiddle did not encompass many of the aspects of her classical background and she has to work hard to avoid using the vibrato that fits so smoothly in with other violin styles.
Kimberly loved the tempo of the music and the emotive quality that it had to make her happy and feel like moving. She was caught off guard that she had only discovered it rather late in the game. Due to her intense schedule as a surgeon, she has had to really work hard to squeeze in training for the last two years with championship fiddler, Michael Weise.
She had to revisit her previous techniques with the violin to start out with her fiddling training but learned that, while that was helpful, there is much more to the Texas style than simply fingering practice. Many fiddlers learn primarily by ear when honing their skills and Kimberly had the advantage of her musical training to help her to learn through Weise’s repertoire of transcribed pieces. Some her favourites included those from Terry Morris, Jimmy don Bates, Major Franklin and Johnny Smith. It gave her the chance to introduce some unique selections in competitive play such as Jenny Lind Polka. The combination of her training and passion has inspired her to create a book on adapting the technique for others who are classically trained.
While she does enjoy the breakdowns, Brady says that she prefers to find the rarely performed pieces and sees a certain beauty in them, particularly waltzes, schottisches and the like. She realizes that those aren’t always the most popular in a contest but her primary reason for playing is that it relaxes her and takes her away from the intense pressure of her work. Her practice at Memorial Hermann Memorial City in west Houston keeps her very busy, performing about 150 surgeries annually in addition to providing follow up work, regular patient advice and preventative health advice. Dr. Brady sits on the Doctor’s Orchestra in Houston as well which plays to raise funds to support charities related to medicine. She is also a member of the Texas Old-Time Fiddlers Association, a role that she thoroughly enjoys. She feels it is a wonderful experience to engage with so many people with a love of fiddling and is grateful to have the benefit of the many years of wisdom that they can offer to newer and younger fiddlers that are a part of the group. Brady says that the work of the Association is essential in preserving fiddling for years to come.