Blindness can't slow down one of the best fiddlers in bluegrass

Feb 15, 2018

Michael Cleveland has been called “one of the premier fiddle players of his generation, if not in all of bluegrass history.”

He's also been completely blind since birth.


Michael Cleveland and Flamekeeper will perform in Traverse City on February 24.

Michael Cleveland has won the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Fiddler of the Year Award ten times — the most ever. 

He’s played with the likes of Bill Monroe, Ralph Stanley and Alison Krauss. 

Next week, the Indiana native will be in Traverse City with his band, Michael Cleveland and Flamekeeper.

Michael says he heard "The Orange Blossom Special " when he was about four years old.

"At that point I knew I wanted to play the fiddle, if only just to learn how to play that tune," he says.

Despite being blind for his entire life, Michael says he never gave much thought about how it might have been harder to learn the fiddle because he was blind. In fact, he points out that not being able to see his instrument might have actually helped him learn it better.

"A lot of teachers ... will tell their students when they practice, to practice music in a dark room," Michael explains. "Don't look at your instrument ... rely on your ears, not your eyes."


Michael Cleveland and Flamekeeper will perform next Saturday, February 24th, in Milliken Auditorium at Northwestern Michigan College.