LARSON: Local musician does more than just fiddle around

Susan Larson

Susan Larson

The voice was unmistakable. “One more dollar and I’m goin’ home,” it trilled over the XM radio in our car. My husband and I turned and looked at each other. Can it be? Leah Calvert? The same Leah Calvert who sang on our deck for his 60th birthday party? Well, it had to be because no one else in the world has a voice like that.

Six years ago, my husband asked his friend, Doug Olsen, a fellow engineer and bluegrass musician, if he could get together a band for his birthday celebration. Doug promised a real class act and brought, along with other talented musicians, a young lady whose voice sounded like it was channeled from heaven.

If You Go

• What: The Dappled Grays

• Where: Eddie’s Attic, Decatur

• When: 8 p.m. Friday

• For more information, visit dappledgraysmusic.com

Calvert, a graduate of Norcross High School, without doubt, came about that voice through her gene pool. No sound like that can be cultivated from scratch, but Calvert does give credit to people who helped her improve on what she was born with, including her finesse with a fiddle.

“My step-dad played in a blue grass band and asked me what I wanted to play so I started with the violin. All of my parents have been very supportive my musical career.”

While a student at Norcross, Calvert took part in several drama productions and credits the drama teacher for much of her success.

“Gina (Parrish) is an incredible teacher who was always able to get incredible products. I played as a pit musician and I’ve never run across anything as professionally done as with her,” Calvert said.

Also, Dee Knapp in Lawrenceville, whose husband John plays jazz piano, taught me a lot about breath control,’ she said. “You need a good understanding of that to craft a song.”

Of course with her paternal grandfather being a Highland piper and her maternal grandfather being a blue grass vocalist, there was apparently already some quality breath there to learn how to control.

But Calvert says making music is for everybody and she now teaches at the Community Music Centers of Atlanta (www.cmcatlanta.com) helping students of all ages and backgrounds cultivate a style of their own in any genre from classical to country, gypsy to jazz.

“We try to get people into a social playing community as soon as possible. The beauty of playing music is not to be impressive, but to have a social outlet. If there are ten tunes they can play, they have an hour’s worth of all the fun they can have.”

And Calvert has all the fun she can have for hours on end as the fiddler and vocalist for the Dappled Grays, an award winning ensemble known as “Atlanta’s Blue Grass Band.”

You can see — and hear — what I’m talking about this Friday night when the Dappled Grays play at Eddie’s Attic in Decatur. But if you can’t make it, Calvert loves setting a good example for her students by performing at social outlets in people’s back yards.

Susan Larson is a Lilburn resident. E-mail her at susanlarson4@yahoo.com.