Ken Waldman: From Alaska's Fiddling Poet to Nomadic Productions

Jun 17 2014


A little-known fact: we can all thank (or blame) Tim Wilson for my ongoing presence in this field.

In 1996, living in Juneau, I applied for a travel grant from the Alaska State Council on the Arts. Though I'd recently begun merging fiddling and poetry, because I'd been published in well-respected national literary journals I was seeking funding to attend a writers' gathering.

Tim, who was then director of the state arts council, approved the grant, but under the condition that I attend Arts Northwest that October in Eugene. Perhaps Tim had heard the preceding year I'd coined the phrase, Alaska's Fiddling Poet, to describe my shows. Regardless, he must have thought I had a chance as a touring performer.

So in 1996 I went to the Eugene conference, which started a process.

The next decade I had six books published, wrote a memoir about my life on tour, Are You Famous? (published by a small California press in 2008), released seven CDs, performed nationally, and began attending WAA, Arts Midwest, PAE, and APAP.

While I found that calling myself Alaska's Fiddling Poet opened some doors (the three words piqued the curiosity of some presenters), the title had its drawbacks (no, I wasn't necessarily a solo artist, I had to repeat, clarifying how I much preferred bringing accompanists when budgets allowed; and, no, the distance from Alaska shouldn't matter—I regularly booked dates all over).

Several years ago, when I decided to make the change from Ken Waldman, Alaska's Fiddling Poet to Ken Waldman, Nomadic Productions, it was Tim Wilson who noticed first. He asked if we'd seen the last of Alaska's Fiddling Poet.

“When it helps with a job, I'm still Alaska's Fiddling Poet,” I answered. “Otherwise, I'm Ken Waldman, or Nomadic Productions, or whatever best works to book a gig and then market it.”

With a recent website remodel and a new photo shoot, I'm still making adjustments, and still enjoying the challenges. I can thank (or blame) WAA's Tim Wilson for setting me on this path. Take a look at what I'm up to. You can thank (or blame) him too.


Cover Photo: Art Sutch