Kaylee Polk’s passion is playing the fiddle, and she was thrilled to bring her music to the public during Celtic Calling last weekend.
Sixteen-year-old Kaylee, who is the daughter of Karin and Chris Polk, hails from Red House. She started playing the violin when she was 6, and later transitioned to the fiddle. The main reason why she wanted to learn how to play the violin was because she attended a friend’s recital and wanted to learn how to do it herself. At the time, the family lived in Columbus, Ohio, and she took lessons from Suzuki Music, where she learned to play by ear and then later how to read music.
When Kaylee’s family moved back to West Virginia in 2013, they looked for a new teacher for her. Cathy Grant, who has a studio located above Fret and Fiddle in St. Albans, became Kaylee’s instructor. Kaylee switched from classical violin to old time fiddle, and soon became a member of Fiddlers Galore, a group that Kathy organized. This all-ages ensemble often played for folk dances hosted by Friends of Old Time Music And Dance (FOOTMAD).
Unfortunately, Fiddlers Galore became a victim of the COVID pandemic, and the group dissolved. Kaylee would later go on to join the St. Albans Scottish Fiddle Orchestra, which was organized by former members of Fiddlers Galore. The orchestra played in the 2022 Celtic Calling. Kaylee joined them again this year when they performed at the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame in the Charleston Town Center last Sunday.
Kaylee and a small group of local musicians, dubbed Kaylee and Friends, provided musical accompaniment for an evening of Irish folk dance on Friday evening at the Kanawha United Presbyterian Church. The ensemble was comprised of Sarah Saffer on violin; Libby Mercer on piano; Tom Thurmond on guitar; and Chris Polk – Kaylee’s father – on stand up base.
This was the second time that Kaylee has led a dance. The first time was the week before last, when she performed at a fundraiser for Ignite Athletics at Good Shepherd Baptist Church in Scott Depot. Kaylee especially enjoyed this experience, for her homeschool volleyball team is based at Good Shepherd.
“I really enjoy playing at these dances,” relates Kaylee.
Besides being a member of the St. Albans Fiddle Orchestra, Kaylee is also part of the West Virginia Youth Symphony Orchestra. While her favorite style of music is bluegrass, she has returned to playing classical music with the orchestra. She also plays base in worship groups at different churches. Last year, she played with the Hurricane Civic Chorus, and she is taking piano lessons with chorus director Elsa Long.
Kaylee’s family has always been musical, so it comes naturally to her. Her father plays a bit of everything, and her mother sings.
“Music is a really good way to express myself,” says Kaylee.
In addition to all these accomplishments, Kaylee is a two-time winner of the youth fiddle division at the Vandalia Gathering, having won first place in 2017 and again in 2022.