Fiddler Erik Sessions

Stop by Vesterheim Commons or tune in to Vesterheim’s YouTube channel at Noon CT on May 17, during Vesterheim’s Syttende Mai celebration, to hear fiddler Erik Sessions!

Erik is well known in the Decorah area and the contra dance scene, and we’re so happy to host him playing Scandinavian music for you on this special day! Syttende Mai is the day Norway ratified its Constitution and Norwegians traditionally celebrate with parades, food, costumes, music, and family gatherings, and you can find the full Vesterheim schedule of events here!

If you haven’t heard Erik Sessions play, you’re in for a treat! Erik came to know Scandinavian tunes in a round-about way after years of mastering the fiddle, and his skill and musicianship are astounding.

His fiddle playing began after his parents took him at age four to the symphony, and his enthusiasm prompted lessons in the Suzuki method. When, as a boy, his family moved from Duluth, Minnesota, to Decorah, Iowa, he made some important connections – studying with Luther College Professor Virginia Strauss and being invited along with Beth Hoven Rotto and Jon Rotto of the Foot-Notes band to play in a contra dance band, The Possum Feathers, which began his experience with folk music.

As a student at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, he continued his formal classical training but also continued to pursue his interest in folk music. He was part of developing a student for-credit program called Flying Fingers that gave students ensemble credit for playing with Twin City musicians and bands while learning many instruments and different world folk styles. He played at contra dances throughout the Twin Cities, especially at the Tapestry Folk Dance Center.

After college, he was part of Pig’s Eye Landing, a band that played at festivals, dances, and events in the Twin Cities and toured the East Coast. He was also part of the band for the Ethnic Dance Theater production, which gave an annual performance of ethnic dances and toured Europe. Through this diverse range of experiences, he was exposed to a vast array of world folk music and was challenged by the techniques and sounds characteristic to each cultural tradition.

In 1997, he moved back to Decorah with his partner Sara Peterson to begin Patchwork Green Farm, where he’s been a vegetable farmer now for 25 years. With the move back to Decorah, he connected to more Scandinavian music opportunities in the area, learning from area musicians and through workshops at Vesterheim with bands from Finland, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. He joined John Goodin, a local mandolin player, to form the contra dance band Contratopia, which is still active even after John’s passing in 2021. Contratopia mainly plays dances in the Twin Cities but has a national reputation and has recorded several albums.

Along with Contratopia, Erik currently plays fiddle locally with the Western Home String band and also plays the mandolin with Foot-Notes. He has expanded his repertoire by writing his own tunes and recently helped the Practical Farmers of Iowa Association with a video project by offering original recorded music.

Erik says he finds traditional Scandinavian music fascinating and enjoys learning from masters by ear and through written music. For the Syttende Mai concert, he’ll play Norwegian tunes, of course, as well as others from Finland, Sweden, and Scandinavian America.

We know that Erik will impress you with his fiddling skill and will bring a bit of Scandinavia to your Syttende Mai. Enjoy the show!