Ann Marie Calhoun

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Ann Marie Calhoun
Ann Marie Calhoun.jpg
With Jethro Tull band
São Paulo April 29, 2007.
Background information
Birth name Ann Marie Simpson
Born (1979-05-26) May 26, 1979 (age 36)
Gordonsville, Virginia, United States
Genres Bluegrass, rock
Occupation(s) violinist
Instruments Violin, Vocals
Years active 1994–present
Associated acts SuperHeavy, Kantara, Gary Ruley and Mule Train, Walker's Run

Ann Marie Calhoun (née Simpson; born 1979),[1] is a classically-trained American violinist who has performed as a bluegrass and rock musician in a number of prominent acts, including Jethro Tull, Steve Vai, Dave Matthews Band, Ringo Starr, and Mick Jagger's SuperHeavy. She is the sister of violinist Mary Simpson.

Personal life[edit]

She was born in Virginia to a "hillbilly dad",[2] a "documented descendant of Pocahontas",[3] who plays banjo, and a "Chinese mom",[2] who was a classically trained pianist.[3][4]

Her brothers play guitar and her sister, Mary Simpson, is also an accomplished bluegrass fiddler.[3][5]

Music training[edit]

Calhoun began taking violin lessons at the age of three. As she says: "I actually don't remember learning how to play, because I started when I was three. I feel like I've always known."[6] The first "hint of her talent" came at the age of four when she and her father were watching a Redskins game on television. After the band played "Hail to the Redskins" he suddenly heard it again, only this time on the violin: "She picked it up through her ears, and it came out through her fingers instantly. I knew she had a gift then."[4]

She began playing bluegrass music with her siblings in the Simpson Family Band when she was still quite young. As her father states: "When she was 14, I started taking her to the fiddle contests and she won just about every one."[4]

"My mother, a classically trained pianist, signed me up for violin lessons. My father, a bluegrass banjo player, couldn’t wait for me to learn some fiddle tunes. After I learned my first minuet, my father taught me how to play 'Turkey in the Straw.' I delighted in the contrast of musical styles, and I began supplementing my formal training in the classical violin with fiddle lessons from my father.”[7]

Ann Marie Calhoun

She attended Lake Braddock High School in Virginia close to Washington, D.C.

As a teenager she was a youth fellow with the National Symphony Orchestra, a program that took her to the Kennedy Center weekly and provided private lessons with the National Symphony Orchestra's violinist William Haroutounian.[4][8] Early on she was conflicted as to what style of music to pursue.

Calhoun attended the University of Virginia where she double-majored in Music and Biology, graduating in the class of 2001.[9] She also took some pre-medicine required courses.[10] While studying there she shared her bluegrass fiddle talents with Walker's Run[11] in Charlottesville, Virginia. From 2001 to 2003 she was part of the bluegrass fusion ensemble Old School Freight Train. She also takes part in Gary Ruley and Mule Train with other members of Walker's Run.

Before dedicating herself completely to her musical career, Calhoun taught science and directed the strings program at Woodberry Forest School, in Madison County, Virginia.[12] She is "taking a leave from this school to pursue music."[2] She has also been a noted violin and fiddle teacher in both Northern Virginia and Central Virginia.


"Unlike many of her fiddlin' friends from the Classical world, Ann Marie has cultivated considerable improvisational abilities but still retains her music theory and the ability to play set parts and orchestrations.”[13]

Ian Anderson


In 2004, she recorded the violins on the album Stand Up for Dave Matthews Band.


In 2005 she toured Italy with the North African/American band Kantara which performed Arab-Appalachian music.[14]


In 2006 she was invited to tour with the progressive rock band Jethro Tull as a guest soloist. She admits: "I had to Google 'Ian Anderson' when he first contacted me."[15]

"She faced some harrowing musical challenges with determination, focus, confidence and respect, and she always delivered gracefully.... But the most captivating aspect of her playing is how her enchanting personality emanates through her fingertips and into the notes.”[13]

Steve Vai


In 2007 she became a member of Steve Vai's band, "String Theories"[2] (so named for the addition of two Violinists and dropping of one Guitarist, changing the sound of Steve's more typical "Rock Band", and a play on his most recently released 2-CD set & DVD, at the time, a recording of his work (both playing guitar as well as changing arrangements of his solo work for a full Orchestra) with the Netherlands avant-garde Metropole Orkest entitled Sound Theories Volumes I & II. She began a world tour with Steve Vai in June 2007.

[16] Ann Marie received a gold sales award for her participation in Steve Vai's "Where the Wild Things Are" DVD. Her performance with Steve Vai on "Now We Run" was also nominated for a Grammy Award in the category of "Best Instrumental Rock Group Performance."


Ann Marie Calhoun on violin, playing with Gary Ruley and Mule Train at The Southern Inn in Lexington, Virginia, Thanksgiving 2008

At the 50th Grammy Awards on February 10, 2008, Mrs. Calhoun was the winner of the "My Grammy Moment" contest and played live with the Foo Fighters during the broadcast. Said Steve Vai about her performance at that event: "She should have been the one who had a full performance on the show, because she would have stunned people."[4]

She performed with Ringo Starr on Larry King Live, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, and at the Los Angeles House of Blues.

In late February 2008, she stepped into the recording studio with The Hooters.

In 2008 she performed multiple times as a special guest with the band Switchfoot.

In 2008 Ann Marie performed multiple times as a special guest with the band Widespread Panic.

On Leap Day in 2008 Ann Marie performed as a special guest with the band The Disco Biscuits.


In 2009 she performed with the First Lady of France Carla Bruni, Josh Groban, and Aretha Franklin, at Radio City Music Hall to celebrate Mandela Day.

In 2009 she toured as a featured soloist with Yanni.

In 2009 she performed several times with Bon Jovi, including a private Christmas time performance at the White House for President Barack Obama and his staff.


On January 13, 2010, she performed for Ringo Starr with Ben Harper and the Relentless7 on The Daily Show to promote Starr's new album, Y Not. She again played with them and Joan Osborne on January 14, 2010 for a performance at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium, in New York City which was recorded for and appeared in 2010 on the PBS show, Live from the Artists Den.[17][18][19]

Ann Marie collaborated with Hans Zimmer, as a featured soloist and contributing writer on the film score for the 2009 film Sherlock Holmes, directed by Guy Ritchie. The score was nominated for the 2010 Academy Award for Best Score. She also collaborated with Damien Marley to score the documentary “Bouncing Cats,” a film that follows one man’s efforts to use dance to empower youth in war-torn Uganda. She worked with Dave Stewart (her manager through Stewart's Weapons of Mass Entertainment company), and co-wrote the theme song for the charity Stand Up to Cancer.

She orchestrated and conducted an arrangement of “I’ll Take It All” for Joss Stone to be used with Activision’s James Bond series games.

On May 17, 2010 she premiered as the lead actress, music composer, and official spokesperson for Tim Kring’s Conspiracy For Good aka “SPIRA.”


Ann Marie played with the rock supergroup SuperHeavy with Mick Jagger, Dave Stewart, Joss Stone, AR Rahman, and Damian Marley on their debut studio album.[20] She also played on Stevie Nicks' album "In Your Dreams".


She performed with Hans Zimmer, Pharrell Williams, A. R. Rahman and Sheila E. at the 84th Annual Academy Awards.[21] She also performed with Rahman at the MTV Unplugged in 2012.


She recorded on Stevie Nicks' album 24 Karat Gold: Songs from the Vault.


Articles, reviews, interviews, etc.[edit]


  1. ^ "My GRAMMY Moment 2008 Down to Three Finalists Vying to Be Featured Performer in Foo Fighters Orchestra on 50th Annual GRAMMY Awards Feb. 10 on CBS", Business Wire, February 04, 2008. Quoting from the article: " ... Ann Marie Calhoun (28 [years old], ... Gordonsville, Va. – Violin ..."
  2. ^ a b c "Ann Marie Calhoun official website". Retrieved 2012-02-29. 
  3. ^ a b c "Is it a fiddle or a violin?", Orange County Review inSIDEr, Orange, Virginia, June 7, 2007
  4. ^ a b c d e St. George, Donna (2008-02-14), "A Shining Moment In Grammy Spotlight: Talent Took N.Va. Violinist to 'Music's Biggest Night'", The Washington Post: B01 
  5. ^ "2005 Maury River Fiddler's Convention 12th Annual Maury River Fiddlers' Convention 2005" - Maury River Fiddler's Convention website, Buena Vista, Virginia. Mary Simpson won first place in the 2005 fiddling competition and also won Best All Around Blue Grass Performer.
  6. ^ "FACETIME- Jethro lull: Local gal all over the place" interview by Vijith Assar, published April 26, 2007 The Hook.
  7. ^ "Last Look: Starving artist" by Ann Marie Calhoun, posted February 17, 2006 University of Virginia Arts and Science Magazine.
  8. ^ "Biography: William Haroutounian", The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington, D.C.
  9. ^ Graves, Lee, "Fiddling with the Stars: Violin Prodigy Rocks with Ringo, Wins Nationwide Grammy Contest", The McIntire Department of Music Newsletter, University of Virginia, April 17, 2008
  10. ^ Ann Marie Calhoun official website - (archived 2006) Quoting from the 2006 archived site: " ... Ann Marie decided to be a science and strings teacher at Woodberry Forest School. (She also double majored in Biology and took pre-medicine requirements just for fun.) ..."
  11. ^ "Walker's Run website". Retrieved 2012-02-29. 
  12. ^ "The Jethro Tull Archive SET LISTt". Electrocutas.Com. Retrieved 2012-02-29. 
  13. ^ a b "Ann Marie Calhoun MySpace page". 2011-09-01. Retrieved 2012-02-29. 
  14. ^ "Biography: Kantara Music", Kantara Music website
  15. ^ "Interview with ANN-MARIE CALHOUN" Let It Rock interview October 2006.
  16. ^ "Steve Vai to Release Live Concert Film from Sound Theories Tour", Modern Guitars Magazine magazine, July 17, 2009
  17. ^ "Live from the Artists Den: Ringo Starr with Ben Harper and Relentless7", The Artists Den website, 2010
  18. ^ "Artists Den Presents Ringo Starr with Ben Harper & Relentless7", Spectrum, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, Thursday, January 14, 2010
  19. ^ "Live From The Artists Den: Ringo Starr With Ben Harper And Relentless 7 Airs Thursday, July 8, 2010 at 11 p.m. on KPBS TV", KPBS-TV website. Includes a photograph of the musicians playing on stage with Ann Marie Calhoun.
  20. ^ [1][dead link]
  21. ^ "The 84th Annual Academy Awards (2012) With Pharrell Williams & Hans Zimmer, ‘Pharrell Williams – It Don’t Mean A Thing If It Ain’t Got Pharrell’ – The Neptunes No. 1 fan site, all about Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo". Retrieved 2012-02-29. 
  22. ^ "New Pearl Jam Album Lightning Bolt". Pearl Jam OnLine. Retrieved 2013-08-09. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]