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) 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 Ann Marie Simpson in 1979[1] 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 an accomplished bluegrass fiddler.[3][5]

Music training[edit]

Simpson 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 Simpson 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] Simpson began playing bluegrass music with her siblings in the Simpson Family Band. 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

Simpson 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 weekly to the Kennedy Center and provided private lessons with the National Symphony Orchestra's violinist, William Haroutounian.[4][8]

Simpson attended the University of Virginia where she double-majored in Music and Biology, graduating in the class of 2001.[9][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, Simpson 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 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 2004, Calhoun recorded the violins on the album Stand Up for the Dave Matthews Band. In 2005 she toured Italy with the North African/American band, Kantara, which performed Arab-Appalachian music.[14] In 2006 Calhoun was invited to tour with the progressive rock band, Jethro Tull, as a guest soloist. She admited: "I had to Google 'Ian Anderson' when he first contacted me."[15] Anderson later said of Calhoun: "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]

In 2007 Calhoun became a member of Steve Vai's band, String Theories.[16] The band began a world tour in June 2007.[17] Calhoun received a gold sales award for her participation in Vai's "Where the Wild Things Are" DVD. Her performance with Vai on "Now We Run," was nominated for a Grammy Award in the category of "Best Instrumental Rock Group Performance." Vai commented 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]

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, Calhoun was the winner of the "My Grammy Moment" contest, and played live with the Foo Fighters during the broadcast. In late February 2008, she recorded with The Hooters and played as a special guest with the band The Disco Biscuits. Later that year, Calhoun performed multiple times as a special guest with the bands Switchfoot and Widespread Panic, and then performed with Ringo Starr on Larry King Live, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, and at the Los Angeles House of Blues.

2009 saw Calhoun perform with the "First Lady of France," Carla Bruni, along with Josh Groban and Aretha Franklin, at Radio City Music Hall to celebrate Mandela Day. Calhoun appeared several times with Bon Jovi, including a Christmas performance at the White House for President Barack Obama. Calhoun has toured as a featured soloist with Yanni.

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.[18] She again played with them, with the addition of Joan Osborne, on January 14, 2010, for a performance at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York City (which was recorded for the 2010 PBS show, Live from the Artists Den).[19][20][21]

Calhoun 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), and co-wrote the theme song for the charity, Stand Up to Cancer.

Calhoun 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 (also known as "SPIRA").

In 2011, Calhoun played with the rock supergroup SuperHeavy with Mick Jagger, Dave Stewart, Joss Stone, AR Rahman, and Damian Marley on their debut studio album, Superheavy, and accompanied Stevie Nicks' on the album, "In Your Dreams".

Calhoun performed again with Rahman on MTV Unplugged, and appeared with Hans Zimmer, Pharrell Williams, A. R. Rahman and Sheila E. at the 84th Annual Academy Awards in 2012.[22]

Calhoun recorded on Stevie Nicks' 2014 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.
  6. ^ "FACETIME- Jethro lull: Local Gal All Over the Place"; April 26, 2007; interview by Vijith Assar; "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. ^ [1]
  17. ^ "Steve Vai to Release Live Concert Film from Sound Theories Tour", Modern Guitars Magazine magazine, July 17, 2009
  18. ^ [2]
  19. ^ "Live from the Artists Den: Ringo Starr with Ben Harper and Relentless7", The Artists Den website, 2010
  20. ^ "Artists Den Presents Ringo Starr with Ben Harper & Relentless7", Spectrum, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, Thursday, January 14, 2010
  21. ^ "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.
  22. ^ "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. 
  23. ^ "New Pearl Jam Album Lightning Bolt". Pearl Jam OnLine. Retrieved 2013-08-09. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]