Mary Simpson (violinist)

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Mary Ellen Simpson
Mary Simpson.jpg
With The Whiskey Rebellion
Fellini's No. 9 restaurant Charottesville
Americana Night April 20, 2009
Background information
InstrumentsViolin, Vocals
Associated actsYanni, Gary Ruley and Mule Train, Walker's Run, The Whiskey Rebellion

Mary Ellen Simpson is an American professional violinist, mostly noted for her work with Yanni, Gary Ruley and Mule Train and Walker's Run. She is a founding member of The Whiskey Rebellion band.


Simpson's father, a documented descendant of Pocahontas, plays banjo and her Taiwanese mother is a classically trained pianist. She is the sister of noted violinist Ann Marie Calhoun and her brothers play guitar.

She began learning to play violin at the age of five. She says she grew up listening to her sister play. Like her sister she played bluegrass music in her family band. According to Simpson, "her classical background gives her a wider variety of tones and better control of her sound than she would have had she only studied bluegrass."[1]

Mary attended Lake Braddock Secondary School in Burke, Virginia. She has a double major[2] in music and economics from the University of Virginia.

The Whiskey Rebellion[edit]

Mary Simpson, Roy Myers, Ryan Phillips, and David Cosper connected the summer of 2005 at the Maury River Fiddler's Convention in Buena Vista, Virginia. Myers and Phillips had been performing around Richmond while Simpson and Cosper appeared in Charlottesville while studying music at the University of Virginia. The Richmond faction invited the Charlottesvillians east for some gigs and the band was formed.[3] As to how an historic event – the "unhappy reaction of whiskey makers to a tax imposed by the federal government during George Washington's presidency" – ended up being their band name, Phillips explains:

We were practicing music at Roy's house on Floyd Avenue years ago when we glanced over at the TV. There was a special on about the Whiskey Rebellion. We had been looking around for a name and that one stuck.[3]

Tim Deibler, bass player − a resident of Charlottesville, Virginia, who studied music at Christopher Newport University − is the newest member of the group.[4]

The Whiskey Rebellion went into the recording studio this September 2010 and recorded several new songs which will be included on an upcoming EP.[4]


The Whiskey Rebellion has appeared at numerous notable music festivals such as the 25th Anniversary of "The Goonies" Festival in Astoria, Oregon; Maury River Fiddler's Convention in Buena Vista, Virginia; and Watermelon Park Festival in Berryville, Virginia.[5] They have shared the bill with such acts as The Sam Bush Band, Peter Rowan and Tony Rice, Tim O'Brien, The Seldom Scene, the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Larry Keel, and many more.[6]

Simpson performed with Yanni on his 2011 North American Spring Tour. They played such venues as Radio City Music Hall in New York City, The Warfield Theatre in San Francisco, and the Fox Theatre in Atlanta.[7]

Mary Simpson performs with Samvel Yervinyan and Yanni at a Concert in Bangalore (India) on 18-April-2014 as part of Yanni's 2014 World Tour

She was part of Yanni's orchestra in the 2014 World Tour[8] and part of his 2016 North American Tour.

Musical style[edit]

The Whiskey Rebellion "plays a mostly high-energy, joyful brand of bluegrass, with skillful picking and two and three-part harmonies" according to The Virginia Pilot.[9] But, while a "casual listen" to their debut album might tempt one to "plug the band into the category reserved for pure bluegrass," warns the Richmond Times-Dispatch, "... there's much more to The Whiskey Rebellion than twang and high lonesome."[3] Says founder Simpson: "We play a lot of bluegrass standards, and we also take a lot of popular songs and cover them, bluegrass style."[10]

Our shows consist of a mix of originals, bluegrass standards and random cover songs such as Hendrix, Gnarls Barkley, The Beatles, Dylan, and Johnny Cash."[3]

— Ryan Phillips


Musicians performing together in The Whiskey Rebellion include:

Distinctions, honors, and awards[edit]



  1. ^ "On the Frontier of Bluegrass Stands the Whiskey Rebellion Archived 2011-10-03 at the Wayback Machine" Will's Corner, Magazine 33, Vol. 4; January 2010.
  2. ^ Mary Simpson official website
  3. ^ a b c d "Whiskey Rebellion Time: Going Beyond Bluegrass and studio Recordings" by Bill Craig, Richmond Times Dispatch; September 6, 2007.
  4. ^ a b The Whiskey Rebellion: News Archived 2012-03-31 at the Wayback Machine official website.
  5. ^ Artist Profile: The Whiskey Rebellion SonicBids.
  6. ^ SonicBids electronic press kit.
  7. ^ Yanni official website.
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Whiskey Rebellion likes to jam with high-energy" by John Harper, The Virginia Pilot; May 19, 2006.
  10. ^ "Whiskey Rebellion unites broad backgrounds" by Bill Kramer, The Staunton News Leader; 4/18/08.
  11. ^ 2010 Oregon Film Awards Archived 2012-02-01 at the Wayback Machine Gold Level Winners.
  12. ^ Fairbuilt Guitar Company The Watermelon Park Fest Pickin' Contest: 2010 Winners (confirmed by e-mail from Martin Fair; Jan 26, 2012).
  13. ^ a b Fairbuilt Guitar Company The Watermelon Park Fest Pickin' Contest: 2007 Winners.
  14. ^ Maury River Fiddler’s Convention Archived 2009-05-03 at the Wayback Machine Winners.

External links[edit]