At the age of six, Natalie Padilla was named Montana State Pee Wee Fiddle Champion – the first of many awards and honors she’s received, ranging from National Small Fry Fiddle Champion at the National Old Time Fiddler’s Contest (1994) to National Twin Fiddling Champion (2015).
When she came to UNC, Padilla spent time playing Irish music with Blayne Chastain, the music director for St. Patrick Presbyterian Church in Greeley. She also released a solo album, produced by Joe K Walsh, and including guest artists Darol Anger, Brittany Karlson, Dave Haughey and Owen Marshall and more. Padilla calls her own music a mix between Irish, bluegrass and oldtime. She’s passionate about writing original music inspired by these styles.
“That’s my happy place,” Padilla says. “I love taking a tune and making it my own.”
In 2011, after winning several prestigious student awards, she graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Music degree from UNC, and in 2016 she returned to UNC to become instructor of folk and bluegrass fiddle.
Padilla has performed with the National Repertory Orchestra and other orchestras, and has taken the stage at many festivals, including the Breckenridge Music Festival and Colorado Music Festival. She founded a modern acoustic bluegrass band, Masontown, and in addition to teaching at UNC, Padilla shares her knowledge at fiddle camps across the country all summer.
“Bluegrass is a piece of the musical heritage of our country,” she says. “We should honor it as a university, particularly when there is a thriving folk and bluegrass scene in our region.”
New Roots in Old Traditions
The School of Music welcomes a Bluegrass and Folk program to its notable circle, creating space for a diverse soundscape. Read more in the UNC magazine