Northwest Folklife

50 Years of Northwest Folklife Feature: Vivian Williams

Northwest Folklife celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2021 with a commemorative logo, highlighting the people and the communities who make Northwest Folklife and all of our programs what it is today. This celebratory 50th logo was designed to feature the core of our organization and one that encompasses who we are—and that is YOU, our community.

Featured at the bottom of the ‘5’ is an illustration inspired by Vivian Williams, master fiddler and co-founder of Northwest Folklife. This illustration was inspired by a photo taken by Christopher Nelson of Vivian performing at the Northwest Folklife Festival in 2017.

Vivian Williams has played the fiddle for 60 years and is well known for her depth of understanding of many styles of fiddle music. She is recognized as a master of Celtic, old-time, and bluegrass-style fiddling. Vivian is also one of the very first folklorists of regional music through her recording company, Voyager Records. Alongside her late husband, Phil Williams, Vivian co-founded the Northwest Folklife Festival in 1971.

Not only is she a champion fiddler in many different contests in the US and Canada, but she is also a composer, publisher, editor, recording artist, workshop teacher, and folk music researcher, consultant, and historian. She is an accomplished bluegrass and old-time dance fiddler, playing regularly for contra dances in the Seattle area. She has a special love of the Pacific Northwest fiddling style and is passionate about keeping the art of fiddling alive and well.

Vivian Williams at the 2017 Northwest Folklife Festival | Photo by Christopher Nelson

In addition to being featured on our special logo, Vivian is also the first culture bearer highlighted in our new Living Legacies Podcast, created in partnership with Jack Straw Cultural Center. Launching in celebration of Northwest Folklife’s 50th anniversary, this podcast celebrates the voices and stories of individuals around the Pacific Northwest through in-depth interviews.

Listen to the first episode to hear Vivian reflect on the origins of Northwest Folklife, its legacy, and how she hopes it grows in 50 years and beyond.

Washington Old Time Fiddlers performing at the Plaza of the States, NW Folklife, 1972.

You can learn more about Vivian here: