WAVE Country fiddler nominated for a Grammy

Published: Dec. 5, 2017 at 11:48 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 6, 2017 at 12:30 AM EST
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CHARLESTOWN, IN (WAVE) - A local man just got his first Grammy nomination, adding an honor to the fiddling dream he's had since the age of four.

Michael Cleveland of Charlestown, Indiana remembers the first time he heard the fiddle. He was with his grandparents at a bluegrass music festival and heard the song 'Orange Blossom Special.'

"That song captivated me for some reason," Cleveland said. "And from that moment on I knew I had to play the fiddle. Most people I know don't remember anything about being four-years-old, but I'll never forget that."

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But Michael couldn't read music -- he was born blind. He says in a way that worked to his advantage.

"Most people that I know of, their teachers tell them to practice in a dark room," Cleveland said. "You shouldn't look at things. Listen to things when it comes to playing."

During the week at the Kentucky School for the Blind, he took classical lessons. On the weekends, it was all about bluegrass music. His grandparents had started some bluegrass music festivals in Henryville, and Cleveland started playing in competitions when he was seven.

"I listened to bluegrass, I played bluegrass, I dreamed about playing bluegrass nonstop," Cleveland said. "That's all I ever wanted to do."

After high school, Michael joined a band. He played at the Grand Ole Opry, and even with Vince Gill. He is now the band leader of Michael Cleveland and Flamekeeper.

All this time, he's also been recording solo albums. His latest made him a Grammy nominee for Best Bluegrass Album at the age of 37.

"I think 'Oh my God' was the first thing out of my mouth after I recovered," Cleveland told us.

Michael lives at home with his father and stepmother. John Cleveland says he is so proud of his son.

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"Well you know, it's been 33 years since he started playing," John Cleveland said. "It's a lot of hard work, but it's great."

For Michael, the title track, "Fiddler's Dream," couldn't be more perfect.

"It's an appropriate title for a lot of reasons. I get to live a dream everyday making music for a living," Cleveland said.

The Grammy's will be held on January 28th at Madison Square Garden. Michael says he has a gig the night before but hopes to make it there.

If you'd like to hear Michael play in person, he has two upcoming shows with the Louisville Orchestra in March.

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