Ruby Jane Smith is a little girl making big noise with her fiddle in the world of country music.
Ruby Jane Smith: 13-year-old fiddling phenom impresses audiences, fellow musicians with her 'awesome talent'
By TERRY MATHEWS, News-Telegram Arts Editor
March 14, 2008 - Talk to just about anyone who's had the chance to hear teenage fiddle player Ruby Jane Smith draw a bow across the strings and they'll tell you she's one in a million.
The 13-year-old Mississippi native has shared the stage with country music stars Big and Rich, performed during Austin's prestigious South by Southwest music festival and just ended a stint as a featured entertainer in the play, "A Ride with Bob," a look at the life of Texas fiddle legend Bob Wills.
"We played the 'Black and White Rag' in the middle section (of the play) and 'Beaumont Rag' in the finale," Smith said in a telephone interview. "It was absolutely awesome."
Audience response also proved to be a pleasant surprise for Smith, the only child of divorced parents.
"I don't think the audience really knows what to expect at first of this kid with a fiddle," Smith explained. "Then, after I play a little bit, they start applauding."
Her fellow actors and musicians also think highly of the youngster.
"Ruby Jane is a born performer," said Jason Roberts, who has the role of Bob Wills in the play. "I wish I had played that well when I was 13."
Elizabeth McQueen, who plays Minnie Pearl in the show, enjoys touring with Smith.
"Not only is Ruby Jane an undeniably fantastic fiddler player, she's also a terrific person," McQueen said. "She's so present, funny and smart that I often forget that I'm talking to a 13-year -old."
Dave Alexander, leader of a Western swing band and radio disc jockey who tours with the play says, "What an awesome talent! Not only is Ruby Jane a great young fiddler, I think she's on the right track with her priorities in order and that's what makes her special. I think she's the real deal."
Smith is equally impressed with the talent of her fellow musicians.
"Jason's just about better than anyone out there," Smith said in a phone interview. "Whatever you play, he can play perfect harmony to it. So few people can do that."
She's just as enthusiastic about McQueen.
"Elizabeth has the awesomest voice. I love to listen to her sing harmony," Smith said. "She'll be backstage during the play and she'll just start singing harmony with Ray (Benson, who co-wrote the play and plays himself)."
Smith fell in love with the violin at age two, after listening to a videotape of classical violists Itzhak Perlman and Pinchas "Pinky" Zukerman.
"My mom doesn't let me watch TV, so I watched the tape over and over and over," Smith said. "I told my mom I wanted to play, so she got me this $10 tin violin for my second birthday. I carried it around like a baby doll."
Smith's mother convinced a local violin teacher in Columbus, Miss., to take her daughter on at the age of two-and-a half.
"I took classical lessons until I was seven or eight," Smith said. "I branched out to Appalachia and bluegrass fiddling. Then, I moved to swing and jazz and that's how I discovered Western Swing."
Smith and her mother now live in an RV park in Austin, where they're looking for a house.
"Austin is such a big music city. I just fell in love with it and asked my mom if we could stay here," said the home-schooled 8th grader. "The first night we were here, we went to the Continental Club and I got to sit in with Dale Watson. Now, I play gigs all over town. I even have my own band."
Ruby Jane Smith is a name to remember. This kid's got what it takes to make it big in the music business and she's so sweet and unaffected, it's easy to root for her.
Smith's CDs "Road to Columbus" and "Creekside," and a sample of her music are available at www.myspace.com/rubyjanesmith.