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Law student becomes grand master fiddler

As if working towards a law degree wasn’t enough, James Steele can now add Master Fiddler to his résumé; Steele was named the grand master at the Canadian Grand Master Fiddle Championships after placing first in the competition Aug. 24 in Saskatoon.

Fiddling has been an important part of Steele’s life since he was a child.  After beginning with classical violin when he was just seven, he switched to fiddle and began lessons with Everett Larson, a well-known fiddle teacher, who happened to live just a few houses away. Wishing to stay in his hometown after graduation, Steele came to the University of Saskatchewan and completed his undergraduate degree in history.  He then decided that his next challenge would be law school.

“Law appealed to me as a challenging and intellectually stimulating career, especially because it requires such skills as writing, reasoning and oral persuasiveness,” he said.

But during Saturday’s national fiddling event, Steele let his musical skills do the persuading. He said the win was especially rewarding because the competition was held in his hometown, meaning many of his music friends could attend. “It’s an incredible honour in every way.  Many of the past winners of this competition have been musical idols of mine.”

So how does Steele find the time to perfect his fiddling skills while also meeting the rigorous demands of law school? 

“It can be somewhat complex at times, and I usually engage in fewer music events during periods such as final exams.” Steele said he finds however, that performing once a week, which only takes a few hours of his time, is an ideal way to rejuvenate him and provides a brief reprieve from the demands of law school.

Steele is quick to point out that he’s not the only one who excels at extra-curricular activities. “Many law students—and students university-wide—are known for distinguished athletic, artistic or musical careers, which they have maintained during their post-secondary studies. I myself wonder at people who keep up outside interests in addition to academic commitments, but also in addition to full involvement in things like college government or college groups,” he said.

Steele’s advice to those wondering if they can balance involvement with extra-curricular activities like music, dance or sports is to “keep organized.  Once you keep an organized schedule, and always arrange things to make sure school doesn’t suffer, things go smoothly.”

Following his studies at the College of Law, Steele will article with the Robertson Stromberg LLP law firm in Saskatoon and hopes to continue with his fiddle performances on weekends and evenings whenever possible.

“Fiddling is certainly a part of who I am, and something I mean to continue.” 

Photo by Cyndie Knorr, courtesy of Canadian Grand Masters Fiddling Competition