Jessica Wedden — 16 and already a consummate professional

Written by  Wednesday, 22 August 2018 12:33
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Jessica Wedden with Reilly Donnelly at the Parham Fair Saturday. Photo/Craig Bakay Jessica Wedden with Reilly Donnelly at the Parham Fair Saturday. Photo/Craig Bakay

Like many 16-year-olds, Jessica Wedden has a summer job. Maybe you’ve seen her work. She plays the fiddle and step-dances.

Unlike most teens however, Wedden has been doing this job since she was 10 (about a year since she first started playing the fiddle) and she keeps getting busier and busier. There’s a reason for that — she can really play that fiddle.

“Last year, I did about 50 gigs,” she said. “I think I’ve done 53 already this year.”

Not bad for somebody that’s just going into Grade 11 this fall.

Last Saturday, she had a gig at the Parham Fair with frequent collaborator Reilly Donnelly. That’s after she’d already played Roots on the Clyde earlier in the day with Shawn McCullough.

Now, most people probably didn’t notice, but she was wearing a sleeve on her left arm.

It turns out that her rigorous practice schedule has left her with strains in both forearms.

“The left one’s a bit worse,” she said. “But it’s OK, I’ll just have to rearrange my practising for awhile.”

Undaunted, even at 16, she’s a seasoned performer who found a way to adapt to this temporary setback.

And most audience members probably didn’t notice any difference in her performance, other than her letting her bandmates take on more of a lead role.

“It’s only affected three shows,” she said. “And all of the organizers were OK with me playing more of a backup role when we explained it to them.”

She’s even worked in a way to turn this minor setback into building up her musical chops.

“I’ve been taking singing lessons,” she said. “I’ve been enjoying working on singing backup with Shawn and Reilly.”

It’s all part of the learning process.

At this point, she still looks at music “as more of a hobby”, but she definitely would like to do it for a living when school is done, perhaps as a music teacher, perhaps maybe a little more.

“I’m still expanding — jamming,” she said. “There’s an artist development program mentioned that I’d like to look into.

“I’ve looked at music programs after high school like the one at St. Lawrence, but a teacher told me they’re more oriented towards becoming a technician.”

And performing, so far at least, is where Wedden shines.

“I might go touring after high school,” she said. “That would be a lot of fun.”

But for now, she’s just enjoying the process, taking inspiration and picking up all aspects of learning music wherever she can.

“I was lucky enough to take a fiddle workshop with (Canadian and U.S. national fiddle champion) Shane Cook,” she said. “And of course, I wouldn’t be here without (her fiddle teacher) Cindy Thompson.”

And she’s still learning.

“I love playing with Jon McLurg,” she said. “He’s so laid-back and kind of quiet, but I’ve learned a lot from him.”

Wedden still has a pretty full fall schedule before winding things down as the school year gets back into full swing. For a listing of where to hear her perform, visit www.jessicwedden.ca.

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