Rafe and Clelia Stefanini, a dynamic father and daughter duo, are not from Appalachia or anywhere near it but they play the music from that area with passion and authority. It all started with Rafe who was born in the hills near Bologna, in north/central Italy, and didn’t play American music growing up, not until his late teenage years when he discovered the sounds of bluegrass, blues and the folk revival from LPs he patiently obtained through the mail and from the few record stores in his area that carried them. He soon discovered the likes of Doc Watson and his family, the New Lost City Ramblers and the Highwoods String Band, and he was hooked!
In the late 1970s he decided to go and discover old-time music at the source and he started traveling to the U.S. every year for months at a time, going to fiddlers conventions and visiting old masters at their homes in the rural South. While just a guitar player at the beginning, he started on the banjo and fiddle, soon becoming adept at both. In 1983 he permanently moved to this country, got married and started a family. His only daughter, Clelia, was born in 1990.
Clelia was not particularly interested in playing an instrument in her early to teenage years, although she was exposed to and enjoyed an intensely musical life in the family with regular trips to festivals, fiddlers conventions and visits to music friends. At age 14 she had an epiphany, she recalls. At the Mount Airy Fiddlers Convention she heard a group of people playing a rousing rendition of Joe Birchfield's Old-Time "Train 45" and decided right then she wanted to learn to play the fiddle. Rafe was more than happy to teach her. Now after 10 years, she is one of the best players in the country, young or old, having won the first prize in fiddle at the Clifftop music convention in 2013 arguably the Olympics of old-time fiddling further cementing her status.
The music she makes with Rafe is powerful and inspired, with respect to the tradition they both have adopted as their own.