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Peter White Collection of New Mexico Fiddle Music

Identifier: MSS-848-BC

Scope and Content

The collection consists of 43 CDs containing recordings of New Mexico fiddle music made by Peter White. Many of the fiddlers recorded were fiddlers whom White met at contests. In other cases the recordings are taken at the home of the fiddler. The majority of music types featured in this collection are old time New Mexico, Texas, and Appalachian fiddle tunes, country western music, Anglo-American, and Celtic folk songs, both vocal and instrumental. Waltzes, reels, polkas, schottisches, two-steps, square dance tunes, breakdowns, hornpipes, jibs, rags, ballads, Irish and Scottish folk songs, etc. are included. There are also some traditional Spanish and Mexican songs in the collection, a few sung, but mostly instrumental. Some of the Spanish melodies have been adapted or Americanized, and are played in the old Anglo fiddle style.

White surveys the stylistic differences between Appalachian fiddle tunes and the styles that existed in New Mexico, which most closely resemble the Texas style of fiddle playing. Other instruments represented include banjo, guitar, mandolin, piano and voice. The recordings also include discussions which reveal details about the lives of the performers; origin and evolution of folk song melodies and lyrics; stylistic differences among tunes; violin bowing techniques such as shuffle, stitching, hokum, etc. During this time White was teaching a UNM class in the Honors Program on New Mexican music. He held regular sessions throughout the semester at his home and invited fiddlers and other musicians to play tunes for the class. Those recordings are also represented here.

This collection forms part of the John Donald Robb Archive of Southwestern Music.


  • 1977-1980


Language of Materials


Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Copy Restrictions

Limited duplication or CSWR material is allowed for research purposes. User is responsible for compliance with all copyright, privacy, and libel laws. Permission is required for publication or distribution

Biography / History

Peter White was born in Jersey City, New Jersey, in 1947. He has been interested in violin music and instrument construction since his youth and continued this passion all his life. In 1976, he received his Ph.D. in American Literature and American Religious History from Pennsylvania State University. During his time in Pennsylvania, he became friends with Samuel Bayard, a Professor at Penn State, then working on a book “Dance to the Fiddle, March to the Fife." Meanwhile, White began to learn to play the fiddle and his interest in folk songs grew.

White came to the University of New Mexico in 1976, where he is now a professor of English and American Studies. Upon his arrival in New Mexico, he was still learning the fiddle and began searching for, preserving, and teaching New Mexican fiddle tunes and folk songs. White began recording fiddlers around 1977 for a book that he was researching on old time fiddlers and fiddle music of New Mexico. At that point, his focus was on the musicians themselves and their own stories, rather than the music and the tunes. The scope of his project grew to include a search for both information about the musicians and for an authentic New Mexican style of fiddle playing. During the process, White recorded an amazing array of New Mexican fiddlers performing in their homes; at world class Old Time Fiddlers’ Contests in Albuquerque, Williamsburg, and Farmington, New Mexico; and a live radio show of American folk songs at KUNM. Over the next decade his recordings lead to his chapter on New Mexican folk music in the book “The Lore of New Mexico" which he co-authored with Marta Weigle.

Through the course of meeting New Mexican fiddlers, White began to learn how to make violins. Sid Fleming (represented in the collection) was the first to teach White how to make violins. He crafted two violins under the guidance of Fleming and then began studying with John Honeycut. He progressed to studying violin making in Poland where he also taught American Literature.

In addition to his role in English and American Studies, he has served as UNM Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education and Dean of the University College. He founded the UNM program called the New Mexico Musical Heritage Project. He voluntarily teaches a course covering the cultural and traditional aspects of violin-making for Native American and Hispanic students, as only a handful of elders remain who are able to pass on the traditions of violin making. His program also provides violins and musical training for the students enrolled at the Public Academy for the Performing Arts in Albuquerque.


1 box (.25 cu. ft.)


This collection contains recordings of New Mexican fiddlers performing in their homes and at state fiddle contests, and a live KUNM folk music show. Included are discussions of the evolution of American folk songs, bowing techniques, history of the performers, etc. Represented are old style New Mexico, Texas, and Appalachian fiddle tunes, Anglo-American and Celtic folk songs.

Related Material

Processing Information

34 reel to reel tapes were reformatted to CD in 2010.


Finding Aid of the Peter White Collection of New Mexico Fiddle Music, 1977-1980
Edited Full Draft
Andrew Saletta, Nancy Brown Martinez
© 2010
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid is in English

Revision Statements

  • Monday, 20210524: Attribute normal is missing or blank.

Repository Details

Part of the UNM Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections Repository

University of New Mexico Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections
University Libraries, MSC05 3020
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque NM 87131