Calhoun dishes about rock royalty at the Grammys

Local violinist Ann Marie Calhoun is two nights away from finding out if she's going to emerge from the pack of three finalists to win YouTube's "My Grammy Moment" vote and earn a featured slot performing a solo with the Foo Fighters on their hit "The Pretender."

To hear Calhoun tell it from the backseat of a car headed to rehearsals at Los Angeles' Staples Center, it seems she's already won. "In a strange way, I'm jealous of myself, because it hasn't sunken in that I'm doing all these fabulous rock star things," she says. "I just left what they call a 'gifting lounge' where they let me pick out all these designer clothes to wear for the show right off the rack."

Fortunately for Calhoun, she came ready with something to break the ice with former Nirvana drummer and Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl. "We grew up in the same town in Burke, in Northern Virginia, and we even went to the same high school," she says. "He heard that and gave me a big hug."

Not only that, but Calhoun's been hanging out in the company of rock royalty of an older generation. She and the other 14 semi-finalists that make up the Foo Fighters' orchestra for Sunday night will be under the direction of Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones. "He's such a kind man," says Calhoun of her legendary conductor. "He hung out with us after rehearsals, complimenting us on our playing, taking pictures, talking to excited younger brothers on cell phones. He is instantly endearing."

Any chance Jones is having her learn a few bars of "Kashmir" for a Led Zeppelin reunion? "I haven't asked him about it yet," says Calhoun. "If I win, maybe I'll quote it in my solo."

The Grammys come just after the former Old School Freight Train fiddler and current Gordonsville resident finished a series of performances with another rock luminary. She backed Ringo Starr while he made TV appearances promoting his latest album Liverpool 8.

"It came together very randomly," Calhoun explains. "Last month, I got a call from a friend I hadn't heard from in years saying, 'My friend is putting together Ringo's promotional band, and I told him you play violin and guitar. They need you in a week. Do you want to do it?' I only knew a few chords on the guitar so I dropped everything I was doing and spent the whole next week playing bar chords all day. I still have the callouses."

When it was finally showtime, Calhoun found the Beatle to be every bit the gentleman she'd hoped he'd be. "When I first met him, it was backstage at The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson eating dinner," she says. "I was instantly so humbled by how sweet he was. I asked him how he stayed in such good shape, and he gave all the credit to his personal trainer and his wife. He's generous like that."

So how does Calhoun feel now that, after one month, she's now one degree of separation from the Beatles, Led Zeppelin and Nirvana? "I feel like I'm one degree separated from myself," she says. "I don't know why I got this opportunity because there are so many great musicians out there. I'm just blessed, I guess."

Calhoun's big chance at a featured slot comes Sunday night. To vote for her, go to the "My Grammy Moment" site or text message "1" to 81818. Voting closes at 9pm the night of the Grammys.


1 comment

yeah, couldn't hear her at all! weird, i guess it was just a focus on her rather than a solo. i liked seeing her with brennan gilmore better, :)