FACETIME- Calhoun's coup: Local violinist shines at the Grammys

Ann Marie Calhoun

Local violinist Ann Marie Calhoun is two nights away from emerging from the pack of three finalists to win YouTube's "My Grammy Moment" vote to earn a featured slot performing 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 last Friday, before the big night it seemed she had already won.

"In a strange way, I'm jealous of myself, because it hasn't sunk 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 the 28-year-old classical phenom, 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 who made up the Foo Fighters' orchestra were under the direction of Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones.

"He's such a kind man," says Calhoun of the 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's instantly endearing."

Any chance Jones had 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."

The Grammys came less than a month 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.'

"I only knew a few chords on the guitar," Calhoun explains, "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."