Beth Hoven Rotto
Old time Scandinavian fiddler
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Beth Hoven Rotto, leader of Foot-Notes, grew up in southeastern Minnesota and Wisconsin. She participated in school orchestra as a child and later attended Luther College in the 1970s, where she met her husband, Jon Rotto. During those years, Beth was drawn to the old time Scandinavian music of her family’s heritage. After college, she received an Iowa Arts Council apprenticeship grant to work with Master Artist Bill Sherburne, who passed away in 1991. That apprenticeship was so successful that she, Jon, Jim Skurdall, and Bill Musser formed Foot-Notes in 1991, in large part to carry on a tradition of monthly old time dances in a rustic two-room schoolhouse in Highlandville, Iowa, where area residents of all ages have been gathering for years to dance and socialize.
In 1995, Beth served as a community scholar for the 1996 Sesquicentennial Festival of Iowa Folklife and the Smithsonian’s Festival of American Folklife; she documented regional and Norwegian traditions like quilting, hardangersom, knitting, and woodworking as well as Scandinavian old time musicians. In the late 1990s, she received an Iowa Arts Council grant to produce My Father was a Fiddler, a CD that features detailed liner notes and the music of the nineteenth-century Norwegian settlers around Northeast Iowa. Beth worked to document this music with long-time friend and colleague Ellen Blagen, a pianist and the daughter of fiddler Alfred Blagen, one of the main sources of tunes for the record.
The band's repertoire reflects that of the Norwegian-American communities of Northeastern Iowa, Southeastern Minnesota, and western Wisconsin. Most of their tunes and vocal numbers (sung in Norwegian and English) consist of the dance music popular at house parties, barn dances, and "bowery" dances in northeast Iowa around the turn of the twentieth century and into the first few decades of the 1900s.
A yearly attraction at Decorah’s Nordic Fest, Foot-Notes was also featured at the Smithsonian's 1996 Festival of American Folklife, the Sesquicentennial Festival of Iowa Folklife, and the 2001 Festival of Iowa Folklife as well as at festivals and events around the upper Midwest. In 2008, Foot-Notes performed at the Midwest Folklife Festival in Dodgeville, WI and were invited to be a part of the Masters of Tradition series on the Kennedy Center's Millenium Stage.The group has produced several CDs, available for purchase at www.spinmarketart.com. Group leader Beth Hoven Rotto plays the fiddle, with Bill Musser on stand-up bass, John Rotto on guitar, and Jim Skurdal on mandolin.
Contact: Beth Hoven Rotto, Decorah, 563.382.9315, www.footnotesdance.com.