Multi-instrumentalist and teacher Jim Vipperman grew up in a musically rich family and community in Surry County. “My dad played music, both of my grandfathers played, and my great-grandfather played. It is great to come from that family history, and I think it has helped me absorb the music.” Jim plays fiddle, mandolin, guitar, bass, and banjo.
His father, John Vipperman, whose musical career included a stint with Bill Monroe’s band in 1951, encouraged Jim to play, taking him to fiddlers’ conventions, dances, and visits to local musicians. “We used to go over to Tommy Jarrell’s house,” Jim says, and he also mentions other musical influences—Wayburn Johnson, Buddy Pendleton, Earnest East, Melvin Slayden, and Hubert Caldwell. “Hubert was an old Irish gentleman, and he wrote out a pile of tunes on paper for me when I was in the hospital from a football injury,” he recalls. “He knew I had my guitar and fiddle in the hospital and that I was interested in Irish tunes.” More recently, Jim spent time with fiddler Benton Flippen.
In the 1980s, Jim started giving lessons at the local music store and at Surry County Community College. In 1991, he began teaching for the Surry County Arts Council, and in 1995 he opened his own shop. “Today, I spend about 80 percent of my time giving lessons,” he says. He teaches weekly lessons for the Arts Council, and he has a host of private students. He teaches fiddle, mandolin, banjo, guitar, and bass in several styles through his shop, Vip’s Violins.
Jim also continues to perform at local and regional festivals, fiddler’s conventions, and other events. He has performed with the Doug Dillard band at Mayberry Days since the late 1990s. Other groups he has performed with over the years include the McPeak Brothers of Wytheville, Virginia, and the Shenandoah Cut-Ups of Troutman, Virginia, and the Sons of Bluegrass of Westfield, North Carolina. Jim has won more top-ten awards—thirteen—than any other fiddle competitor in the history of the Galax Fiddler’s Convention, including First Place in 1991. The Mount Airy Fiddler’s Convention has bestowed the First Place honor on him nine times.
Jim Vipperman is available for lessons through Vip’s Violins, and he is available for a variety of performances. He can give demonstrations on traditional stringed instruments in a variety of styles.