Last night, the stirring biographical documentary, Flamekeeper: The Michael Cleveland Story, premiered at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. The film tells the story of Michael Cleveland, an iconic and sought-after fiddle player who has overcome great personal hardship to become one of Bluegrass music’s most revered instrumentalists.
Cleveland is the International Bluegrass Music Association’s 11-time, most-awarded, Fiddle Player of the Year, and he has won Instrumental Recorded Performance of the Year six times. Cleveland also fronts the 5-time Instrumental Group of the Year, Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper, which he founded in 2006.
Cleveland was born blind and with a cleft palate, and in early childhood lost 80% of the hearing in his left ear. In spite of physical challenges, he undertook a musical career undeterred and has ascended to the highest possible echelons of his genre.
Director John Presley brings his expert eye and heart for storytelling to the project. The film, while visually engaging, was also designed with Cleveland himself in mind. “I learned that our visually impaired friends see the world in an entirely different way,” says Presley. “One of my goals was to create a film that Michael would be able to experience and enjoy through sound alone.”