Fiddler Faces Setback

Robbed at gunpoint in Houston, teen fiddle phenom Ruby Jane Smith needs help to get her instruments back

Robbed at gunpoint in Houston, teen fiddle phenom Ruby Jane Smith needs help to get her instruments back

Austin Photo Set: News_Meredith Rainey_Ruby Jane_September 2011_portrait
Ruby Jane Smith Photo by Matt Lankes
Austin Photo Set: News_Meredith Rainey_Ruby Jane_September 2011_fiddle
Ruby Jane Smith in concert Celeste Photography
Austin Photo Set: News_Meredith Rainey_Ruby Jane_September 2011_portrait
Austin Photo Set: News_Meredith Rainey_Ruby Jane_September 2011_fiddle
Austin Photo Set: News_Meredith Rainey_Ruby Jane_September 2011_car

There are few things more valuable to musicians than their instruments, let alone their lives. Back in September, Ruby Jane Smith was on top of the world, playing the Austin City Limits Music Festival for the fourth time. Since then, the 17-year-old fiddler and her mom, JoBelle, have been trying to raise money for her to record a new CD of her own material, through a creative funding program called Kickstarter.

Last Thursday, the two suffered a major setback, after being robbed at gunpoint after a gig at the Dosey Doe in The Woodlands. They had pulled up to a gated community where they were staying with a friend, and as JoBelle rolled down the window to enter a security code, a man reached through the window and put a gun to her head.

Fortunately they were not harmed, but the thief took their jewelry, purses and cellphones, leaving them stranded on the side of the road. He sped off in JoBelle’s 2004 Chevolet Trailblazer, with tens of thousands of dollars worth of instruments and equipment in the back that Ruby Jane relies on for her music career, including a guitar and her custom made violin and mandolin.

 The guitar was recovered after being found outside a dumpster near Mason's Pawn Shop in southeast Houston. On Sunday, JoBelle asked for help on Facebook, looking for people to go with her to Houston to search pawnshops and dumpsters for the other stolen instruments.  

"He got almost everything that meant anything musically to Ruby Jane," JoBelle told The Dispatch in Columbus, Miss., where the fiddler is originally from. "It had been a solo show, so all her instruments were there — a violin custom-made for her, her 12-string guitar, her microphones, pedals, harmonicas ... even the Christmas presents I'd already packed to come home to Columbus."

The guitar was recovered after being found outside a dumpster near Mason's Pawn Shop in southeast Houston. On Sunday, JoBelle asked for help on Facebook, looking for people to go with her to Houston to search pawnshops and dumpsters for the other stolen instruments.  

Ruby Jane and her mom have called Austin home for years, and the community is rallying around them in the wake of the carjacking. To show their support, some musicians and friends have organized a benefit for them, while the authorities continue to look for the stolen items. The benefit is this Saturday from 7-10 p.m. at Victory Grill in Austin.

The Smiths are asking people to keep an eye out at pawnshops for the missing instruments. A list of the main items stolen, with pictures, can be found in this article on www.savingcountrymusic.com.  

Click here if you’d like more information about Ruby Jane’s Kickstarter campaign or want to donate. The goal is to raise $10,000 to help pay for studio time, a producer, musicians, manufacturing, distribution and publicity.

I know the young lady — who told me back in the fall, “I’m just along for the ride and will continue to work hard and continue to build my music and build my career" — will overcome this setback and won’t let it dampen her enthusiasm for that ride.    

To learn more about Ruby Jane Smith, you can check out the interview CultureMap did with her the week before her performance at the Austin City Limits Music Festival.

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