Love of music leads to romance

UALR students and traditional-style fiddlers Emily Phillips and Everett Elam photographed on Sept. 8, 2015, at Stella Boyle.

It’s often said you fall in love with the most unexpected person at the most unexpected time. That was certainly the case for newly engaged couple Everett Elam and Emily Phillips.

Phillips, 20-year-old junior at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and one of Arkansas’ best old-time fiddlers, came to the university with no intention of dating, let alone falling in love.

“I wasn’t open to the idea at all,” Phillips said.

One of Phillips’ fellow Donaghey Scholars had other plans.

“He got really excited when he found out I won the state fiddle championship because he didn’t know I played,” Phillips said. “He was like, ‘Oh my gosh, you’ve got to meet this friend of mine.’”

After hearing the friend was blind and played the fiddle, Phillips could only imagine her fellow student was referring to a 50-year-old-man.

“I’d never met a blind person,” Phillips said. “I just pictured him as older like most of the people that I’d played music with.”

Related: A blind Ark. violinist finds love of his life through music

Phillips was in for a surprise. She was told the mystery guy, 28-year-old Elam and recent UA Little Rock graduate, would be performing at an open mic event in UA Little Rock’s East Hall parlor, where she would be performing as well.

Elam’s classic rock band, The Parlor Bears, were just finishing up when Phillips made it to the event. She was up next, so she headed to the stage to perform.

“I noticed this guy staring at me the whole time, and I was trying to figure out why,” Phillips said. “I eventually figured out he was blind and just focusing on the music.”

During the event, Elam’s electric guitar player decided Elam and Phillips should have a fiddle battle.

After the crowd proclaimed Elam the winner, he was rewarded with a massive flower that he immediately handed to Phillips.

Following the show, Elam and Phillips were formally introduced.

Their relationship began as a mentorship, with Phillips giving Elam fiddle lessons.

“Early on, I was suspicious of Emily because she seemed too good to be true,” Elam said.

Elam was aware of Phillips by way of his roommate, the same guy who told Phillips about Elam.

“I was expecting her to be someone who was ego driven, played in rodeos, and wore little miniskirts,” Elam said. “She turned out to be the total opposite. She was very serious and had an old soul. When she performed, it was very polished. She had a lot of confidence.”

As skilled musicians of both common and uncommon genres of music, the pair decided to go on performing as a duo, the Bow Tanglers.

As they continued to share their love of music, their relationship blossomed from mentorship, to friendship, to a dating relationship.

Last summer, the two were able to study abroad in Spain and they experienced each other in a way they never had before.

“When you’re in a relationship, you take a measure of each other unconsciously,” Elam said. “While we were in Spain, Emily went to the hospital with two girls from UA Little Rock who got very sick. She translated the Spanish to English for them, got them their medicine, and took them back to their host home. I thought to myself, this is the kind of girl I want to be with.”

As their feelings for one another grew, it was their love of music that caused the two to fall head over heels.

“I couldn’t be with someone who didn’t love music as much as I do,” Phillips said. “I would drive them insane.”

This love eventually led to the pair taking their union to the next level.

“We met on stage, so I thought it was only right to propose on stage,” Elam said.

On Tuesday, Feb. 7, the Bow Tanglers performed at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church’s Festival of the Senses.

That evening, Phillips stuck to her normal routine, and she imagined Elam would do the same.

He didn’t.

“We were going right down the list, and we were almost to the end of the program,” Phillips said. “About three songs from the end, Everett started talking about this song I’d just played, ‘Billy in the Lowground,’ and how this music is something that you learn from other people and how you build relationships through music. I’m just sitting there, agreeing with what he’s saying, getting wrapped up in it. The next thing I know, he says, ‘Emily, come here.’”

As she stood by his side, she began to understand what was happening. Elam got down on one knee and asked for her hand in marriage.

“I couldn’t talk,” Phillips said. “I started crying, and I said, “yes” loud enough so Everett could hear me, and nodded for the audience’s sake.”

Immediately after the proposal, Elam told Phillips they would play another song.

“It’s a good thing muscle memory helps out with playing because I was not thinking about playing anything at all,” Phillips said. “I was very excited.”

Phillips and Elam hope to exchange vows this summer at a small wedding in Mountain View, Phillips’ hometown. As their story continues to unfold, they realize the power of music and love, and they hope to treasure these things for the rest of their lives.
View Elam’s proposal here.

Share this Post:
Skip to toolbar