Music runs deep on both sides of Valerie’s family. Her great-grandfather, Nathan Ryals, played a fiddle made out of a cigar box for fun, and passed his love of music down to his sons, O.G. Ryals, and the twins Darris and Harris. Valerie’s grandfather, O.G., a fiddler like his father, used to sit with her at the kitchen table going over the old tunes one note at a time. His brother Darris became a fiddle maker and played the mandolin.
Valerie started violin lessons at age nine, learned her first Texas-Style fiddle tunes by eleven, and won the Junior World Championship at thirteen. Like everyone in her family, she became an accomplished musician on several instruments. Throughout her childhood, Valerie’s parents spend countless weekends taking her to concerts and contests. They often drove three or four hours just so Valerie could learn one new piece of music.
Valerie has studied with the master fiddlers and she is steeped in the tradition of Texas Oldtime Fiddling. She is committed to passing it down to a new generation by giving lectures and performances, by making television appearances and recordings, and by teaching.
The tradition lives on at Valerie’s Studio in Burleson, Texas, where her two daughters, Jennifer and Julie, her sister, Lydia Ryals Stuart, and her husband, Rich O’Brien, also teach. Together, they offer Texas Oldtime Fiddling, guitar, bass, piano, mandolin, and banjo to students from all over Texas.
Valerie is a two-time winner of the Texas Ladies Fiddle Championship, a World Series Winner, a World Series Winner in Twin Fiddling, a First Runner-up in the World Championship Contest, a recipient of a Texas Folklife Resources Master Artist Grant, and an instructor at numerous prestigious camps.