Alison Maria Krauss was born in Decatur, Illinois, to Fred and Louise Krauss. Her father was a German immigrant who came to the United States in 1952 and taught his native language. Her mother, of German and Italian descent, is the daughter of artists. Her older brother, Viktor, is also a musician. Krauss grew up in the college town of Champaign, home to the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign where she lived from 1971 to around 1990. She began studying classical violin at age 5 but soon switched to bluegrass. Krauss said she first became involved with music because “[my] mother tried to find interesting things for me to do” and “wanted to get me involved in music, in addition to art and sports”.