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News Flash! The Monumental Fiddling and Acoustic Band Championship will now be known as the Tallgrass Prairie Fiddle Festival. With a free workshop in the morning, jam sessions erupting throughout the day, up to $3,000 in award monies, and a chance to win a violin, the Tallgrass Prairie Fiddle Festival is the place for musicians of all ages to be on Saturday, May 23, at Homestead National Monument of America in Beatrice, Nebraska. This is the 15th year for this musical event.
Still free to all participants and spectators, the Tallgrass Prairie Fiddle Festival encourages all ages and abilities to join in friendly competition. One unique rule for this competition is that all songs must have been in existence when Homestead National Monument of America was established in 1936. There are Junior, Senior, Legend and Acoustic Band divisions.
The competition is geared towards all ability levels and begins with Deborah Greenblatt teaching a free workshop in the morning. She was the first woman to win the Nebraska State Fiddling Championship, the first woman to win the Mid-America Fiddle Championship and is a member of the Mid-America Old-Time Fiddler’s Hall of Fame.
Greenblatt finds the atmosphere at the Tallgrass Prairie Fiddle Festival to be inviting and nurturing for all levels of musicians. It is a day for fiddlers of all ages and experience levels to come together much like they did when the first pioneers arrived in the 1800s and began settling the prairie. The sounds of fiddlers were often heard whenever homesteaders got together and those same sounds will be heard on May 23, 2015, at the 15th annual Tallgrass Prairie Fiddle Festival.
Greenblatt enjoys the jam sessions. “They inspire and entertain each other on stage and play nicely together in the many jam sessions that erupt all over the landscape,” said Greenblatt. Over the years she said that many musicians have told her they were inspired to begin to play because of the performances and jam sessions they observed at the Tallgrass Prairie Fiddle Festival.
The competition is free and offers fiddlers the chance to be judged in a non-threatening environment. Each participant is given comments by the three judges. Professional musician and high school band director Nathan LeFeber has been a judge several times. “From the great music that is made, to the prizes and trophies, to the free fiddle they give away each year it is no wonder folks are coming from miles around to compete in this contest,” said LeFeber. Competition helps musicians get better. “Give folks a high standard and then let them work at trying to achieve their best with the hopes they might be in the top three. That is what competition in music is all about,” said LeFeber.
Twenty-one year old Joe Fedrizzi from Dearborn, Missouri, has placed several times in competition including winning the Senior Division and third last year in the Legends Division. Ferizzi enjoys the thrill of competing, the chance to meet new people and hear new songs. “If I hear a song I like at competition, I will go home and do my best to learn the song,” said Fedrizzi. He also thinks it helps a musician deal with the suspense of being on stage.
His grandpa also played the fiddle and influenced his decision of instrument. “My grandpa played the violin and one day when I was six I was sitting in the kitchen with my parents and they saw an ad for violin or piano lessons. When they asked me if I would rather play the violin or the piano, I quickly said violin.”
Following the morning workshop participants will break for lunch and prepare for the competition in the afternoon. Onsite lunch and snacks will be provided by Back Alley Eatery. The day ends with the announcement of winners. Trophies and cash prizes are awarded to the top three finishers in the Junior, Senior, Legend and the Acoustic Band divisions, as well as a drawing for a free fiddle!
The winner of a Tune Writing Competition, which is held in conjunction with the Nebraska Chapter of the American String Teachers Association, is also announced. The best left-handed fiddler and the youngest fiddler are recognized. “But win or not there are no losers at this competition,” said LeFeber, “For young and old, it is a great time!”
The Coffin Family Foundation has been a long-time supporter and provides the funding for the cash prizes. Leigh F. Coffin started the foundation 17 years ago to help support and enrich the community, its youth and history. His son said the Tallgrass Prairie Fiddle Festival fits into his father’s vision. Another partner for this event is the Nebraska Arts Council, an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Arts. For more information and contest rules, visit https://www.nps.gov/home/
Remember, Homestead National Monument of America has an exciting schedule of events planned for 2015. Keep up with the latest information by following us on Twitter (HomesteadNM), Facebook (HomesteadNM), and Instagram (HomesteadNPS).
Homestead National Monument of America is a unit of the National Park Service located four miles west of Beatrice, Nebraska and 45 miles south of Lincoln. Hours of operation are 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday andSunday. Admission is free of charge. For additional information, please call 402-223-3514 or visit https://www.nps.gov/home/.