On June 18, Brie Dietrich of Casa Grande became the first Arizona resident to claim the title of National Small Fry Champion at the annual fiddle championships in Weiser, Idaho.
Each June for the past 66 years, hundreds of fiddlers and thousands of spectators converge on the town of Weiser to determine who will bring home the coveted titles. It’s a spirit of fierce competition, legendary fiddlers (Alison Krauss and Mark O’Connor both got their start there), and the strongest of friendships.
Brie collected a check and a glowing fiddle-shaped trophy for her first place win. She walked away with another check and a medal two days previously for winning first place with her sister Ranelle in the 12 and younger twin fiddle division. Twin fiddling consists of one fiddler playing the melody of a tune, while the other plays the harmony. This is a favorite for the Dietrich family.
Brie, an 8-year-old home-schooled student, entered her first fiddle contest at 5 years old and has been on a winning streak ever since. In addition to being the 2018 national champion, Brie also claims the titles of Oklahoma State Pee Wee champion and the winner of the Idaho Open. In 2017, she placed second in the Arizona state contest behind Ranelle.
Venture over to Payson the last weekend in September if you’d like to see if she can secure the title for this year’s 9 and younger division.
No stranger to competitions, Brie says her favorite part about them is, “seeing my fiddle friends and playing with my back ups.” “Back ups” is the term fiddle players use for the multi-talented guitar players who accompany them both on stage and during jam sessions. The Dietrichs often bring three of their very own “back up” players when they travel. This family of nine has seven children and the oldest five are all multi-instrumentalists. They often help each other out on stage and while practicing.
Three of the four Dietrich sisters who competed placed in the top five in their divisions at the National Oldtime Fidders’ Contest and Festival, which is in the third week of June. The fourth sister received the 2018 Best Female Entertainer award. Fiddlers must play three to five rounds consisting of three memorized tunes in each round. The divisions are capped at between 30 and 55 contestants per division. The top five contestants each receive cash and prizes, but it’s clear that it’s the tight-knit friendships and the honor of becoming top fiddler that keeps them coming back each year.
The Dietrich sisters play everything from banjo to fiddle to piano and everything in between. When not competing for top fiddle honors, they can be seen with their band, The Arizona Wildflowers, playing for private events and bluegrass festivals across the West. The girls especially love to play for assisted care centers and nursing homes and make a point to play locally at least once a month.
Maddie, the oldest fiddler of the siblings, teaches the younger ones and recently started giving lessons to their 3-year-old brother. He won the prize for youngest fiddler at his first contest in May. She also teaches many other youth in the area and was excited to see three of her students participate in their first contest earlier this year.
For more information about state and national fiddle contests go to fiddlecontest.org or paysonrimcountry.com/fiddlers-contest. The Dietrich girls recorded their first CD last month. It will be available this fall on iTunes. You can follow the The Arizona Wildflowers on Facebook if you’d like to see where they’ll be next.