Fabulous Fiddling: Youngest-Ever State Champion Crowned

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The 2003 Arizona Fiddle Champion is younger than ever before. Crowned at the 33rd Annual Payson Old Time Fiddlers' Contest Sunday, Emily Nebel of Mesa is only 12.

"Emily will most likely go to Weiser, Idaho for the national championship in June," said contest chairman Roy Sandoval.

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Emily Nebel, 12, of Mesa, is the youngest champion ever named in the 33-year history of the Arizona State Championship Old Time Fiddlers' Contest in Payson.

Nebel has competed in the Payson contest every year since 1998, placing first in her age division every year, including this one. Last year she took fourth place honors in the grand champion division.

She studied fiddling with two prior Arizona Fiddle Champions, Peter Rolland of Mesa and Tamara Whetten Lee of Gilbert. Rolland took the title in 1996 and Whetten Lee was twice champion, first in 1997, then again in 1999

The talented young lady is a seventh-grade student at the Arizona School for the Arts in downtown Phoenix, taking college preparatory classes in the morning and arts in the afternoon. She is in the school's orchestra and choir, as well as its jazz band and piano lab. She also accompanies other students on the guitar and piano.

Nebel is a member of the Metropolitan Youth Symphony in Mesa and has served as concert master of the Division 1 orchestra for the past year.

"We had the best crowd in several years," Sandoval said of the weekend festivities.

There were 46 fiddlers who competed, but about 60 in attendance. Sandoval said the ones who did not get on stage claim they're too shy, and just came to give their support to the contestants.

All the fiddlers were accompanied by about 12 different accompanists, Sandoval said. One of the most popular, bassist Eddie Rose suffered a heart attack Thursday and had to be air-lifted to Good Samaritan where he had two stints put in.

"He's one of the best rhythm men around, and it took six extra guitarist to fill in for him," Sandoval said.

Many of the contestants came to town early and presented more than 30 performances at Payson area schools, the Senior Center and the nursing homes.

Sandoval said, "This is an annual tradition by the musicians attending the state fiddle contest to help promote and preserve old time fiddle music."

He said the Arizona Old Time Fiddlers Association and Payson Regional Chamber of Commerce were very active in their support of this year's contest. Sandoval would like to see the support base expand next year with Rim country businesses sponsoring the different categories in the competition.

"They would be in the program. It drew 4,000 to 5,000 spectators in the past and we'd like to have that draw again. It happens the last weekend of September next year. There are only two festivals left in Payson and we want to keep the tradition alive in memory of Vertielee Floyd," Sandoval said. Floyd founded and ran the festival until her death in 2001.

The winners

Taking home prizes from the 33rd Annual Arizona State Championship Old Time Fiddlers' Contest were:

State championship division: Emily Nebel, first; Patrick Clark, second; Marra DeGraff, third; Priscilla Hubbard, fourth; and Michael Rolland, fifth.

Small fry: Andrea Good, first; Brittany Wurst, second.

Junior-Juniors: Emily Nebel, first; Michael Shu, second; Andrew Donald, third; Colin Sobek, fourth; Elise Carrington, fifth.

Junior division: Michael Rolland, first; Jordan Lawson, second; Matthew Rolland, third; Marra DeGraff, fourth; and Andrew Gallardo, fifth.

Young adults: Brian Wurst, first; Priscilla Hubbard, second; Patrick Clark, third; Ellen Tollefson, fourth; David Kaemmer, fifth.

Adult division: Laura Barry, first; Laurel Dunlap, second; Sue Petersen, third; Dennis Russell, fourth; Paul Baker, fifth.

Senior division: Sue Elschager, first; Jack Darland, second; Dorothy Cory, third; Mickey Long, fourth; and Robert Crose, fifth.

Cross-tuned fiddle division: Michael Rolland, first; Brian Wurst, second; and Emily Nebel, third.

Twin fiddle division: David Kaemmer and Andrew Gallardo, first; Emily Nebel and David Shoup, second; Matthew Rolland and Michael Rolland, third.

Trick fiddle: Sabrina Doshier, first; David Kaemmer, second; and Elise Carrington, third.

Fancy fiddle: Emily Nebel, first; Brian Wurst, second; and Rachael Crawford, third.

Accompanist, based on the number of times on stage with fiddlers: Norm Long, first; Michael Rolland, second; Linda Darland, third; Martha Jennings, fourth; and Patrick Clark, fifth.

The Vertielee and J.W. Floyd Memorial Award went to Irene and Bill Neal.

The Bill Shoup Memorial Award went to Ellen Tollefson.

Picked as the Audience's Favorite Fiddler were Patrick Clark, Saturday, and Priscilla Hubbard, Sunday.

The youngest competing fiddler was Brittany Wurst, 6, and the eldest competitor was Frank Smith, 88.

Judging the 33rd Annual Old Time Fiddlers' Contest were Ed Johnston, Flagstaff; Lynn Neal, El Centro, Calif.; and LeRoy Sims, Chino Valley. The master of ceremonies for the event was Bill Breen.

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