Kansas State Fiddling and Picking Championship
For a full list of events, go to kansasfiddlingandpicking.org.
Friday, Aug. 23
Kick-off concert, 8:30 p.m., The Granada
Busker Festival, 5 to 10 p.m., 815 Massachusetts St.
Saturday, Aug. 24
Pre-party and jam, 6 p.m., Americana Music Academy, 1419 Massachusetts St.
Busker Festival, 2 p.m. to 10 p.m., 815 Massachusetts St.
Sunday, Aug. 25
The following competitions and performances begin at 12 p.m. at the North Stage:
Miscellaneous Instrument category, Ensemble Folk category, performance by Scenic Roots, Youth Fiddling category, Open Fiddle category, performance by MAW
The following competitions and performances begin at 12 p.m. at the South Stage:
performance by Pat Nichols, Banjo category, Mandolin category, performance by Signal Ridge, Fingerpicking Guitar category
After party and jam, after the event, Barnyard Beer behind The Community Mercantile, 925 Iowa St.
It took only three lessons for violin teacher Jill Woodhouse to discover that Noah Luke was no ordinary 5-year-old kid.
He arrived at Beautiful Music Violin Shop, 925 Iowa St., in 2010 carrying a book of 108 violin exercises, and began to talk about which ones he was most excited to tackle. When he recited the names and numbers of several of the exercises, Woodhouse realized he had memorized the whole book.
After dozens more practices, Woodhouse made another discovery: Noah had perfect pitch, meaning that he had the rare ability to identify individual musical pitches by name.
“I thought, ‘Oh my, this little one is something else,’” Woodhouse said. “He just does amazing things all the time. He is incredibly gifted.”
Fast-forward to three years later: Noah is now an 8-year-old busy preparing for his first violin competition. He will participate in the Youth Fiddle Championship category at the 33rd Kansas State Fiddling and Picking Championships at South Park this Sunday.
The three-day event starts with performances and parties Friday and Saturday. Because the competition coincides with the Lawrence Busker Festival, there will be a stage set up in the 800 block of Massachusetts Street dedicated to Kansas State Fiddling and Picking acts those two days.
On Sunday, South Park will host concerts and jam sessions, and the competition will begin at noon. Musicians in each of the eight categories — miscellaneous instruments, folk ensemble, youth fiddling, open fiddle, banjo, flatpicking guitar, mandolin and fingerpicking guitar — will be judged on rhythm, timing, execution, creativity and expression.
“It’s about the music,” said Gayle Sigurdson, the event's coordinator. “There are not a lot of other distractions.”
During the event, Sigurdson said, musicians lounge under trees to play traditional, acoustic American and Celtic tunes in a relaxed atmosphere surrounded by hundreds of others who enjoy doing the same thing.
“It’s serious for the competitors, who will be anywhere from 5 years old up to 80,” she said. “But once their competition is over, you see them relaxing and jamming.”
Noah Luke, who will be competing with people up to eight years older than him, is not quite relaxed.
“He is extremely competitive,” Woodhouse said. “He’s in it to win it.”
When Noah decided a few weeks ago to enter the competition, he began taking extra lessons with Tricia Spencer, a Lawrence fiddler and friend of Woodhouse. Spencer has competed in fiddling competitions on and off for 20 years, and has helped Noah pick up on some of the nuances of the fiddling style.
Spencer also will compete in the Kansas State Fiddling and Picking Championship in the Open Fiddle category. She will continue to pursue her goal of taking first place at the contest, following in the footsteps of her grandfather, who won the title in 1989.
Spencer and Woodhouse will both be there to watch their 8-year-old student perform.
As for what Noah wants to do with his violin career after this contest and into the future, he has a simple answer: “Probably just becoming famous,” he said.