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Fiddlers Three and generational glee

Through the hum of strings and tapping of feet, people on the peninsula are finding their inner harmony.

Members of the local Washington Old Time Fiddlers District 15 have been bowing, plucking and strumming as a group since 1965, and their appeal resonates with people as young as 4 and young at heart at 92.

The nonprofit group has warmed hearts in retirement homes, senior centers and churches. Now the fiddlers are helping a Port Angeles family find their creative outlet together.

Dennis Schosboek of Port Angeles is the oldest of three generations playing the fiddle.

He started about five years ago with classical lessons, then attended a local fiddlers' show and was impressed by their "toe-tapping excitement."

Schosboek injured his finger at work and was playing the guitar at the time. It was difficult for him to place his fingers on the guitar so he switched to fiddle.

He was at a personal crossroads, too, when he first took up fiddling. Working at Westport Shipyard, Schosboek was stressed out with 70- to 80-hour work weeks.

"I had some choices," he said.

"I either go out and drink or do something intellectual and rewarding."

Schosboek, a woodworker, decided to use his free time to build a fiddle. Hours of research and meticulous craftsmanship went into the violin he uses.

"I wanted to take on a challenge," he said.

Schosboek's daughter, Rachel Bilibin, took up fiddling about five months ago. She recently moved to Port Angeles from Texas as a single mother of daughters Kaylee, 4,

and Emma, 5 months.

Bilibin started studying for a graphic arts degree in January at Peninsula College.

"This is my fun time," she said about fiddling.

"It is my outlet."

The three fiddlers go to the fiddler groups' twice-monthly lessons led by Kristin Smith of Port Townsend.

Lessons can be difficult for Kaylee, so they last about 15 minutes.

"We're sometimes unsuccessful, but she normally goes along with it," Bilibin said.

Kaylee learns melodies through a method of word association. Phrases like "huckleberry pancake" and "down bunny, up bunny" are used for Kaylee to learn finger and bow placement.

The mother and daughter duo started playing about the same time. Neither can read music yet, so they use a simple sheet of music that shows finger placement on the strings rather the note.

Bilibin picks up most of the tunes she knows by listening.

"I conceivably have perfect pitch," she said with a smirk.

"Rachel has picked it up amazingly fast," Schosboek said.

"One of my callings is music," said Bilibin.

"I have felt drawn to the violin since I was a little girl."

Bilibin's fiddle was given to her by her father. It is an 80- to 100-year-old student fiddle that he inherited. Kaylee plays on a custom-made fiddle that fits her smaller stature.

Whether Kaylee - and perhaps Emma too - continue fiddle playing will be their choice when they are old enough to decide what they do and do not like.

"Kaylee can quit if she wants, but it is so much more fun if we do it together," Bilibin said.

"I'll just lead by example, and hopefully it sticks."

Now that the three are playing fiddle in the same house, Schosboek and Bilibin seem content.

"This is what it's all about," said Frank Figg, reporter for the Washington Old Time Fiddlers District 15.

"Spanning generations and fiddle music appealing to new people."

Schosboek will appear in the groups's spring concert on March 15, at Sequim High auditorium.

"It's my first concert, and I owe it to them because they chose my picture to be on their poster," Schosboek said.

He has been a member with the group for three years and he loves to be surrounded by amazing talent.

"I like the group because it is all skill levels," he said.

"There are 10- and 11-year-olds who play better than me."

As members, Schosboek, Bilibin and Kaylee receive discount lessons.

"If you have a desire to play and/or read music, they'll find a way to help you," Bilibin said.

The local district of fiddlers funds a youth scholarship program that pays the costs of lessons.

Contact Pete Crose at 360-582-1249 about youth fiddler scholarships.

The Washington Old Time Fiddlers Association is a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving, playing, and teaching old time fiddling and the associated arts and skills.

Members primarily play music of the 1800s and early 1900s, although they play some newer traditional and country music, too.

Membership costs $15 a year.

Jam sessions and performances are free, open to the public, and are held at the Sequim Prairie Grange's Macleay Hall, 290 Macleay Road, on the second Saturday of each month.

Jam sessions also take place at the Tri-Area Community Center in Chimacum on the fourth Saturday of each month except June, July and August.



Matthew Nash can be reached at mnash@sequimgazette.com.



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