AMERICAN FORK, Utah — Don and Linda Davis have been playing fiddles for a long time. Now, their grandsons are doing the same.The LDS couple not only has a bureau full of trophies and ribbons to show for it but two young boys well on their way to a lifetime of fiddlin' fun.The Davises, known locally as part of the Quintessential Quartet, noticed right away that their then-toddler grandson Skyler Beck had perfect pitch. He could whistle back a song he'd only just heard and would cry whenever anyone turned off his classical music.His little brother, Zach, has an innate sense of rhythm. Just hand him a pair of wooden spoons and stand back!Both boys are lucky that their grandparents picked up on their natural abilities.Nate Olsen, a professor of music at Brigham Young University who is currently studying in New York, said Skyler is one of the most talented young fiddlers he's had the opportunity to work with.__IMAGE1__\"The strong support of his family, his work ethic and his love of fiddle music have fine-tuned a unique ability in him,\" Olsen said. \"I expect that he will continue to find great success and fulfillment in his playing.\"The boys practice with their grandparents every weekday morning and most weekends.\"They come here at 6:30 a.m. and practice until school,\" Linda Davis said.\"Supervised practicing is much more effective than individual practice,\" Don Davis said. \"You can correct what they do wrong immediately.\"It seems to be working, because Skyler placed seventh among 68 in a national fiddle competition and first in the regional contest at Wheeler Farm. Meanwhile, Zach stands his ground just fine against adults with his guitar. (There hasn't been a youth category for guitarists prior to this coming year.)They're both totally comfortable on stage and under pressure. They're the ones cracking a smile or even cutting the rug during a competition.They play in parades, in blue grass festivals and for local events.The only time Skyler — who is now 13 — gets nervous is when he competes against a cute girl. He once got going too fast in a hoedown number and inexplicably switched over to another hoedown song. His grandmother didn't think the judges noticed, but she did.\"All of a sudden, he was playing something else,\" she said. \"But it worked out OK and they are encouraged to improvise.\"Zach says he doesn't worry, even when he's lying on his back playing \"The Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road.\" Skyler recalls sawing away on a cardboard violin when he was just 2 years old. \"I thought that I was big,\" he said.Zach was so anxious to be a part of things that he would come along to competitions and just sit for hours watching until he got big enough to compete.\"We went to a cowboy store (after a competition) and he pointed to a guitar and said that's what he wanted,\" Don Davis said. \"He came home with a guitar.\"The Davises have thus far provided their grandsons with 12 instruments as they graduated from cardboard violins, wooden spoons and baritone ukeleles to serious violins and guitars.The boys help pay for them with the prize money they win.Their winnings also pay entry fees and for sheet music, some of which is difficult to find.And for competitions, they need a lot and a variety. The National Old-time Fiddler's Competition asks for three songs in four minutes — a hoe-down number, a waltz and a tune of choice, which is usually a ragtime number.\"It's very specific,\" Linda Davis said.They can also have a lot of fun with feature numbers such as \"Dead Skunk,\" which proved very popular with the audience, and \"Dueling Democrats,\" which featured the grandparents and Skyler wearing masks of Bill and Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, and a Super Delegate (Zach) with a \"Vote for McCain\" banner on his back.For the Davises, the journey has been interesting, especially since their musical training has been largely in classical work.\"Some classical musicians frown on fiddling. They don't think much of it,\" said Don Davis, who routinely accompanies Linda's students on his guitar at the competitions.Linda Davis said she \"had a hard time crossing over.\" But she's done just fine and even won a \"Best Female Entertainer\" award at the 2008 national competition.Skyler and Zach are aware that they do something few of their classmates and peers understand. They don't usually announce what they do to their friends — who are often surprised when they discover the two of them are \"famous\" on the fiddling circuit.\"Sometimes they'll start making fun of me. If they do, I just punch 'em,\" Skyler said with a grin.The boys compete next in the National Fiddle Contest at Weiser, Idaho, on June 25; in September in Wellsville, Utah, as part of the Festival of the American West; and in Richfield, Utah, at the State Fiddle Contest.Get ready to rock.
Fiddles making family harmony