Whitman County Gazette - Serving Whitman County since 1877

By Jana Mathia
Gazette Reporter 

Local boys place 1, 2 at regional contest

 

May 9, 2019

Keith Niehenke

Keith Niehenke plays fiddle with a combo at the regional fiddle contest.

Twins Cash and Rye Niehenke of Oakesdale placed first and second in the Northwest Regional Fiddle Contest in Spokane April 27-28. They will now advance to the national competition in June at Weiser, Idaho. They placed in the top eight at the nationals last year.

Last year, the boys placed second and fourth at the regional with Rye topping Cash. This year, Cash managed to move ahead, and Rye did not give up any ground by placing second.

"They have two completely different ways (of playing)," noted their mom, Julie Niehenke.

Julie and husband Keith lead The Hankers band where Julie is the lead vocalist and Keith sings and fiddles. They have performed for decades and the boys have learned from dad and played with the band.

"They play all the time," Julie reported.

In the 2018 nationals, Keith placed second in the adult class.

Julie noted there is a difference between a performing fiddler and a competing fiddler, so it is a big deal for him to achieve that.

Cash and Rye have been performing a lot as the Twin Fiddlers at smaller venues, including the Mr. Oakesdale competition this week.

"It's a constant battle between those two," she commented on their competitiveness. Yet, family ties prove stronger, and Rye was very happy for Cash to claim first.

It came down to their different styles of playing that swung things in Cash's favor. According to Julie, Cash is the emotional child, and that comes through in his music.

Rye is very technical and sometimes focuses so much on playing everything exactly right, he forgets the emotion. Julie reported the judges said Cash played the best waltz they had ever heard.

The judges do not see the fiddlers. They are located in a different room and listen to the music through headphones.

In each round, contestants play a hoe down, a waltz and an upbeat song of choice.

At regionals, after the first round, the top five proceed to a second round where they play three different songs.

Rye and Cash Niehenke with Ryne Wagemann.

Rye and Cash Niehenke with Ryne Wagemann.

At nationals, there is a third round with three different songs.

Being the champion of the Small Fry contest, age 9 and under, Cash will have his national entry fees waived and get to play in the certified championship division against the top fiddlers from the other regional divisions. He will be placed on a national registry and entered into the National Fiddlers Hall of Fame as the 2019 Northwest Small Fry champion.

During the summer, the boys will continue playing with The Hankers and attend the national contest the third week in June.

"We have high hopes for them this year," Julie said.

Ryne Wagemann, the grandson of Tina Coe of Rosalia, placed third in the junior class for ages 9 to 12, at the regional contest.

 
 

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