Joe and Jacie Sites’ Rigby house is a hub for fiddling and learning.
Trophies, violins and photos of competitions and fiddling friends line the walls, and more often than not music filters outside, bringing the area to life.
The Sites and their students added to Rigby’s fiddling trophy collection in June, with three Rigby fiddlers and one Blackfoot fiddler taking first place in four different divisions at the Oldtime National Fiddlers’ Contest in Weiser, Idaho.
Grace Partridge, 14, of Rigby, and Jessa Preston, 17, of Blackfoot, took first together in the Twin Fiddle division at the contest. Grace also took first place in the Junior division — which is for ages 13 up to 18 — and Jessa took fourth. Rigby’s Logan Davis, 12, who also studies with the Sites, took second place in the Junior-junior division.
Grace said she tried especially hard this year because one of her friends recently died of salivary gland cancer, and she said she wanted to win for him.
Logan said he did not mind taking second because he said he thought the person who took first did very well and deserved the win. Jessa said she was also happy with how she did, because she went a few rounds more than she expected to. Logan said he felt they all performed well.
“We went there and sweeped it,” he said.
Joe and Jacie also both took first place this year in their divisions. That accomplishment made them one of the first, if not the first, husband and wife couple to both be national champions in their respective age divisions.
“There’s been husbands and wives where the husband has won five years, and then five years later the wife wins a different random division,” Jacie said. “But to win in the same year, we even won on the same night, so that was kind of cool.”
Jacie said she had also been told three people all from one city had not taken first before. Though the Sites have taught numerous first-place award winners, she said this year was especially rewarding because of that.
Joe Sites said if more of their students had competed, he thinks they would have had a few more champions. He said because of the time of year, some talented fiddle players were attending various summer camps or on vacation. He said they have had up to about 35 students go in the past, and this year the number was around 12.
“We didn’t nearly have half of all our students (at the competition),” he said.
The Sites have taught hundreds of students over the years, having owned a shop in Idaho Falls for numerous years before moving to Rigby. In fact, the sign that once hung outside of that shop now decorates the front of their home. Joe said teaching is rewarding.
“It feels wonderful,” he said. “It’s like you get to leave a legacy.”
And the Sites have left their legacy. Previous and current students continue to have success in the fiddle world.
This year, students still have competitions to go to. In August Jacie and Grace will both go to Nashville, Tennessee to compete in the Grand Master Fiddle Championship. Grace said she is excited and plans to work especially hard for that competition, because the winner in each division has the opportunity to come back the next year and play in the Grand Ole Opry.
“I really want to do that,” she said.
Winning is not everything when it comes to fiddling though, and Grace and Jessa both said one of the reasons they love fiddling is the community.
“I really enjoy the jamming and getting to know people and making connections with people through the music,” Jessa said. “I think it’s pretty special, being able to make friends who love and play the same instrument that you do.”