Desert Skies
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Desert Skies

Band Folk Acoustic


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Fiddlers young and old face the music at county fair
By Katy Knapp For The Daily Times

FARMINGTON — Kelsey Haroldson and her brother Brock take turns bringing home first place trophies.
On Saturday, it was Kelsey's turn to win.

"We'd all like to win," she said. "But we know we can't all the time. All we can do is our very best."

Kelsey, 16, won the Championship Round and $175 at the third annual Old Time Fiddler's Contest at the San Juan County Fair. Brock came in third.

She entered the competition because she loves to play, she said.

"Fiddle competitions give me another excuse to go play," Kelsey said.

The competition started at 9 a.m. with division competitions. There were six different divisions, divided by age group, and 27 contestants.

The Haroldsons, along with their 9-year-old sister Nicole, competed throughout the day.

Nicole beat four other contestants, aged 3 to 9, to take home the first place trophy in Division 2.

The big event of the competition came at the very end — the Championship Round.

Four people, including Brock and Kelsey, competed in the final round for the prize money.

Marti White, coordinator of the competition and fiddle instructor, said this year's competition was the best she's seen in years.

"It just keeps getting better and better," she said.

The competition is in its

Nicole Haroldson, 9, of Aztec, performs in the Old Time Fiddlers Contest, Saturday at the San Juan County Fair. Haroldson, who has been playing the fiddle for three years, won first place in her division. (Lucas Ian Coshenet/The Daily Times) ))

third year, but this is the first year the competition is certified, White said.

That means the winner of the competition can go to the national competition, and their entry fees will be paid for.

Because the competition is now certified, the three judges have to be sequestered during performances. The purpose, White said, is to keep the competition about the music.

"This way they won't be swayed by subliminal things like how they are dressed or how they hold the bow, only the music," she said.

White chose the judges — Matt Palmer and Chris Daring, who judge every year, and a guest judge "so things won't get too predictable."

This year, White chose professional fiddle player Peter Rolland to fill the slot.

Rolland, who has judged dozens of fiddle competitions, including state and national competitions around the country, has been playing the fiddle for more than 40 years. He looks at several different aspects of the performance when choosing a winner, he said.

"I like to get an overall impression, see what level they are operating at," Rolland said. "Then I'll look at the tunes they're playing and how complicated they are."

After that, Rolland said he listens for the rhythm and timing, and if the song is in tune or not.

"And to me, style is the most important element," he said. "I'm looking for someone who can make the fiddle talk. It's more than just mechanical notes."

Contestants also competed in a twins competition, where two fiddlers played together, or accompaniment competition, that gave a prize to the best guitarist accompanying the fiddler.

Brock and Kelsey won the twins competitions and Brock came in third for accompanying.

Coming in behind his sister doesn't bother him, he said, and home life isn't competitive.

"We usually just leave the competition for the stage," he said.

The Haroldsons, from Aztec, have been playing fiddle for six years. They come from a musical background — they tour with their family band, Desert Skies.

Kelsey said she plans on playing the fiddle professionally.

Despite her calm demeanor on stage, Kelsey said she gets nervous before every competition.

"I always want to do my very best," she said. "I won't mind so much if I don't win if I know that I did my very best."

- Farmington Daily Times

    "If you are looking for a great time of entertainment and musical enjoyment, look up the Desert Skies Band-- their diverse repertoire of Celtic and traditional fiddle music is wonderfully complimented by some great vocals and excellent Celtic dancing! I greatly enjoyed their show of talent and fun--highly recommended!"
Justin Booher, band coach and music instructor, 2005 Young Adult National Champion Fiddler
- website

Added to the roster of the best of the old time fiddlers, Kelsey Haroldson, a 16 year old from Aztec, New Mexico took home the honers, the money and the plaque for her effort. There were 37 contestants from all over the southwest competing for the State Championship during the competition at the Truth or Consequences Civic Center. Nearly speechless , the young lady said she has been playing fiddle for six years and is "really, really excited" about winning this years contest.

Carole Wier
October 18,2006 - Sierra County Sentinel

LIFESTYLES Sunday, October 29, 2006

Family of fiddlers
Staff Writer
Article Launched:10/28/2006 11:34:06 PM MDT

Click photo to enlargeKelsey Haroldson, left, 16, of Aztec, gives a fiddle lesson... (Lucas Ian Coshenet/The Daily Times) Aztec band is a family affair

— By Debra Mayeux —

The Daily Times

AZTEC — It's an old tradition with a new twist — the family band.

Dennis and Tracy Haroldson, of Aztec, realized they had to do something with all of the talent in their family of eight. Each of their six children was born with a knack for playing the fiddle. Some of them also play guitar, mandolin and classical piano.

Dennis and Tracy took up guitar to accompany their six fiddlers — and they started Desert Skies Band.

It is not unusual for Tracy to reach into a brass bowl at the top of her entertainment center and pull out a guitar pick. She will strum her guitar, as the children gather round with their fiddles.

"My husband and I were not musicians, until the kids started this. ... We couldn't ready a note of music," Tracy said.

The music in the family began with their eldest child and only son, Brock, 19. He wanted to play the violin, so six years ago lessons were given to Brock, Kelsey, 16, and Sierra, 13. Tracy soon noticed that the children were talented. They quickly picked up the violin and within two years progressed to a high level of musical proficiency. At this time, they are so talented they study the fiddle via the Internet with one of the top fiddle instructors in the nation.

As more children were born into the family, the younger ones also wanted to play. Brock and Kelsey began giving lessons to their little sisters: Danica, 11; Nicole, 8; and Jocelyn, 5. They also teach to other children in the community wanting to learn their skill.

"Brock and Kelsey have quite a few students with a waiting list," Tracy said.

"I like passing on what I know to the younger kids and teaching them," said Kelsey, who taught violin lessons since she was 14. "It's cool when they get better and learn new stuff."

Tracy turned one of the family's rooms into a school and music room. The children not only study their music at home, they are home schooled.

"It's really lovely to have mom as our teacher, to be able to study as a family. It gives us more time to be able to do our music," Kelsey said.

As a family, Desert Skies Band toured the country last summer. The Haroldsons performed in Wyoming and Montana, presenting their own blend of Americana music.

"It's old time American music centered around the fiddle," Tracy said.

Brock also performs regularly with the San Juan College Orchestra and the San Juan Symphony.

This family also competes in fiddle contests across the state and nation.

Kelsey recently won the title of Overall Grand Champion for the state at the New Mexico State Fiddle Championship. Brock came in second, so Kelsey will be the one traveling to Weiser, Idaho, in June 2007 for the National Fiddling Championship.

She said that her focus is on old-time fiddling, because she enjoys it.

"I love how it sounds. With old-time fiddle, you can put in your own little licks and style," Kelsey said.

At the competition, she said there were times for nervousness, but her desire to perform took over.

"I love to just play my instrument and play with my dad, who backs me up," she said.

Tracy said all of the children have a spirit of competition and love performing.

"We don't make any of them do it. It's all their personal choice," Tracy said, adding she knows that her family was "blessed with a gift from God."

It is a gift they use to bring joy and music into the hearts of others.

For information on the Desert Skies Band call (505) 334-3178 or visit the band's Web site at

Debra Mayeux:

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- Farmington Daily Times

Keshmish Radio Program

By Shonto Blackhorse
Special to the Times

Red Mesa, Ariz. December 21, 2006

It took the work of many hours for drama students, student musicians and others to bring the radio show "Radio Keshmish Nizhoni" to the airwaves of radio station KNDN 960AM Dec. 14, but it was a very successful undertaking for all those involved.

However, no radio variety show would be complete without music, and the musicians participating in the show were excellent.

The Twilight Teachings Singers of Navajo Preparatory School in Farmington sang both traditional and Christmas songs in Navajo.

The acoustic bluegrass band Desert Skies from Aztec, N.M., played both holiday and American folk classics that kept smiles on all faces and helped everyone to get in the Christmas spirit

"We did it last year and got so many calls that we re-broadcasted it several more times," said Werito, program director for KNDN. "John and his students, and the singers from Navajo Prep and the band, Desert Skies, they all did such a great job and we are already looking forward to next year."

It would seem that a new holiday tradition for the Four Corners area has begun
- Navajo Times


Desert Skies - May 2005
Traveling Wishes - June 2006
Shaped Into Grace- May 2009



Desert Skies is a young and energetic New Mexico band featuring the state's champion fiddlers. They are a professional, award winning group of young acoustic musicians who compose, play, and sing. Two of their original tunes have been used on the 2007 Roadtrip Nation, MSN Calgary series and their tune, Green and Pink Shoes is sound Track for Fuel TV's 2008 Sports Roadtrip. Folk, Bluegrass, Americana, Newgrass, Gospel, Swing, jazz and a Celtic twist here and there make a Desert Skies performance interesting and fast paced. This young group will surprise audiences with their abilty to swap instruments, blend in different vocal groupings, feature their original music and well known tunes.

Their sound is upbeat and lively; traditional music with a 21st century twist. Some of their influences include Casey Driessen, Chris Thile Alison Krauss, Ryan Shupe and the Rubberband, Mark O'Connor, Darol Anger, Jeremy Garrett, Nickel Creek and The Infamous Stringdusters .

Desert Skies is enjoyed by audiences of all ages and their flexibility enables them to tailor their show to your events and needs.

Desert Skies is experienced in presenting workshops for children and adults alike.

Let Desert Skies add punch and excitement to your event!