Early in 1973, an handful of fiddlers and friends within the Adirondack foothills of Central New York State got together for the very first time and held a “Fiddlers' Picnic”. By the summer of 1975, the picnic had grown tremendously and had settled itself permanently in Osceola, Lewis County, New York. In 1976 and 1977, The New York State Old Tyme Fiddlers' Association (NYSOTFA) and the North American Fiddlers' Hall of Fame and Museum Institute was formed. The New York State Old Tyme Fiddlers’ Association Inc. is a non-profit 501 (c)(3) organization. The mission of the New York State Old Tyme Fiddlers’ Association is to preserve, promote and perpetuate the art of old time fiddling and the dances pertaining to this art.. Every last full weekend in July the NYSOTFA still holds it's annual Fiddlers' Picnic featuring a special guest artist, dancing and individual performances.
In 1981 a building to house the North American Fiddlers’ Hall of Fame and Museum Institute was purchased. In addition to the many pictures of the North American and New York State Fiddlers' Hall of Fame inductees, the museum also has many exhibits and historical artifacts pertaining to the history of the NYSOTFA and New York State fiddling in general.
In 1994 a pole barn and stage were built next to the museum for the purpose of holding free Sunday concerts during the summer and NYSOTFA sponsored fiddling events which run from spring through fall.
In 1998 the pole barn was enlarged and named, "The Fiddlers' Pavillion". A new stage, a beautiful dance floor and a brick patio was added as well.
In 2018 a new kitchen building was built which sells delicious food and refreshing drinks to the people attending the many fiddling events held on the scenic grounds. Also in 2018, a small playground area was constructed offering children added fun.
New York State’s Old Time FiddlingTradition
By Keith Hunt, VP of the NYSOTFA
New York State’s earliest fiddle tunes were British Isles jigs, reels and hornpipes of the thirteen colonies brought into New York State from the westward expansion by New Englanders. These dance tunes, plus similar newer ones, have remained the core of our traditional fiddling.
Being a living tradition, it has broadened down through the years. By the eighteen hundreds, dancing masters were bringing newer dances across the Atlantic and teaching them in the US. Four couple quadrilles (square dances) started replacing the contra dances (lines of men facing lines of women) early in the 1800s. By mid century, waltzes, polkas, and schottisches became popular dances with their tunes being played by fiddlers. By the end of the century came the two-step craze with its tunes for fiddlers.
In the late eighteenth century, popular songs started to be used for singing call square dances, followed later by others used between square sets for the “rounds” of round and square dancing. Later came influences from technological advances such as phonograph records, radio, TV and computers.
Additionally, increased mobility from horse drawn transportation to trains, cars, and finally aircraft brought people with remote fiddle tunes to New York, and appealing ones, plus others from neighboring states and provinces joined New York’s tradition. An interesting example is the Westphalia Waltz. A fiddling world war II soldier heard a captivating, but unknown named waltz in Europe and brought it back to dances in his tiny home town of Westphalia, Texas. Named for that town, it spread rapidly to other fiddlers and soon was being played throughout the US and Canada. Actually it is the tune Pytala Sie Pani, sung in the 1930s by homesick Polish laborers in the US and is still played by polka bands.
The gradual expansion of fiddle tunes plus continued retention of core jigs, reels and hornpipes has resulted in a rich and widely varied New York old time fiddle music tradition. Our music is known as northern style old time fiddling, differentiating it from other styles in our country.