Without even being asked, the Dietrich sisters will be happy to tell you they thank God that they’re country girls—with a big dose of bluegrass and more than a pinch of classical thrown in.
For about a year now, the quartet have been making their mark as versatile musicians, winning competitions, playing at a variety of venues, and being featured on television and social media.
Their video remake of John Denver’s hit, “Thank God I’m a Country Boy,” was shared recently on the Facebook channel, Bluegrass Life, and has already garnered 170,000 views.
But there’s something else about the Dietrich girls that their mom, Tiffany, thinks the world should know. They’re homeschooled.
“There’s no way they could go to a traditional school and do what they do,” Tiffany explained, citing a list of events the girls have attended in the past several months to showcase their talents on instruments such as the fiddle, the guitar and the mandolin. The flexibility that homeschooling allows, she added, “has definitely afforded us the opportunity to be competitive.”
Their combined adventure began about a year ago, when 17-year-old Madi realized that the symphony orchestra she had participated in just wasn’t going to work for her younger sisters. Inspired by friends who perform as a family, Madi recruited Ranelle, 10, Brie, 9, and Aspen, 7, to form the Arizona Wildflowers, named for their home state.
“We kind of moved away from classical music and got into bluegrass,” said Madi, a decision that allowed them to experiment with various instruments and styles. It also opened up performance opportunities that reflect their roots in the American West.
This means all four girls focus on their fiddling skills. Currently, thanks to the internet, they’re under the tutelage of a Texas instructor. Madi also coaches her sisters and arranges their songs.
“We really love to do anything musical,” said Madi.
They play keyboard for church and more traditional music at Christmas.
But with fiddling, said Madi, “there are so many styles. What I really like is that you have more freedom … and you can play fast.”
Audiences have definitely noted the sisterly dynamic when the Dietrichs play. Last spring, they won third place in a band competition in Los Angeles.
Since then they’ve appeared in half-a-dozen television spots and were invited to open for Grammy nominee Michael Martin Murphey.
They’ve played benefit concerts for retirees, students, and at a foster home. They’ve kicked off rodeos by playing the national anthem—including once when they entered the arena fiddling on horseback.
Sometimes they’ll play just to satisfy an audience of one, as Madi confessed while recounting how they ended up making a video of “Dooley,” a tune probably best known for being performed by The Dillards on the Andy Griffith Show.
“My dad actually wanted us to learn that song,” she said. “He loves it.”
Their success as a group hasn’t kept them from honing individual skills.
The Dietrich girls fared especially well at the National Fiddle Championships in Weiser, Idaho last June. Brie took honors as Small Fry champion. Ranelle won Best Female Performer. Aspen placed fourth, and Madi finished third in the twin fiddle division, playing along with fellow homeschooler Will MacDonald.
They’ve also won accolades in their home state, and in competitions in Oklahoma, Minnesota, and Texas.
Even better than the awards, said Tiffany, is the camaraderie they’ve developed at these various festivals, where families camp out for long weekends and enjoy each other’s company.
“We really got hooked,” Tiffany added. “You’re making these great musical friends. And you come together a couple times a year, and it’s like a reunion.”
Ultimately, she and her husband consider it an unexpected dividend of the decision to teach their children at home.
“We never knew that we would go down this path of music,” said Tiffany. “With homeschooling you can really see what their passions are, and let them go.”
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Dietrich family. from their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/thearizonawildflowers/.