Old-time fiddler Harold Klosterkemper has been a familiar sight at fiddle contests and gatherings in Indiana and around the United States for over thirty years. Harold’s distinctive swing-inflected style earned him accolades at fiddle contests around the country, including top prizes at the Ohio State Fiddle Championship, the Bluegrass National Championship, the National Old Time Fiddlers’ Contest and Festival, and the Indiana State Fair fiddle contest.
The 95-year-old recalls a lifelong relationship with music that began when his father brought home a mandolin and a guitar after selling a load of hogs. Harold taught himself to play by picking out the notes to tunes he heard at local dances and over the radio on the Grand Ole Opry. He brought his mandolin along when he served in France during World War II. When word came that the war was over, “everyone was going wild because we was gonna get to go home.” Harold’s mandolin was broken in the celebration–so Harold picked up the guitar. The fiddle came later, when Harold was in his forties. Harold modestly recalls, “I saw some fiddlers that was pretty good fiddlers and I thought ‘that sounds awful good to me if I could do that.’”
For several decades, Harold Klosterkemper and his wife Helen have helped to coordinate the fiddle contest at the Power of the Past Festival in Greensburg, Indiana. As a mentor and fiddle teacher, Harold has inspired other Indiana musicians and helped to ensure the vitality of Indiana’s old-time music and dance traditions.