Born in Florida, Ivan Stiles currently resides in a charming older farmhouse on Pickering Bend in Phoenixville, PA, near Philadelphia. He took up making music as early as the fourth grade when he was assigned to a clarinet in the school band. He played that until he broke it (ask him about that). Next, he took piano lessons for a year and a half while in junior high school. While in senior high school, he tackled the accordion. Like many others, Ivan was introduced to folk music during the 1960's, and from there his music began to take a form which has led him to the general style of music he plays today.
Although he is best known for his expertise on the autoharp, Stiles also plays the mountain dulcimer, the musical saw, the spoons and the jews harp. Additionally, he is a fine vocalist and yodeler.
Ivan has been a performer and emcee at past Walnut Valley Festivals. After winning the 1987 World Autoharp Championship, he became the official Walnut Valley underdog placing in the competition three times before finally walking away with the first place trophy in 1991.
Nancy Stiles, Ivan's wife, gave him his first autoharp in January 1976 as an anniversary gift. Stiles confesses that he spent every spare moment of the next four years locked in a room with his harp, trying to figure out what made it tick. There were few opportunities to play with others in his area at the time and he felt his playing had reached a plateau. So he searched for a teacher until he found a music store owner who agreed to provide lessons. Ivan showed up and played "Wildwood Flower." The store owner was so impressed with Ivan's playing ability that instead of giving him lessons, he hired him on the spot to begin teaching autoharp at the store.
Ivan Stiles is a true performer, teacher, artist, gentleman and family man who is filled with enthusiasm. With so much of his life devoted to autoharp, it seems appropriate that Ivan makes his home so near Philadelphia, birthplace of the instrument he loves.