I have watched had the honor of watching a new generation of fiddlers come of age as I have watched from the wings or the podium. One such young fiddle from Birch Tree, Mo. has competed for several years, each year becoming a little better. Three times he came in second to other fiddlers but this year he advanced taking the top position becoming the Grand Master Fiddler. His name is Trustin Baker. Trustin took home $1,200 in cash, a $500 gift certificate courtesy of D’Addario, a Grand Master Fiddler plaque, and will appear on the Grand Ole Opry in 2019. He also won the Charlie Bush Traditional Fiddler Performance Award presented in honor of late director Charlie Bush.
“I can’t hardly believe it,” Baker told me after receiving the title. “It’s been a contest I have wanted to win ever since I started playing the fiddle.”
Among his winning tunes in this competition were “Grey Eagle,” “Gardenia Waltz” and “Black and White Rag.”
“I think maybe I am becoming more consistent with my playing,” he said. “I am looking forward to playing the Grand Ole Opry.”
The two-day 47th annual Grand Master Fiddler Championship is the nation’s premier championship event held on Sept. 1 and 2, 2018.
I am honored to walk in the footsteps of former celebrity hosts Porter Wagoner and Roy Acuff continuing the tradition of the Grand Ole Opry’s fiddle event now coordinated by the founder’s son Howard Harris and fiddler Ed Carnes and a non-profit board.
“It seems with every passing year we surpass the previous one with the level of talented fiddlers who participate and the amazing enthusiasts who fill the seats,” said Howard Harris, GMFC President. “Fiddlers came from coast to coast to add to the legacy of fiddling at our event. The amazing skills shown brought hours of applause and cheers from the audience and yielded some tough decisions for our judges.”
The Grand Master Fiddler Championship, Inc. is a Tennessee non-profit and a U.S. IRS 501(c)(3) charitable corporation, formed to educate about and perpetuate fiddling as an art form and cultural treasure.
Fiddlers competed for over $15,000 in prizes.
In honor of its founder, the organization presented the Dr. Perry F. Harris Award to Dr. Robert “Roby” Cogswell, retired Tennessee Arts Commission Folklife Program Director and guitarist.
WSM All Nighter’s Marcia Campbell and Keith Bilbrey of “Larry’s Country Diner” and “Huckabee” joined me in co-hosting the event.
The other top winners included in descending order: Ridge Roberts of Granbury, Texas; Andrew Lin of Lexington, Ky.; Billy Contreras of Nashville. Tenn.; Ivy Phillips of Chapmansboro, Tenn.; Matthew Lin of Lexington, Ky.; Wes Westmoreland of Temple, Texas; Joel Whittinghill of Bowling Green, Ky.; Mari Black of Cambridge, Mass.; Karissa Nugent of Fort Worth, Texas; Mark Ralph of Whitesville, Ky.; Kerry Varble of Salem, Ohio; Benjamin Lin of Lexington, Ky.; Bill Jones of Covington, Ga.; Jason Andrew of Whitewright, Texas; Noemi Turner of Otis Orchards, Wash.; Cody Stadelmaier of Fort Collins, Colo.; Blakeley Burger of Louisville, Ky.; and Josiah Colle of Batesville, Ark.
The Grand Master Traditional Champion is Tyler Andal of Nashville, Tenn. who won $300, a $500 gift certificate
courtesy of D’Addario, a Grand Master Fiddler plaque.
Andal, who has been playing 18 years, said it is one of his favorite competitions and divisions. He said the most impactful tune that he presented was “Lost Child.”
“It’s really exciting to me to get to play with people that know what is going on,” he said.
“It’s a lot of fun to do it with friends like Mr. Rob Pearcy that back you up in the competition and make some groovy dance music.”
Other winners in descending order are Giri Peters of Nashville, Tenn.; Tessa Dillon of St. Albans, W.V.; Clelia Stefanini of Nashville, Tenn.; Henry Barnes of Washington Court House, Ohio; Andrew Magill of Asheville, N.C.; and Hillary Klug of Shelbyville, Tenn.
The Grand Master Youth Champion is Leah Bowen of Sparks, Nev.
She won $300, a $500 gift certificate courtesy of D’Addario, and a Grand Master Fiddler plaque. She has been playing for four years. Her winning tunes included the Tennessee Wagoner and Rose of Avenmore Waltz and Black and White Rag.
“It’s not really about the winning,” she said. “Winning is great, but it’s about being with the people and the guitarists.:
Other winners in descending order are Miles Quale of Alameda, Calif.; Emilie Miller of Otis Orchards, Wash.; David Lin of Lexington, Ky. Teo Quale of Alameda, Calif., Jane Eby of Whitehouse, Ohio; Kate Ward of Kuttawa, Ky., Devon Waite of Goodlettsville, Tenn.; Christiana Nugent of Fort Worth, Texas; and Nathan Pedneault of Fort Worth, Texas.
Winning guitar accompanists are Drew Miller of Otis Orchards, Wash., Rob Pearcy of Smyrna, Tenn.; Jonathan Trawick of Portland, Ore.; Elijah Baker of Birch Tree, Mo.; Jim Reina of Conroe, Texas; and Todd Varble of Salem, Ohio. Miller who took first, won $200 and a certificate.
As a fiddler since the age of eight, whose instrument has taken me places I could never imagine the music it played would open doors from coast to coast, from backstages to board rooms allowing me to become known around the world. It is exciting for me to see their youthful dreams coming to fruition and watch the dream grow even bigger for their futures. I am honored to be watching these talents from the wings!