Occurring in tandem with the IBMA’s Fan Fest last month in Nashville was the 2012 Grand Master Fiddle Championship, held in the hotel connected to the convention center.
The venerable contest has been running since 1972, when it was first established as an invitational fiddle challenge for the Grand Ole Opry. It was held at Opryland in Nashville until 1997 when the park was closed. After several years of inactivity, the Grand Masters reemerged in 2005 and has been held in conjunction with the IBMA’s annual events since that time.
Over its long run, some of the biggest names in American fiddle music have won or placed in this competition. Sam Bush, Texas Shorty, J.T. Perkins, Hoot Hester, Benny Thomasson, Mark O’Connor, Jimmy Mattingly, Randy Howard, Dale Morris, Tim Crouch, Dan Kelly, Daniel Carwile, Andrea Zon, Deanie Richardson, Luke Bulla, April Verch, Matt Hartz, Tashina Clarridge, Alex Hargreaves Kimber Ludiker, Tristan Clarridge and Grant Rigney have all appeared in the winners’ column.
Since 2008, the contests have been split into several categories, with trophies awarded to accompanists as well as youth and traditional fiddle.
For 2012, first place in the open competition went to Jacie Sites of Idaho, another hot bed of fiddle music owing to the National Oldtime Fiddle Contest held in Weiser this past 60 years.
Here is video of Jacie’s winning tunes.
Grand Masters President and CEO Howard Harris tells us that they will be following IBMA to Raleigh, NC for the 2013 competition, as will the folks with Vietti Foods who have been the title sponsor since 2005.
All the funds received by the Grand Master Fiddler Championship go towards preserving the championship. No officer or board member is paid to serve! This is an all volunteer organization and we work because we love fiddling, we want to preserve these styles of fiddling and encourage our young people to keep fiddling.”
Harris also mentioned that their staff is hard at work digitizing all the audio from past years’ contests to make them available for download sale online. Students at Middle Tennessee State University will be assisting in the process with a goal of having all the winners from 1972-2012 up during 2013.
Donations are accepted on the Grand Masters web site, where you can also see lists of past winners and some terrific archival photos.