Grand Master Fiddler Championship Crowns 39th Master

 The Grand Master Fiddler Champion for 2010 is Justin Branum of St. Louis, Mo. Tashina Clarridge of Roslindale, Mass., previously of Redding, Calif. placed second. The two-day 39th annual Grand Master Fiddler Championship is the nation’s championship event held at the International Bluegrass Music Association Fan Fest in Nashville, Tenn. in early October.
“In my forty-years of association with the Grand Master Fiddler Championship, I have never seen a younger group finish in the top-10 nor the level of competition been keener,” said Howard Harris, GMFC president. “Clearly I am most encouraged by the level of participation by our young people that will ensure the future of fiddling for generations.”
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 $14,000 in prizes.
Branum took home $2,000 in cash, the bronze Grand Master Fiddler statuette, appeared on the IBMA mainstage, and on the Grand Ole Opry. This was his first Grand Master championship.
Clarridge received $1,500 and a plaque. This was her six consecutive second place showing.
Competitors showed their talents amongst some of the leading performers in acoustic music including the Whites and friends, Brand New Strings, April Fools Old Time String Band, Carpenter and May, Rocky Top Revue Square Dancers, Cathy Roberts, Cadillac Holmes, Aly Sutton, Debra Connelly and Dawn-Joy Thornton.
In honor of its founder, the organization presented the Dr. Perry F. Harris Award to Buck White for his work in support of the traditional art of fiddling.
Actor/entertainer Randall Franks, “Officer Randy Goode” from TV’s “In the Heat of the Night,” served as celebrity host for both days of the event with an appearance by Stuart Fryer, Hallettsville, Texas State Championship Fiddler’s Folics director, who hosted the accompanist contest.
“I was enthused by the interest the fiddlers enjoyed from an audience that spanned the globe,” Franks said. “It was a wonderful event. I am honored to stand in the shadows of the great stars that have hosted in the past.”
Other organizers include Grand Master Fiddler Championship vice president Ed Carnes, directors Crystal Plohman, Gayla Tanaka-Bollinger, Alva T. “Trey” McClain, Charlie Smith, Megan Lynch and Bobby Taylor.
Contest judges were Matt Hartz, Junior Marriott, Dale Morris, Jr., Hyram Posey and Bobby Taylor.
Among the sponsors were Choice Food of America, Mayberry’s Finest, Vietti Chili, Carnes Group, IBMA, Metro Nashville Arts Commission, Tennessee Arts Council and the West Virginia Division of Culture and History.
The other top-10 winners included in descending order: Mia Orosco of Lorena, Texas; Jacie Sites of Idaho Falls, ID; Eischen Harkins of Canon City, Colo.; Jesse Maw of Kalispell, Mont.; Maddie Denton of Murfreesboro, Tenn.; James Schlender of Bozeman, Mont.; Doug Fleener of Leitchfield, Ky. and Adrianna Ciccone of Timmons, Ont., Canada.
Contestants placing 11 through 20 are Greg Henry of Sombra, Ont., Canada; Kimber Ludiker of Somerville, Mass.; Elisha Peter Voetberg of Chehalis, Wash.; Ellie Goodman of Boston, Mass.; Laura Cash of Hendersonville, Tenn.; Isaac Callender of Pendleton, Ore.; Casey Driscoll of Goodlettsville, Tenn.; Paul Lemelin of Sudbury, Ont., Canada; Kerry Varble of Toledo, Ohio; and Tim Hodgson of Victor, Idaho.
Doug Fleener received the Charlie Bush Traditional Fiddler Performance Award from the GMFC presented by the Bush Family – Sam and Janet – in honor of their father late director Charlie Bush.
The Grand Master Traditional Champion is Scott Miller of Ironton, Ohio. Other top five fiddlers were Gailanne Amundson of Longwood, Fla.; Kelsey Wells of Murfreesboro, Tenn.; Hillary Bevels of Fayetteville, Tenn. and Natalie Grimes of Avon, Ind.
Winning guitar accompanists are Anthony Mature of New Waverly, Texas; Darin Meeks of  Post Falls, Idaho; Melika Lemelin of Hanmer, Ont., Canada; Joe Sites of Idaho Falls, Idaho and Terry Ludiker of Post Falls, Idaho.
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Photo: Grand Master Fiddler Justin Branum (right) receives the Grand Master Fiddler Trophy from directors Howard Harris (left) and Ed Carnes. (Photo: Randall Franks)