Judges for the 2017 Competition
Larry Franklin grew up on a farm in Whitewright, Texas and began playing the fiddle when he was seven years old under the guidance of his father, Louis Franklin. Louis and his Uncle, Major Franklin, are legends in the world of Texas Style Fiddling and they were the ones Larry first learned to emulate. Larry eventually won most every fiddler’s contest in the state of Texas including the World Championship when he was l6 years old.
He began honing his chops with dance bands in high school and after a 3-year stint in the Army went on to co-found “The Cooder Browne Band”. They were signed by Willie Nelson to his label “Lone Star Records” and toured with Willie and released one album. After that Larry led “The Larry Franklin Band” across the country entertaining everyone with his brand of fiddle music. He went on to perform with “Asleep At The Wheel” for seven years, receiving two Grammies for Instrumental of the Year. The first in 1987 for String of Pars, a song he co-wrote, and again in 1988 for Sugarfoot Rag. They won again in 1999 with Bob’s Breakdowns on the Ride With Bob tribute album to Bob Wills featuring Larry, Vince Gill, Steve Wariner and Tommy Alsup, bringing his Grammy total to three! His style has grown from the diverse influences of Texas contest fiddling to embrace Country, Blues, Rock & Roll, Jazz and Western Swing.
He moved to Nashville in 1991 and began his career as a session musician and has performed on hundreds of hit records as you’ll see in his Discography. He currently resides in Brentwood, TN with his wife Donna. He continues to play on recording sessions and performs each Monday night with the Time Jumpers at “3rd & Lindsley” a night club in Nashville. The Time Jumpers are an 11-piece Western Swing/Country Group comprised of a group of very elite musicians and singers and features the 3 fiddles played by Kenny Sears, Joe Spivey and Larry.
He plans to continue recording and releasing his own albums. He has a home studio that doubles as a place to work on his songs as well as projects for other Artists and Songwriters.
Jacie Sites is the 2012 Grand Master Fiddle Champion and the current National Adult fiddle champion. She holds a Bachelor of Music from Eastern Oregon University with an emphasis in cello performance and has produced several CDs and written two series of fiddle method books in her “Learn to Fiddle series”.
Several of her private students have won national fiddle championships. She recently performed the National Anthem at the War Bonnet Rodeo.
Some of her accomplishments include:
-2012 Grand Master Fiddle Champion and 2013 Judge
-National Twin Fiddle Champion and National Adult Fiddle Champion
-Performed on the Grand Ole Opry as a soloist Saturday Evening Show
-Guest Artist and Soloist with the Idaho Falls Symphony
-Featured Artist on KET Bluegrass TV and International Bluegrass Music Association Main Stage
-RockyGrass Bluegrass Fiddle Competition Grand Champion
-3 Time National Fanciest Fiddler
-Ladies' Home Journal Difference Maker of the Year
Maddie Denton is a third-generation fiddle player from Murfreesboro, Tennessee who began playing at the age of five. She is the current Grand Master Fiddle Champion, the first Tennessee-born contestant to ever win, plus the 2009 National Oldtime Junior Fiddle Champion. Since 2008, Maddie has won fourteen state championship titles spread over the states of Alabama, Kentucky, Indiana, Georgia, and Tennessee, where she is a three-time winner and current state champion. She is an accomplished tenor guitar player and frequently backs up her fellow competitors. Maddie also plays mandolin, banjo, and standard guitar. In addition to her love for contest fiddling, Maddie also enjoys playing bluegrass and is the fiddle player for the 2017 SPBGMA International Bluegrass Band Champion, Mashtag.
Aside from music, Maddie is a recent graduate of Middle Tennessee State University with a degree in Organismal Biology and Ecology and a minor in music. While at MTSU, she played NCAA Division I golf for four years and helped the Lady Raiders win back-to-back Conference USA Championships. She now teaches biology at Siegel High School where she is also the assistant girls’ basketball coach.
Maddie is a nationally certified judge with experience judging the National Oldtime Fiddle Championship as well as multiple state championships. As a judge, Maddie listens for intonation and groove in up-tempo tunes as well as emotion and execution in waltzes.
Matthew Hartz of Boise, ID is a 3-time Grand Master Fiddle Champion (Nashville, TN), a 2-time Grand National Fiddle Champion (Weiser, ID), and a 2-time World Fiddle Champion (Crockett, TX). Matthew has been teaching music lessons for 30 years and is well respected as a performer and instructor.
He is a multi-instrumentalist, as comfortable on Guitar as he is on Violin.
He recently released a new double album of Texas Style fiddling called “The Marion Sessions” featuring some of the legendary Texas contest guitarists such as Jerry Thomason, Ray Franklin and Anthony Mature. He's recorded 6 fiddle albums during his career and has also recorded with a wide variety of other artists, in many different genres on guitar, violin and bass and released a recent album featuring all original songs in the pop/rock/jazz vein with a lot of fiddle and folk music mixed in.
Matthew performs and teaches regularly around the US.
Bobby Taylor is a fourth generation West Virginia fiddler who has played the fiddle for over 40 years, starting at the age of 13. He learned his music from the legendary Clark Kessinger and Mike Humphreys, both of whom lived near where he grew up in Dunbar, WV. Bobby has also studied countless American fiddle styles and conducts workshops showcasing his special blend of various styles. He retired from playing contests in 1977 to start coordinating contests for the West Virginia Division of Culture and History. Among his wins is the 1977 West Virginia State Open Fiddle Championship in Elkins, WV. This prestigious contest allowed all champions from other states to enter as well as West Virginians, drawing in fiddlers from all over the eastern United States and as far as Canada.
Bobby has been the coordinator of West Virginia’s Vandalia Gathering musicians’ contests at the State Capitol in Charleston, WV, since 1979. He was the coordinator of the Appalachian Open Championships from 1984-1987, a contest that drew many great fiddlers, including some of the Grand Master fiddlers.He is currently the coordinator of the Appalachian String Band Music Festival in Clifftop, WV, an old-time music festival started in 1990. He continues to judge fiddle contests extensively throughout the country. He is also a consultant for contest promoters in the Eastern United States and beyond regarding rules and guidelines for musical competitions. He was a judge at the 2008 National Old-time Fiddlers’ Contest and Festival at Weiser, Idaho. Bobby is a former judge here at the Grand Master Fiddler Championship.
He enjoys passing his own unique musical style on to younger musicians, and frequently serves as fiddle instructor at the Augusta Heritage Center in Elkins, WV, and Allegheny Echoes in Marlinton, WV. In 2003, Bobby was recognized for his efforts when the Friends of Old-Time Music and Dance (FOOTMAD) presented him with the FOOTBRIDGE AWARD, a lifetime achievement award for his contributions to old-time music.
Personal musical performances have included many major festivals for more than 40 years throughout West Virginia and the Eastern United States. Bobby played in Germany in 1979 as a part of the Friendship Force, at the Florida House and the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC., and at the Chicago Folk Festival. In 1996, Bobby was honored to be invited to play at a banquet honoring Senator Robert C. Byrd that was attended by President Bill Clinton. In November 2005, he played at the Bluegrass and Old-time Music Festival in Harrietville, Australia. Most recently, Bobby was an invited performer at the National Folk Festival in Canberra, Australia.