Judges for the 2022 Competition

Aynsley Porchak


Aynsley began playing fiddle at the age of 9. She was introduced to contest-style fiddling in her early teens, and quickly fell in love with the music. In order to further hone her craft, Aynsley enrolled in East Tennessee State University's Bluegrass, Old Time, and Country Music Studies degree program in 2013. She graduated in 2017 with an additional bachelor's degree in English, and completed her master's degree in Appalachian Studies in 2020.


Aynsley is also an experienced contest fiddler, having won the Grand Master Fiddler Championship in 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee, and the 2017 Canadian Grand Master Fiddle Championship, making her the first person to win both competitions. She also played in 2016 on the Grand Ole Opry. She is a certified and qualified national contest judge.


In 2018, Aynsley joined the SPBGMA award-winning bluegrass band Carolina Blue, and performed with them for four years before becoming one of the founding members of The Tennessee Bluegrass Band in 2021. She also received the 2018 IBMA Momentum Instrumentalist of the Year award. Aynsley spends her time off the road as a private fiddle instructor, session musician, and author.


Brad Riley


Brad’s musical journey began in 1968 when he started playing the guitar with his father and brother. He started playing the fiddle when he was 13 years old and became friends with Texas champion fiddlers E.J. Hopkins and Bill Northcutt, who helped mentor him as a beginner fiddler.  He loves the Texas style of fiddling and spent many hours listening to records and tapes of fiddle music.


Brad has served on the Board of directors of the Texas Oldtime Fiddlers Association and was inducted into the Texas State Fiddle Champion Fiddlers Frolics Hall of Fame in 2021. Brad consistently places in the Top 10 in the Fiddlers Frolics and won the Senior division in 2022.  Among his other wins are the Senior Division at the World Championship Fiddle Contest at Crockett, TX (several times), the Senior Division in the Mid-America Fiddler Championship in, Branson Missouri, and the Senior Division at the Twin Lakes National Fiddler Championship In Leitchfield, KY. He has also placed in the Top 10 of the Grand Master Fiddler Championship in Nashville, TN.


Brad has judged numerous fiddle contests, included the  World Championship Fiddle Contest at Crockett, TX, the Texas State Fiddle Champion Fiddler Frolics in Hallettsville, TX and many more. 


Brad retired after 37 years with the Houston Texas Fire Department and now enjoys life in Waller, Texas with his wife and 5 grandchildren. Brad enjoys going to Fiddle contests in Texas and all over the US. 


Justin Branum

Justin Branum is a freelance fiddler and multi-instrumentalist residing in the Nashville, TN area where he lives with his musician wife, Angelica, twin baby boys Emmett and Everett, and four step kids, Jakob (12), Callie (10), Violet (8), and Hazel (6).


Justin was born in Okinawa, Japan where his father was stationed as a Marine. His father’s side of the family is from Kennett, Missouri and his mother’s side is from the Texarkana, Arkansas area.


Justin started on fiddle at age 12 and was mostly self-taught with the exception of a few sporadic lessons until college. During this time he was exposed to old-time fiddle, contest style fiddling, bluegrass, western swing, country, jazz, and classical. He was drawn to the fiddling of Johnny Gimble, Buddy Spicher, Kenny Baker, Bobby Hicks, Tommy Jackson, Dale Potter, and Howdy Forrester who all became major influences on his playing. In college, Justin studied music and received Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in jazz studies from Webster University in Saint Louis, MO. He also taught as an adjunct instructor at Webster University and Washington University.


Justin has spent many years on the fiddle contest circuit and has won the Grand Master Fiddler Championship, Tennessee State Fiddle Championship, Tennessee State Mandolin Championship, Alabama State Fiddle Championship, Kentucky State Flatpicking Guitar Championship, Smithville Fiddler’s Jamboree, and the Twin Lakes National Fiddle Championship.


In addition to working as a freelance musician in the Nashville area doing recording sessions and occasional tours, Justin runs the instructional video site MasterFiddle.com  along with a private teaching studio for virtual lessons online. You can often hear Justin playing in the Grand Ole Opry staff band or playing with the New Monday band (Val Story, Carl Jackson, and Larry Cordle) at The Station Inn on Monday nights. Artists Justin has performed with include Lee Ann Womack, Jeannie Seely, John Conlee, Steve Earle, Bobby Flores, The Sons Of The Pioneers, Kane Brown, Suzy Bogguss, Mo Pitney, Sara Evans, Charles Esten, and many more. You can also catch Justin in the house band for the Merlin Gene Show on RFD-TV every Saturday. 


Wes Westmoreland


Howard Dee (Wes) Westmoreland III was born September 10, 1962, the eldest of two children and grew up in a family musical atmosphere that featured many Sunday afternoons of music at his Grandparents house. Wes had many family members who played including his dad Howard Jr and Uncle Gene, who both played rhythm guitar, and his grandfather Howard Sr “Bus”, who played fiddle.


Wes’ granddad began teaching him to play fiddle at age nine. Through records and his grandfather’s stories Wes’s musical heroes grew to include Benny Thomason, Major and Louis Franklin, Vernon and Norman Solomon, Orville Burns, Terry and Dale Morris, and the list goes on and on. About this time Wes began to compete in contests all over the state of Texas. Wes was lucky in that his grandfather not only taught him contest tunes but also exposed him to dance music and twin fiddling.


At the age of 18, Wes traveled to Weiser, Idaho and won the National Junior Championship Fiddle Contest, his first major contest. It was also that same year that he first visited the home of Bill Gilbert and began his second phase of learning. It was under the guidance of Bill that he began to learn the secrets and nuances of the bow-work involved with playing breakdowns.


After graduating college, Wes decided to put that degree in his pocket and pursue his love for music by accepting a job in Branson, Missouri with Boxcar Willie. The following year, Wes received a job offer from Mel Tillis for whom he worked for ten years. Wes performed with Mel Tillis on the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, on television broadcasts such as Nashville Now, Crook and Chase, Austin City Limits and various show places and casinos across the United States and abroad.


After playing professionally for 14 years, Wes decided to return to school and now makes a living as a pharmacist in a large hospital in Temple Texas, returning to breakdown fiddling and competing in contests after a 10-year hiatus.


Wes’ dedication to music has paid off though the years. To date his awards in include: National Junior Champ 1980, 3-time TOTFA State Champion,, 7-time World Champion, 8-time Texas State Champion and numerous other contests and competitions.


Second only to his love of fiddling, is his love of teaching. Wes has also taught many fiddling workshops and camps across the United States, including The Elmore fiddle camp and the Live Oak Fiddle Camp,  and enjoys teaching western swing and Texas Style breakdowns.


Bobby Taylor


Bobby Taylor is a fourth generation West Virginia fiddler. He plays several styles of old-time and contest fiddling, but got his early start from the legendary Clark Kessinger, who influenced a world of fiddlers. He has a melting pot of old-time fiddle styles including the styles of his father Lincoln Taylor (1911-1995), Ed Haley, Mike Humphreys, Benny Thomasson, Reece B. Jarvis, Doc Roberts, French Carpenter and scores of others to name a few. He was the 1977 West Virginia State Open Fiddle Champion. In 2003, Bobby received the FOOTBRIDGE AWARD. This award was presented by FOOTMAD (Friends of Old-Time Music and Dance) for his contributions to old-time music. Bobby was presented The 2010 VANDALIA AWARD by the West Virginia Division of Culture and History. The Vandalia award is West Virginia’s highest folk-life honor. When fiddle enthusiast West Virginia Senator Robert C. Byrd passed away in July of 2010, Bobby was honored to be chosen to play Senator Byrd’s favorite fiddle tunes during the public visitation in the West Virginia Capitol Rotunda, and for the official memorial service. Bobby was also requested by the Byrd family to play for the private funeral services. He was inducted into the Mountain State Art and Craft Fair Hall of Fame in Ripley, WV in July of 2012 for his musical contributions to the State of West Virginia.  


Bobby has been the coordinator of West Virginia's Vandalia Gathering contests at the State Capitol in Charleston since 1979. He was the contest coordinator of the Appalachian Open Contest from 1984 through 1987, and he has been the contest coordinator of the Appalachian String Band Music Festival contest since 1990. All of these events are sponsored by the West Virginia Division of Culture and History. Bobby recently retired after serving for many years as the Library Manager of the West Virginia Archives and History Library Section of the West Virginia Division of Culture and History.


Bobby has judged the Tennessee, Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia state championships, and is a regular judge at the Old Fiddlers Convention in Galax, Virginia. He has judged the Grand Master Fiddle Championship in Nashville, TN since 2006 to present. He was selected to judge the 2007, 2010 and 2012 Western Open Fiddle Championship in Red Bluff, CA. He was a judge at Jana Jae’s Grand Lake National Fiddle Fest in 2006, 2007 and 2009 in Grove, OK. He was selected as a judge at the Grand National Fiddle Championship in Weiser, ID in 2008. Bobby is a certified national fiddle judge. He is a nationally recognized consultant on rules and judging procedures for heritage music competitions. He has taught fiddle workshops at the Augusta Heritage Center, Allegheny Echoes in West Virginia, the 2012 Midwest Banjo Camp in Michigan and at the 2013 Festival of American Fiddle Tunes in Port Townsend, WA. He has performed on musical tours in Australia and Ireland, and was a featured performer at the National Folk Festival in Australia in March of 2008. He was a featured performer at the Library of Congress and at the Kennedy Center on August 16, 2012. The Library of Congress show was recorded for their permanent collection.


In 1990, Bobby apprenticed and constructed a violin under the guidance of Harold M. Hayslett. Mr. Hayslett was a Violin Society of America “Gold Medal” winner for tone at the 1980 international competition.


Bobby currently judges extensively and presents historical showcases on fiddle styles with his old-time band “Kanawha Tradition.” It is not uncommon for historic fiddles once owned by great fiddlers such as Clark Kessinger and Ed Haley to show up at these events.  Bobby is the custodian of these historical instruments. 


The 2022 Grand Masters will return to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum's Ford Theater on September 3rd and 4th (Labor Day Weekend). Visit this website often for updates.

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