Judges for the 2018 Competition

Mia Orosco










Matt Wyatt


Matt is a Missouri State Fiddle Champion and has competed and judged at hundreds of contests across the country.  Matt grew up listening to the fiddle and developed a love and respect for music at a young age.  Matt learned directly from some of Missouri's best fiddlers, including his Grandpa “Bud” Wyatt, his great Grandpa Charlie Wyatt, and many others. 


Growing up, his father Allen took him to nearly every contest in Missouri and all over the country.  Matt graduated from Belmont, in Nashville, with a degree in Commercial Music.  During his time in Nashville, Matt played on the Grand Old Opry and at the Ryman while touring with Jerry (”Jug”) and Tammy Sullivan.  He played with many other artists as well and now plays with the Saint Louis based band Swing Deville www.SwingDeville.com. 


Through his experiences, Matt has developed his skills and his knowledge of the traditions of old-time fiddling makes him a direct link to that driving sound.  Matt owns the Wyatt Violin Shop along with his Father, in Kansas City, Missouri.  Matt spends a lot of time on the bench doing repair work; tonal adjustments are one of his specialties. He travels the country buying and selling instruments and hand picks every instrument and bow for the shop. He is an experienced player and his passion for music is equaled in his interest in old instruments and bows. Matt has spent a considerable amount of time studying the market of antique instruments and bows by attending major auctions regularly, continually building a network of other dealers and experts to consult, and handling many estates or collections.  If you are looking for a particular instrument he can find it for you! 


John Lardinios Jr.












Justin Branum


Justin Branum is a fiddler and multi-instrumentalist based out of the Nashville, TN area where he plays on recording sessions, does road dates, produces, and arranges music.


Growing up playing western swing, bluegrass, country music and old-time fiddle tunes, he was frequently playing in various instrument contests and has won the Grand Master Fiddler Contest, National Fiddle Contest, Tennessee State Fiddle Championship, and the Tennessee State Mandolin Championship, among many others.


Justin has played with a wide variety of bands and artists such as Son Volt, Johnny Bush, Pokey LaFarge, Bobby Flores and the Yellow Rose Band, Lee Ann Womack, Roland White, The Sons of the Pioneers, The Jim Hurst Trio, and Marty Haggard.

He holds a Masters degree in jazz studies from Webster University and served as an adjunct professor of music at Washington University and Webster University.


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 2018 Grand Masters will return to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum's Ford Theater on September 1st and 2nd (Labor Day Weekend). Visit this website often for updates.

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