Justin Branum – Nashville, TN

Justin Branum is a fiddler and multi-instrumentalist based out of the Nashville area where he does recording sessions/overdubs, tours, produces, and teaches 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 (adult division), Tennessee State Fiddle Championship, Tennessee State Mandolin Championship, Texas State Fiddle Championship (Gone to Texas division) among many others before retiring from the contest scene.

During his performing career, Justin has played with a wide range of touring acts and artists including Lee Ann Womack, Sons of the Pioneers, Son Volt, Pokey LaFarge, Bobby Flores and the Yellow Rose Band, Roland White, 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.

Philosophy:

In judging fiddle contests I look for the full spectrum of musicality. Rhythm, timing, and feel must also be coupled with pleasing tone and consistent intonation for the most satisfying musical performance. I also expect contestants to have the appropriate stylistic grasp both individually (having their own voice) and in terms of the specific style they lean towards in performance. I like to hear individuality over conformity and a tasteful use of interesting variations or improvisation. I am also in favor of tune selection that stays away from overplayed selections. I believe the contest fiddling tradition is expandable to fit influences from all genres of traditional old-time fiddling as well as related styles like bluegrass, western swing, and country music. At this time, styles such as post swing era jazz, rock, classical, etc. have a limited place in the music and should be incorporated at the peril of becoming too distant from currently accepted trends in contest fiddling.