Our Judges - 2022
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’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 right here at the Twin Lakes National Fiddler Championship. 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 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.
When not playing music, Justin and his family love to enjoy the outdoors and travel to interesting places.