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Joseph Wallek and Abi Halsey play in the twin fiddle judged event in last year's contest.

The 44th annual Fiddlin’ Down the Tracks Old Time Fiddle Contest takes place in Tehachapi Sept. 20 and 21 at Country Oaks Baptist Church, 20915 Schout Road. This year, the contest is being held in honor of nationally-acclaimed fiddler/violinist Jana Jae, who is one of the remaining members of the Bakersfield Sound. Jae is being recognized for her tremendous accomplishments as a fiddler, starting with her winning the Ladies’ Championship at the National Fiddle Contest in Weiser, Idaho.

Jae played for a number of years with Buck Owens and the Buckaroos and was a regular on the hillbilly TV series "Hee Haw," where she always played her signature blue fiddle. Currently, she travels all over the country with her band, playing concerts, festivals and various other gigs. She also runs an annual summer fiddle camp in Oklahoma, where she shares her amazing talents with others.

Jae will be here in Tehachapi as a judge for this year’s fiddle contest and on Sunday, Sept. 22 at 4 p.m. (also at Country Oaks Baptist), she will present a program of fiddle music of various genres (bluegrass, old time, gypsy, Celtic, etc.), with the Tehachapi Symphony Orchestra as her back-up band. The Symphony will also play "Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man" and Dvorak’s quintessentially American piece, "Symphony from the New World." The concert is funded in part by a grant from the Virginia and Alfred Harrell Foundation.

The fiddle contest will open with registration for the players at 1 p.m. Friday, Sept. 20. Actual playing, which is open to the public at no charge, begins at 3 p.m. with the Senior (age 50 to 69) and Senior-Senior (age 70 and above) Divisions, who will each play two rounds. These divisions usually have a lot of really good fiddlers in them, including District 3’s own Hughie Smith, who has won the National Fiddle Championship more times than he can count. Following this, there will be an Adult Band Scramble; anyone who fiddles, picks, plays or sings old time music is welcome to enter the Scramble.

On Saturday, registration opens at 8 a.m., and the festivities open to the public will commence at 8:55 a.m., with the Tehachapi Strings Orchestra, under the direction of Gayel Pitchford, At 9 a.m., fiddle playing begins in earnest, with Junior (ages 13 to 17), Junior-Junior (ages 9 to 12), Small Fry (ages 8 and under), Cello/Bass (18 and under), Open (any age), and Adult (ages 18 to 49) Fiddle Divisions, plus Twin Fiddles, Picking, Junior and Open Novelty (any danceable tune on an instrument that is NOT a fiddle or a picking instrument), Junior Band Scramble, and the Grand Championship Play-off for the big trophy and the certification to the National Fiddle Contest.

On Saturday, the Old Time Fiddlers will also award the 13th annual Howdy Forrester Scholarship to a college-bound fiddler who best exemplifies the spirit of Big Howdy Forrester. Forrester was Roy Acuff’s fiddler in the Smoky Mountain Boys band for 36 years on the Grand Ole Opry. Forrester also wrote great fiddle tunes, which are played by the best fiddlers of today. The scholarship winner gets a check for $1,000, a plaque and his/her name on the big perpetual plaque, as well.

As always, there is no charge to come and watch either the fiddle contest or the Sunday Symphony concert, although donations are always appreciated.

This is Americana at its best, and attendees are always amazed at how many young fiddlers there are and how well they play. So pack up the family and come join us for a weekend of great music. If you play old-time music, bring your instrument and join us in the music-making. Old-time attire, cowboy hats and boots are optional.

For more information, call District 3 State Director Gayel Pitchford at 823-8249.

Gayel Pitchford is the concertmaster for Tehachapi Symphony.