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Volume 26, Number 10 — October 2018

Orchak first to win both American, Canadian Grand Masters fiddle championships

Aynsley Porchak
Aynsley Porchak

January 02, 2018

JOHNSON CITY East Tennessee State University graduate student Aynsley Porchak recently won the Canadian Grand Masters Fiddle Championship. But that wasn't all. Shortly after winning, she learned that she was the first person ever to win both Canadian and American Grand Masters fiddle championships.

Porchak's win at the 2017 Canadian championship, held in Ville de Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, Quebec, in late August, came during her second attempt at the title. She had been invited back after entering the competition for the first time in 2016.

However, the native of Woodstock, Ontario, had very little time to prepare. "I went up there, and I played some of what I learned down here," Porchak said. "I played some bluegrass, I played some swing, I played some East Coast-style stuff, and for some reason, it just worked out that the judges liked it. It was a real thrill for me, because I had grown up listening to the Canadian Grand Masters recordings that they put out every year, thinking, "I would love to do that someday.' It means a lot to me. I never, ever would have expected to win that."

Porchak, who also took top honors in the 44th annual U.S. Grand Master Fiddle Championship in Nashville in Sept. 2015, said it took her some time to process the reality that she had become the first person to win both the American and Canadian titles.

"I still feel so blessed and honored to be the first person to do that," she said. "It makes me super-thrilled, too, to (join) all the people in whose footsteps I've followed and listened to their music over the years. I had people congratulating me who I've respected for many years."

Porchak came to ETSU as a freshman in 2013 to study in the university's renowned Bluegrass, Old-Time and Country Music Studies program in the Department of Appalachian Studies. She graduated this summer with a bachelor's degree in both Bluegrass, Old-Time and Country Music Studies and English, and is now pursuing a master's degree in Appalachian Studies.

Porchak performs with the ETSU Bluegrass Pride Band; Atlantic North, A Celtic Band comprised of faculty and students in the Celtic music section of the Bluegrass, Old Time and Country Music Studies program; and the country band. Atlantic North recently returned from a two-week tour of Scotland, where members played in festivals and promoted the release of their first EP.