The Idaho State Civic Symphony will be holding its first annual fiddle competition on May 20 in Goranson Hall of the Fine Arts Building.
The idea for the competition came from Shelby Murdock, an ISU student and member of the symphony who has taken on the responsibility of planning the competition.
“I grew up doing fiddle competitions, and they were so much fun,” Murdock said. “They really motivated me to work hard and set goals.”
Murdock said she always knew she wanted to continue her musical education in college, but she was nervous about her background.
“When I was about to graduate high school … I was kind of nervous because I wasn’t a violinist,” she said, adding that musical programs at colleges are typically classical.
When Murdock auditioned for the program at ISU, she said people were very supportive of her fiddling and different point of view of the music.
Murdock said she wanted to start the competition for two reasons.
“There’s not a lot [of contests] around here, but there’s a ton of fiddlers in the area,” she said. “So it would be nice not to have to travel far. And I’m also hoping to reach out to a different audience than what would usually go to a symphony concert, and show people that you can continue your education even if you’re not classically trained. I know a lot of kids who play fiddle worry about the same thing I do.”
The competition will see fiddlers from all over the nation. According to Murdock, fiddlers will be coming from Wyoming, Montana, Washington and Oregon, and professional fiddler Megan Lynch will be coming from Nashville, Tennessee to be a judge.
Murdock said she and the symphony have been planning the competition for a year and half, and she hopes to make it an annual tradition.
Idaho has a rich history of fiddle competitions; the National Oldtime Fiddler’s Contest is held every year in Weiser, ID. The state championship is held in Hailey, ID. But Murdock said there is a possibility of eventually holding the state competition at Idaho State University. Murdock said she hopes this competition will become a Pocatello tradition.
The event will feature food trucks and a violin maker on site for repairs.
According to Murdock, around 40 contestants have already pre-registered, and she is hopeful that there will be at least 100 contestants. The youngest pre-registered contestant is only five, while the oldest is 82.
“That’s another great thing about the competition,” Murdock said. “It bridges that age gap, and people of all different ages can come, and those generations can play music together.”
The competition is also bridging the gap between classical violin and fiddle music. Murdock said about four members of the Idaho State Civic Symphony will be competing in the competition.
“When you learn violin, it’s hard not to learn fiddle tunes as well,” Murdock said. “So a lot of people [in the symphony] knew some fiddle tunes, but I kind of helped to revive it.”
However, this won’t be a typical symphony event.
“It’s going to be fun,” Murdock said. “It’s going to be a hoot-and-holler clap-along. It’s going to be a hoedown.”
The competition begins at 9 a.m. and is free and open to the public.
The evening show, which will feature entertainment fiddlers, playoffs and the awards ceremony, begins at 7:30 p.m, and tickets are $5 at the door.