John Barrette

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July 17, 2012
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Vet's retirement has strings attached

Randy Warner quit veterinary medicine to enjoy retirement just fiddlin' around.

A veterinarian for three decades, the small-animal doctor had the Washoe Valley Veterinary Hospital, just north of Carson City, until his musical avocation replaced his healing-arts vocation. After a decade doing both and winning accolades for playing, he has more fiddle time.

"For my 50th birthday I decided to take up the fiddle," the 60-year-old musician said. Then he grinned. "I wanted to be a renaissance man, you know."

Folks are impressed with his success because he took up the instrument at mid-life. Crystal Elliott, who also lives just north of Carson City and was a client until Warner's retirement, called him "a great musician and national competitor in our own backyard."

Warner exudes a down-home sense of humor and laid-back demeanor, shrugging off such praise and yet taking pride in his musical progress.

"Two years in a row, I've been the Nevada state fiddle champion," he said, noting that the victories came in August 2010 and 2011 at the state's Old Time Fiddle Championship contest in Wells.

This year in June, he said, he placed 16th in a national competition in Idaho.

Warner retired Nov. 2, 2011, on his 60th birthday for various reasons, but fiddling was definitely a factor.

"I want to go play in more contests," he said. "I want to compete more."

He said veterinary medicine is "incredibly time-consuming," and he enjoys the friendship he finds at fiddle contests.

"It's incredible camaraderie," he said. "The whole fiddling community is like that. They like to call it the fiddling family."

Warner's next contest will be in August, either in California's Ukiah or Oregon's Corvallis. Then he will travel to Ohio, where he has gone before and had success.

A graduate of Ohio State University's veterinary medicine program, Warner took second place twice there while in Ohio for continuing education. This year he will head to the Buckeye state again, this time combining a reunion and a return appearance at the contest.

In Ohio, you can enter the state contest even if you aren't a resident; in Nevada, you must live in the state to compete for the state championship at Wells.

Warner enjoys traveling to contests wherever he can, including to the Death Valley 49er Contest in early November.

"I won last year, so I have to judge it this year," he said with a chuckle. "It's a much more fun contest. It's low-key."

Competitors in the Death Valley event, he said, hail from California, Nevada, Arizona and Utah.

Competing in some other contests can be nerve-wracking at times.

"That's a little stressful," Warner said.

His goal isn't necessarily winning, though he enjoys that.

"No goal; just fun and relaxation," he said. "The main reason I go to contests is to see people I don't normally get to see - plus, it gives a reading on how much you're improving."

One of those down-home folks he has met at contests is Byron Berline, as good a practitioner of the fiddling arts as you can find. He plays both old time and bluegrass with the best of them, and Warner said Berline is just as friendly as other fiddlers - "very much so."

Berline, who played with Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys as a young man and these day hosts a bluegrass festival in Oklahoma, was a judge at the national championships in Idaho a few years ago when Warner was there.

Warner says that along with music, he has plenty on his plate in retirement, with his spouse making suggestions for projects at their place in southern Washoe County. The couple moved there from Reno in 1977.

After making such great strides with the fiddle, however, Warner isn't just working around the home and fiddlin' around while resting on his laurels. Now he has taken up the tenor guitar.

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The Nevada Appeal Updated Jul 17, 2012 01:36AM Published Jul 17, 2012 01:33AM Copyright 2012 The Nevada Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.