At the behest of a friend, Randy Pollard competed in the state fiddling championships last month in Wells. He stole the show, winning both the state and open competitions.
"I hadn't competed in a long time, and I was a little nervous," he said "This is a real honor."
A Minden resident, Pollard is no stranger to the competition circuit. He began his musical career in 1977, when he was 12.
Originally from a small ranch outside Whitmore, Calif., he was 17 when he won the California State Open Champion in 1984, the youngest winner. He repeated the win in 1985 and 1986.
In June 1986, he performed at the Grand Ole Opry, and a week later, won the Grand Nationals, giving him the title of National Fiddle Champion.
The real rewards have come through the people he's met through his music, Pollard said.
"The jam sessions and socializing are the best part of a competition. I've met lifelong friends there," he said. "I met my wife at the National Fiddle Competition in Weiser, Idaho."
Pollard decided against a professional career. Studio work does not give him the satisfaction he gets from performing live, and the vagabond life of a musician is not a good fit with a family.
Pollard, 39, has two children with his wife of 19 years, Kelly, and is a civil engineer with the Department of Transportation.
The playing that financed his college education has become a hobby. He now prefers to play for local benefits, weddings and other audiences, including nursing homes.
"To me, music is a wonderful way of expressing emotions," he said. "When I perform at the nursing homes, I get a lot of satisfaction seeing the joy on those people's faces. What could mean more?"
Pollard said elementary school teacher Karen Hoffenstein inspired him to pursue music, and old-time fiddler and rancher Robert Strawn helped him choose the instrument.
"I heard him play, and I knew that's what I wanted," he said.
To create his style, Pollard has drawn on the styles of his seven teachers, and ultimately his own instincts.
Fiddle music evolved from its European roots to become part of American history. Fiddlers from each U.S. region reflect distinctive styles, from the French influence of Canada to the Cajun influence in Louisiana, Pollard said.
He worries the art is dying.
"Nevada doesn't have a lot of fiddlers, but we're working on it," he said.
The Nevada State Old Time Fiddlers Association started in Las Vegas a year ago to promote and perpetuate old-time fiddling. Pollard joined the group at the Wells contest and is heading the effort here.
"We need to get young people involved," he said. "That's how fiddling has been passed down, from generation to generation."
Susie Vasquez can be reached at email@example.com or 782-5121, ext. 213.