Andrew Donald won the 2009 crown at the 39th Anniversary Vertilee Floyd Arizona State Fiddle Championship. He had won it twice before.
Taking top honors for Arizona earned him entry into the National Fiddle Championships in Weiser, Idaho and there he took more championship laurels in the Young Adult division.
The year before he had finished in 19th place, so, he said, winning the national title “was unexpected. I hadn’t practiced as hard (as the year before). I went up for fun, loosened up a bit and was able to put a lot of energy into it.”
The Mesa man, now attending the University of North Texas and majoring in violin performance, began competing in fiddle contests when he was just 8 or 9 years old and has been coming to the Payson fiddle festival for at least 10 years — and growing up before the eyes of the event’s regular attendees.
Fiddling was a way to have fun with something he loves. Donald began studying classical violin at the age of 3. He was 6 when a family friend loaned him a fiddle and introduced him to fiddling.
“I try to go to three to five contests a year,” Donald said. He figures he has competed in about 30 contests over the years and the prize money he has won — especially that from the Nationals — has helped him pay for his college books and rent.
Fiddling has also allowed him to travel the country. And while he did not visit Ireland because of fiddling — he was there with his high school band — he did get a chance to play the fiddle internationally.
He said he is 95 percent certain he will be at the 2010 Vertilee Floyd Arizona State Fiddle Championship.
Asked what advice he would give to young musicians aspiring to compete, Donald said, “Fiddling is more of a fun outlet (from the violin). It is a great way to develop friendships and contacts and opportunities. Practice hard, but have fun.”
As for the future and his music, Donald says right now he plans to go to medical school and study neuropsychology and music with the ultimate goal of helping children with musical therapy.