Somervell County student Ridge Roberts continues to prove that he is one of the best young ‘Western swing” music fiddlers in the nation.
The latest major achievement for the 15-year-old North Central Texas Academy student was winning two national titles at the National Oldtime Fiddlers Contest in Weiser, Idaho two weeks ago.
Roberts won both the National Junior Championship (ages 13-17) individually on June 23, and also teamed with 17-year-old Leah Sawyer of Weatherford to win the Twin Fiddle Division Championship in the open division.
“It was really exciting. This was my third year in the Junior Division,” said Roberts, who will be a high school freshman this fall at NCTA, aka Happy Hill Farm. “I finally met my goal. I will move up to the Open Division there next year. I think I did pretty well in the first three rounds. It could have been better.”
Those first three rounds were on Wednesday, June 20, and he had to wait until that Saturday night for the final round. The Junior Division featured 31 entries. Roberts earned a trophy, certificate and $300 for winning the Junior Division. He also took home $100 as he part in the prize money for winning the Twin Fiddle Division.
Those recent dual victories added even more to the impressive results that Roberts has racked up since first picking up a fiddle at age 7 and taking lessons from his dad, John Roberts, at their home in Hood County near Granbury. He entered his first fiddle contest in 2013, and soon started earning titles competing in various contests in his age group.
Roberts’ first national title was in 2015, when he won a “Junior Junior Championship” in Weiser, which is a 1,600-mile road trip both ways. He took second place in the Junior Division there last year, and was seventh in the Junior Junior Division in 2016.
Roberts won the Colorado state championship and the Texas state championship in 2015, and repeated as the Texas state champion in 2016. He was the 2016 and 2017 Mid-America fiddle champion in the Branson Fiddle Festival.
Last year Roberts won the Youth Division title at the 81st annual World Championship Fiddlers Festival in Crockett. Earlier this year In April, Roberts won his division in the Texas State Championship Fiddlers Frolics in Hallettsville.
In February, Roberts earned a Texas Folk Life scholarship in the amount of $2,500.
Roberts and his parents, John and Cindy Roberts, have not decided where he will compete next. He’ll continue to compete and perform at various events in North Texas while continuing to take lessons from Joey McKenzie, his Burleson-based fiddle teacher who also teaches Sawyer.
“He’s been working with me on more musicianship and arranging,” said Roberts, who tends to stick to “Texas style” Western swing music, similar to the traditional greats of the past such as Bob Wills and Milton Brown.
Roberts noted that the “Texas style” fiddle music is still dominant in the competitions. He said that four of the top five finishers in the Weiser championships this year played it, rather than “California style,” fiddle music.