Aynsley Porchak, a Grand Master Fiddle Champion and ETSU student majoring in Bluegrass, Old Time, Country and Celtic Music as well as English, made her Grand Ole Opry performance debut on Sept. 3, 2016. Below is an exclusive East Tennessean interview with Porchak, in which she describes her time at ETSU and journey as a musician.

East Tennessean: How did you start playing fiddle? What inspired you?
Aynsley Porchak: My mom took me to see the well-known Canadian fiddler Natalie McMaster, and it left a huge impression on me, so when I was 9 years old, I started taking fiddle lessons from Gerald Hamilton and later Doug McNaughton. We soon realized that I had a God-given talent. I quickly found that I had a passion for American music, and after meeting the director of the Bluegrass, Old Time, Country, and Celtic Music Studies program, Daniel Boner, while at a contest in Nashville, I was led to ETSU.

ET: ETSU is known for its Bluegrass and Old Time Program. What is it like working in the program?
AP: As a student, I am regularly given the chance to learn from extremely talented and knowledgable instructors, while gaining experience that will greatly assist me in my musical journey. Personally, I have been blessed to study under Hunter Berry (Rhonda Vincent and the Rage) and Daniel Boner, the director of the program (Becky Buller Band). Other well-known faculty instructors include Adam Steffey (Boxcars), Wyatt Rice, and Jason Davis (Junior Sisk and Rambler’s Choice). Two of my favorite things about being here are playing in the ETSU Bluegrass Pride Band under the direction of Daniel Boner, and the Celtic Pride Band, directed by Will MacMorran.

ET: Other than performing at the Opry, what are some of your other achievements?
AP: I am the 2014 Tennessee State Fiddle Champion and the 2015 Grand Master Fiddle Champion, and I am also a nationally certified contest judge.

ET: Do you have any advice for those who may be beginning to pursue a major with the program?
AP: Pursuing a Bluegrass, Old Time, Country, and Celtic Music Studies major was one of the best things I have ever done. In the amount of time that I have been at ETSU, I have developed so much as a fiddler. I have also received many incredible musical opportunities as well. I would highly recommend this program, as the people one meets and the knowledge and experience one gains are absolutely invaluable. My advice to interested students is to become as educated as possible and pursue all of the amazing opportunities you can.

ET: What are your plans for the future?
AP: I would love to teach music. I am passionate about giving back and want to promote the art of fiddling as much as I can. Also, I would like to tour with a professional bluegrass band and do recording session work, both long-time goals of mine. Finally, I am also an English major, so I want to incorporate both fields of study into my higher education, pursuing interrelated themes.