Fiddling since age five, Julia Voris is still winning, defending titles

PUNXSUTAWNEY — What could be better than being the fiddle champion of your home state? Being the fiddle champion of three states: Pennsylvania, Maryland and Ohio.

After starting to play the fiddle at age five, Julia Voris, now 13, is a four-time champion in Pennsylvania alone. This would be an impressive feat for any musician, let alone one who is not even old enough to drive. It is hard to look around the Voris household and not see a trophy with her name on it.

She’s not ready to stop yet: Voris — daughter of Ron and Jill Voris of Punxsy — was recently crowned the teen fiddle champion of Pennsylvania after her performance at the state Fiddle Championship, held in Clarion during its Autumn Leaf Festival. That was her eighth state championship trophy, and today, she’s competing in Oakland, Md., moving up from the junior division to the teen division.

Since she began playing, the fiddle has consumed a good portion of Voris’ life. She performs at church functions, class reunions, weddings and in numerous square-dancing bands. She has been in major and minor fiddle contests throughout the country. She’s also a member of the Punxsutawney Area High School Marching Band.

Once she began showing an interest in the fiddle, she took lessons from Barbie Milliron, who works for Kim Thomas Music Studios. For years, Voris has been playing at numerous functions, while her brother, Alex, accompanies her on guitar.

She said she draws her inspiration from the numerous country acts, such as Charlie Daniels, Jason Aldean, and her favorite band, NOMaD, whose fiddler, Luke Zacherl, she was fortunate enough to meet while he was judging an event in which she took part.

Voris said she prefers to play the hoedown style music of yesteryear as opposed to classical, which she plays on occasions. She also recently began giving lessons to help other young talent in the area.

While she dedicates herself to between 45 and 60 minutes of practice per day, she prefers performing in front of others, which she believes provides a better experience.

Years ago, Julia met the late Bill Vulgris while playing for a square dancing band. Vulgris was so impressed by her, that he gave her a fiddle that was constructed in the 1700s, an instrument from a time when it took a group of people to construct a fiddle: One person would construct the scrolls, while others would construct the finger board, tail piece, tuning pegs, etc.

Voris has acquired new fiddles over the years — including one that was worth more than $8,000 — but she said none of them compare to the sound of the fiddle she received from Vulgris.

She’s not exclusively a fiddle player: She plays saxophone in the Punxsutawney Area High School Marching Band, and is also a two-time state champion on the mandolin.

Outside her other performances, Voris has been featured on the radio, when she played for WIUP-FM and at the Pittsburgh Children’s Musuem, which hosts a live radio broadcast.