I grew up in a family full of musicians. My grandpa plays the guitar and mandolin, and has jam sessions once a week with his friends. My mom plays fiddle, and my dad plays guitar. Even though I’ve been surrounded by instruments my entire life, I wasn’t really interested in taking up music, until I was 12 years old. My parents played in the band Denim Grass that performed at Six Flags Over Texas, in Arlington, Texas. They played at the Texas Heritage Festival, every September. There would be several bands staged throughout the park for entertainment.
There were several genres of music represented, such as Texas swing, bluegrass, German, and old time country. There were also vendors located throughout the park. Each vendor was to present a craft, that represented the time frame of the turn of century in Texas. Costumes were required to be worn by the the vendors and musical performers. From a young age, I loved the times my parents performed for the festival. A special benefit was the free admission tickets, that could be shared with family members and friends.
I would invite my friends to come attend Six Flags, and we would roam the park all day, riding rides and playing games. Within a few short years, riding rides at Six Flags was not on the top of my priority list. I wanted to be one of the entertainers for the festival. It was a small size banjo on display, that caught my eye, and changed my world forever. One of the band members of Denim Grass, was an accomplished banjo player, Richard Angell. Richard was quite a character, whom I quickly admired for his friendly attitude, and great sense of humor.
He was a very intelligent man, and seemed to be knowledgeable in several areas, such as hunting, fishing, and building instruments. Richard would build Appalachian dulcimers, and sell them. After a few years of building instruments, Richard built a small size banjo. It was small enough for a twelve-year-old to play. It was when Richard built this banjo, that my interest in becoming a musician was sparked. I noticed the small sized banjo on the table, and picked it up for further inspection. It was smaller than a regular size banjo, and I was amazed that it still sounded like a real banjo.
It looked as if someone could hang it for a wall decoration in a house. A regular size banjo weighs about 25 pounds, and has a long neck. This banjo was half the size of a regular banjo. Richard noticed my interest, and asked me if I wanted him to show me a tune on the banjo. I wasn’t quite sure of what to expect, but he always seemed to make banjo playing easy and fun. It only took a few minutes within my first lesson, to realize that it was definitely fun. After a few lessons, and many hours of practice, I mastered the art of several techniques.
I quickly learned that discipline and hard work resulted in rewarding outcomes. For the 3 years that followed, I still continued to enjoy the rides at Six Flags during the festival. However, I also fulfilled my dream of playing on stage, 2 years after beginning to play the banjo. I now travel to play with a small band in Waco, Texas, a couple of times per month. I am also a member of the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) youth council association. The purpose of this association is to help inspire the younger generation to have an interest in bluegrass music.