What It's All About
Jesse Alexander, fledgling mandolinist (TJ Lundy and Donnie Eldreth, audience)
This photo shows in part why I love bluegrass festivals so much. This young man, Jesse Alexander, has taken up the mandolin with a vengeance. At the OATS (Out Among the Stars) festival earlier this summer Jesse came up to Danny Paisley's bus with his folks Andy and Susan (promoters of the Pickin' in the Pasture festival in Lodi, NY - a great festival!) to show the boys, TJ and Donnie, just what he accomplished during the long Finger Lakes winter with his mandolin. I love kids and love to brag on them, too, but I don't have to stretch the truth a bit with young Jesse. He is eat up with Monroe-style mandolin playing and I'm here to tell you he's come a long way in a short time! He was reeling off the tunes like an old festival veteran and TJ and Donnie were tickled to death with his playing.
Earlier today I was thinking about bluegrass music and what it means in my life. I've been pretty involved with this music for 25 years so it's safe to say that it means alot. But it's one thing to LIKE or even LOVE something - and another entirely to foster that passion in others like these guys are doing for young Jesse.
Whether they realize it or not, by taking those 3 or 4 steps down out of their comfortable air-conditioned bus into the hot dusty soil of the festival grounds to listen to a kid play a few Monroe tunes they've heard (and undoubtedly played) a hundred times before, TJ and Donnie are making a big difference in this kid's life, maybe in his future. Not only did they listen, but they smiled and laughed and were engaged with Jesse's comments and his ideas. He is being heard by people whom he admires. Now that's big. And this is a beautiful thing about bluegrass music and its people. Fostering and facilitating the learning of others, passing it on is fairly commonplace. You aren't gonna get that with rock and country stars, but most of the people at the top (and on the way up) in bluegrass are approachable and go a long way to help and encourage those who want to learn more about the music they're so passionate about.
TJ and Donnie are special guys and I'm confident that they'll continue to teach and encourage Jesse and others like him as they explore and unwrap their musical gifts. I salute TJ, Donnie and people of their ilk who take the time from their own lives, regardless of how tired they may be, to encourage kids to follow their dreams and learn to express themselves through music, the truly universal language that transcends all barriers and touches people in the heart.
TJ and Donnie and Jesse, too - thanks for sharing your music with us. You make the world a better place.