There have been several people wondering why I chose to learn to play the banjo at 51 years old. My answer to them is “why not? I’m not dead yet.”
My husband and I go to bluegrass festivals around Texas and we also make the International Bluegrass Festival in Oklahoma every year. A little over a year ago I saw a kid at this festival. I think they said he was about 7 yrs. old. He was playing the banjo like no one’s business. His name is Ryan Holladay.
They said he started playing the banjo when he was 5 yrs. old. He was amazing. He played using a standard size banjo which weighed about 12 pounds. He was so small and the banjo was so big he could only play it sitting in a chair with his feet crossed in front of him. His legs weren’t long enough to even touch the floor. His fingers were so small it made you wondered how in the devil he made those 4 fingered chords (of which I complain about a lot). I really think if God wanted me to play the 4 fingered chords he should have given me a longer pinkie finger.
While I was at the festival I went to a workshop this kid was putting on. Remember he’s only 7 yrs old. He demonstrated some of his moves on the banjo that made you wonder if this really wasn’t a big person in a little person’s body. To see those little hands move up and down the neck playing Foggy Mountain Breakdown was truly a site to see and hear.
Someone from the audience ask him how old his banjo was. He said “it’s pretty old; it’s a “97″ which made everyone in the audience laugh. Ryan gave a look like he really didn’t know what he said that was funny but was glad he gave “the older folks” a chuckle.
After that I decided if I was ever going to learn to play the banjo, I needed to get after it. My biological banjo learning clock was a ticking. And even though my family looked at me like I was nuts (which they usually do when I want to try something new) I was determined. I knew I would never be as good as little Ryan but I love challenges.
After I received my banjo and finally figured out how to put the picks on, I started practicing. I didn’t have a teacher close by so I decided to teach myself with instructional books and DVDs. That has worked for me so far.
As I was practicing more and more I started noticing a change. Seems like my husband was not making as many excuses to leave as quickly as he did before when I would start to practice. He actually was sitting around listening. And the dogs even started hanging out with me more when practice time came around. But one day I really had a great compliment made to me by my 10 yr. old granddaughter. She was over visiting and I was in the back room practicing. After a while she stuck her head in the door and said “grandma, is that really you?” I knew then that I must be getting better. “So look out Ryan, here I come.”
Good luck with your pickn’!