A new guitar for James Davidson at ETSU

ETSU Bluegrass director Dan Boner with James Davidson from Ghana and his new guitar

Last week, the Bluegrass, Old-Time, and Roots Music Studies program at East Tennessee State University were able to do a kindness for one of their students, James Davidson, a native of Ghana, who had travelled from west Africa to attend the school. It’s a lovely story about the goodness of bluegrass people, and the strong desire to share our music and culture.

This talented young man discovered bluegrass music online from his home in Ghana, and decided to study in the US at ETSU, in part because of his fascination with the music. He said that it was a simple matter of dumb luck.

“I developed an interest in bluegrass music after stumbling upon some videos on YouTube. One particular video that caught my attention was of Professor Dan Boner performing one of the popular songs with a band. Intrigued by the genre and his performance, I started doing more research, and learned about the rich history and culture surrounding bluegrass music. During my research, I discovered that East Tennessee State University (ETSU) is home to one of the most prestigious bluegrass music programs in the world. ETSU’s Bluegrass, Old-Time, and Roots Music program is renowned for its exceptional faculty, state-of-the-art facilities, and hands-on approach to teaching traditional music.”

Program Director Dan Boner tells us that his first contact with James was just before the start of this spring semester.

“I got an email from James saying that he was coming and was interested in learning about bluegrass. He played a song he had written called Bluegrass, and everybody loved it, and him.

One day his band instructor, Aynsley Porchak, noticed something wrong with his guitar. The neck was coming away from the body, so we got him a loaner from the office. I was teaching Aynsley’s class one day while she was out with the Tennessee Bluegrass Band, and saw for myself just how bad it was.”

ETSU has a relationship with David Gartland of Saga Music, and with the help of a program donor, were able to get James a Blueridge BR-160 guitar, valued at $1595. He had been able to select it from the Saga catalog after being informed that the school wanted to provide him with a new instrument to use in his studies.

Porchak shared her impressions of James.

“ETSU starts off students in instructor-led bands practically as soon as they set foot on the campus, and James just happened to be assigned to my group. He’d never played bluegrass guitar (or even used a pick) before this semester. We immediately saw that he had a great work ethic, but his guitar was holding him back. It was broken in several places and didn’t intonate properly. Dan Boner and I discussed it, and we agreed the best thing to do was to get him a new guitar.

The kind folks at Saga Instruments were able to get him a brand new Blueridge guitar! James was so thrilled and surprised that he told us he even wanted to pass it on to his children and grandchildren.”

Boner was able to capture James’ reaction to his new guitar when he stopped by the office to pick it up last week. He was deeply pleased with the Blueridge, and sang his song Bluegrass for the video.

Boner mentioned how valuable their relationship with Saga has been for ETSU Bluegrass.

“Having a partnership with Saga is great for our students, as they offer a wide range of instruments in bluegrass at an affordable price.”

Well done all at ETSU for their part in making this happen, and congratulations to James Davidson! We hope he makes beautiful music with his new guitar, and the education he receives at ETSU.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.