Austin Scelzo named 2023 Connecticut Arts Hero

Austin Scelzo, fiddler with Rock Hearts and On The Trail, has been chosen as a recipient of the 2023 Connecticut Art Hero award.

Since 2016, the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development has selected award winners from all across the many disciplines of art, to honor those who have inspired others within the state. Scelzo will be interviewed by members of the state government, and travel to the capitol next month where he will deliver a speech at the awards ceremony.

In addition to performing, Austin is a passionate music educator and a tireless promoter of bluegrass music. After college, he spent four years as an orchestra teacher in the Darien public schools before deciding to become a full time artist, performer, and instructor. He teaches regularly at bluegrass workshops and festivals in the northeast, plus takes private students both in person and online.

Austin is also very involved with the Wernick Method jamming classes, and maintains a wealth of resources on his web site and on YouTube designed to help people get started playing and to improve their music. His involvement in the furtherance of bluegrass earned him a nomination for the IBMA’s Mentor of the Year Momentum award earlier this year.

Here’s a look at Scelzo with Rock Hearts at the World of Bluegrass convention in 2022.

Of being announced as a recipient of the Connecticut Arts Hero award, Austin says…

“Many of you must know how much this means to me as a lifelong Connecticut resident. I grew up in Wallingford, went to school at Western Connecticut State, worked my first job in the Darien Public Schools, planted firmly in Danbury, and resisted the urge to chase excitement in the music industry elsewhere.

For years I watched with some envy as many of my friends moved to Nashville, Boston, NYC, and more. Friends often asked me what kept me in Connecticut, a state not particularly known for its thriving bluegrass and country scene.

I’ve remained in Connecticut because of my unwavering dedication to a vision. My biggest heroes and inspirations in life were community builders. They planted roots in a community and nurtured them until they blossomed into beautiful realities. I’ve set out to build something similar to the Ashokan Center, a place that has inspired me for years. I understand that creating something truly transformative often takes decades of patience, commitment, and dedication.

Right now I am in a stage of life where I’m devoted to building a reputation for my passion in education, music, and community. I know that through consistent delivery of quality music education and musical performance, I may one day have the influence to create transformative musical retreats like the ones that first lit the musical spark for me as a teenager!”

The award came about after a bluegrass musician in the Danbury region, Alan Zinser, put forward a nomination in his name.

Many congratulations to a most deserving young musician, Austin Scelzo!

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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.