Young Liam Purcell was the recipient of a music scholarship from the Bluegrass Heritage Foundation’s Play It Forward program, allowing him to attend the Smoky Mountain Banjo Academy during last weekend’s Five String Fest in North Carolina.
Liam lives in nearby Deep Gap, not far from Doc Watson’s hometown, but had figured he wouldn’t be able to attend the three day banjo camp owing to the expense. So he applied for a scholarship though the Foundation, which he was awarded to study with top pros like J.D. Crowe, Terry Baucom, Kristin Benson, Ned Luberecki, Ron Stewart and more.
In a note to his benefactors, the 11 year old showed that he understand the nature of how folk traditions are conveyed.
“I would like to thank the Bluegrass Heritage Foundation and every person who helped to make it possible for me to attend the Smoky Mountain Banjo Academy. I am grateful to be given this opportunity. I like to go to festivals and attend workshops and jams wherever I can. I enjoy teaching banjo and guitar to beginners, so by helping me, you help others to learn as well.”
The Bluegrass Foundation also has an instrument lending program to get decent, student-quality instruments into the hands of young people eager to learn to play bluegrass. They depend on donations to keep going, and are always interested in hearing from folks who would like to help out.