This recollection is a contribution from Tom Schuveiller, co-host of Inside Bluegrass on The Bluegrass Jamboree. He describes what he witnessed as Doyle Lawson gave an impromptu lesson to a young picker backstage a few years ago.
It was January of 2019. I had just come off a bluegrass cruise and was at Evans Media Source Festival at Okeechobee, FL called the Yeehaw Music Fest. I was in the green room interviewing stage artists for our radio show, Inside Bluegrass, which airs on The Bluegrass Jamboree and KRWC1360 online. I was waiting for Doyle to request an interview after his performance. I was just standing there waiting.
I saw him come into the green room with his instrument case, getting ready to put it down to take out his instrument, when I noticed a young man walking in with a mandolin case as well. He approached Doyle and asked him a question regarding how to play something. Doyle put his case down, and took out his mandolin and began giving the young man a lesson right there on the spot, knowing he was due on stage in a few minutes. Nevertheless, he took time out to mentor this young musician. I couldn’t hear what the question was, but I did hear Doyle say to the young man, “Try it like this,” and played a little lick for him. The young man nodded his head as he tried to do what Doyle has suggested. It appeared that he got it.
I snapped a picture of Doyle and the young man getting the lesson, and didn’t think much more about it. I was just so impressed the a famous artist like Doyle Lawson, would take the time at the risk of not being ready when he was introduced. All to give a young musician a lesson, even though it was brief, before going on. That was four years ago now, and I have seen the young man several more times asking other prominent mandolin players and musicians questions. Along with several young pickers from Florida, like fiddle player Ian Lane, and Nathan Beaumont, who can play anything with strings proficiently, all three are already good enough to play professionally.
But, back to my original point that Doyle Lawson, being the great musical statesman that he is, would not slough off a young musician who was seeking his council on a technical question, even when getting ready to go on stage. To stop and give a quick answer, and even take the time to demonstrate what he meant, speaks volumes about Doyle’s character and that he is not only a great musician, but a great human being.
UPDATE March 20: We heard over the weekend from Mandy Cabral Hangsleben, who contacted us to share that the boy in this photo is her son, Bryce Griffin, who is now 17 years old. Bryce plays mandolin for Remedy Tree, and is the head of the drumline for Brantley County High School in Georgia. Now a junior in high school, Bryce hopes to go on to college and study to become a school music teacher and percussion director.