Mizzone boys at TED 2013

Tommy Mizzone, Bono, Robby Mizzone and Johnny Mizzone at TED 2013As we mentioned last month, the pickin’ Mizzone brothers, otherwise known as Sleepy Man Banjo Boys, were invited to perform at the 2013 TED Conference in California. A sub-theme of this year’s event was contributions from special young folks around the world.

The boys say that they had a blast in this unfamiliar setting, and were especially excited to meet Bono, lead singer with Irish rockers, U2.

A couple of weeks after their TED experience, we caught up with Tommy (at 15, the oldest of the three brothers), and he shared a few impressions.

Tommy Mizzone at TED 2013 - photo by James Duncan Davidson“It was one of our favorite places to play. There were so many brilliant people there. We met the founder of Google, and Bono from U2. We got special permission to go back stage and meet him and get autographs. He said he would try to stick around and hear us play, but I don’t know if he actually did or not.

We did our usual set and talked a bit about who we are and what we do. It was amazing. We got a standing ovation at the end. People seemed to be really moved by it.

Our set was about 9 minutes. We did three songs: Flint Hill Special, Rockwood Deer Chase, and Time Lapse from the new album.

Afterwards while we walking outside, people came up – they loved the music, and were amazed that we were able to do it as kids. There were geniuses there, and if they thought it was cool, it must have been good.”

Johnny, the banjo-picking youngest Mizzone who inspired the band name two years ago when he was 8, had the honor of opening the conference. He was on stage with a number of other young musicians, and was called upon to introduce himself and play a banjo lick to kick off the proceedings.

Though they don’t tour all year, Tommy says that it’s tricky to keep up with their studies when they are traveling. All three boys are home-schooled by their mom

Robbie and Johnny Mizzone at TED 2013 - photo by James Duncan Davidson“We always bring books on the road – if you’re reading a good book, you’re always learning. Robbie is studing the same thing as me. We’re studying revolutionary war now in history. We do testing when we get home.

But we try not to be gone from home for long. We don’t want Johnny to burn out. For a ten year old to be on the road year round, they’ll get sick of it.”

Middle brother Robbie (13) is moving into a role as the musical director for the group, writing a good bit of their material and coming up with arrangements.

But Johnny is still the star of the show. He is not only a brilliant banjo picker for his age, but a natural on stage to boot. Tommy tells us that he was a bit hit at TED.

“Everyone seemed to a kick out of Johnny and his crazy ways. He started all the songs really fast, so we just had to hang on.

He doesn’t really get nervous on stage. It’s more an adrenalin thing. Its something we’re working on.”

The Boys will be featured this Saturday (3/23) on Huckabee, airing on Fox News at 8:00 p.m. (EDT). Then on April 5, they will play The Grand Ole Opry along with Rhonda Vincent and Marty Stuart, two veteran entertainers who also got started at a very young age.

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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.