Sara Jane Crissman and Scott Napier/Jimmy Adams, Caitlin Hunton, and Scott Napier
Scott Napier, Kentucky-based bluegrass music musician and educator, is focused on spreading the love of traditional music, one instrument at a time. This year, he launched a grass roots movement to place better instruments into the hands of young musicians who display a strong desire to progress in their performance of bluegrass music. Coining his efforts as “Napier’s Need for Music,” it is a simple gesture which involves a few people to make it possible.
“It all started (this spring) when an on-line student of mine in New York, Stephen Mead, expressed interest in donating a nearly new Seagull guitar to another student who needed a boost with a better instrument. I found the perfect candidate (Braxton Miller), and that’s how it started,” explained Napier.
“I like to do this for young musicians – as the opportunity presents itself. Giving as I’m able, or facilitating such a gift, means possibly as much to me as it does to the receiving student. I know what it’s like to be a young player interested in this music, but without the means or help to get to the next level.”
“I take email submissions, recommendations from others that are aware of potential candidates. I like to get the unknowing recipient to a public performance where I’m playing, then announce it from the stage, and present the instrument there as a total surprise with their family, friends, and hopefully the donor all in attendance,” Napier stated.
In July, the Wildfire mandolinist, Associate Professor, and three-time International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) Mentor of the Year nominee announced that a second instrument donation was given by Todd Yates of Lexington, Kentucky. The brand new Alvarez AD-60 guitar was to be presented to a student in August.
The second instrument presentation went to 17-year-old Sara Jane Crissman during Napier’s show on August 5 along the Ohio River in Warsaw, Kentucky. Sara Jane’s brother, Nathan, was a former mandolin student of Napier. The siblings have formed a duet called the Route 451 Band, performing locally in central Kentucky. Sara Jane provides the guitar and vocal duties while Nathan plays mandolin as well as bass. Amidst Napier’s performance, Sara was invited to the stage where she received the guitar, as well as a handwritten letter from the donor which she read aloud to the audience.
Sara Jane shared, “A big thank you to Scott Napier for arranging this, and to Todd Yates for purchasing this beautiful instrument. This was such an unexpected, but welcome surprise that I still don’t believe it’s real! This guitar is a beautiful instrument with such a full loud sound, and I cannot wait to see what the future has in store for the two of us!”
Napier’s dream of gifting instruments continues to grow.
“My hopes are that one presentation will lead to the next. It just so happened that another student of mine was in the audience for the guitar giveaway. Jimmy Adams is a mandolin player also from the Lexington, Kentucky area. He came up to me after the show and said that he had something for me. It was a nice Kentucky mandolin. He said that he wanted to donate it to a worthy student as well.
I was tickled with the thoughts of presenting a mandolin to a student. I already had one in mind. From another room, I’d heard my wife, Lauren, give on-line lessons to a young lady that I was impressed with the rate in which she was progressing. She was brand new to the instrument and was practicing for hours a day. Caitlin Hunton was the choice.
I corresponded with her mother, Laura, and a plan was set in motion. Her family, along with Jimmy Adams (donor), would attend a show that I was playing in Campton, Kentucky. Everyone was on board.”
Caitlin’s mother was thrilled. “My husband, Andrew, and I have seven kids. Caitlin and her twin sister, Lily, are second and third in the line-up. Caitlin is 14 and in 8th grade. All our children are homeschooled. We’re originally from the Spokane, Washington area, and we moved here to eastern Kentucky a little over two years ago. We live north of Pikeville. It’s very different from where we came from, but we love the beauty in these mountains. Our other children are also taking music lessons locally, but Caitlin is our only mandolin player. We have a long line of musicians in our family, but our kids are the first to be learning bluegrass.”
Caitlin outlined her experience saying, “I started lessons not really knowing anything about the mandolin, but I quickly fell in love with it. I had been saving money to buy one myself, but I still was very far away from being able to afford one. We went to hear Mr. Napier’s band play and I didn’t have any idea that anything else was going on. Part way through the show, Mr. Napier announced that they were giving away a mandolin, and I was so surprised when I was called up on stage! I really couldn’t quite believe it at first! It was so cool to be able to meet the man who gave it to me, too. I had never played such a nice mandolin, and the fact that I get to own it is still so amazing to me!”
Donor Jimmy Adams said, “When I saw the first instrument donation that Scott facilitated I thought, ‘What a great thing to do for a kid who is interested in traditional music.’ Knowing Scott, it didn’t surprise me that he would help make this happen for a student. Then I realized I had my first F-style mandolin, a Kentucky, sitting in a case, unused. I took it to Scott and asked him to find a student who could use it. It was so much fun to watch the excitement in Caitlin’s eyes when Scott handed her the mandolin. Someday, when she upgrades her instrument, I hope she can pass it on to another interested student.”
Word of Napier’s Need for Music is spreading. One good deed leads to another. It is a great mission from a seasoned picker/instructor for budding musicians. Hopefully, there will be more donations and presentations to deserving students in the near future. Potential instrument donors can contact Napier by email.