Wyatt Ellis performs with Sierra Hull on Woodsongs

Wyatt Ellis, host Michael Johnathan, and Sierra Hull on the Woodsongs set

Twelve year old mandolin prodigy, Wyatt Ellis of Maryville, TN, made his Woodsongs Old-Time Radio Hour debut on Monday, March 7. Featured on the international broadcast as this week’s Woodsongs Kid, he was accompanied by his mentor, Sierra Hull. They performed Lonesome Fiddle Blues, the song Hull had played on the Woodsongs stage with Sam Bush when she was ten years old as the very first Woodsongs Kid twenty years ago.

At ten, Wyatt was awarded a Tennessee Folklife Apprenticeship with Hull. That was all it took to heighten his interest in the mandolin. In the midst of a global pandemic, the pair worked together virtually.

“When I started this mentorship, it was really inspiring,” Wyatt shared. 

His mom, Teresa Ellis, explained, “Sierra motivated him to pick up the mandolin and take it to the next level. I saw it the day he found out he would be working with her. It was like a spark was lit, and it continues to fuel him today.”

Generally, Woodsongs Kids perform one song on the Kentucky-based show, but Ellis and Hull picked a second tune, Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Stomp, playing it in harmony at the close of the Woodsongs Kids segment.

Sierra’s husband, Justin Moses, joined his wife and Ellis on guitar for the encore segment of the show. The trio played a rousing version of Monroe’s Come Hither To Go Yonder. 

Moses grew up just a few miles from Wyatt, but the two didn’t connect until after the youth’s mentorship began with Sierra. Virtuosic multi-instrumentalists, the couple inspired Wyatt to spread his musical wings and he began playing guitar, fiddle, and even started singing within the last year. 

Following his performance, Ellis stated, “It was awesome getting to come full circle with Sierra and Michael Johnathan on Woodsongs.  She was the first Woodsongs Kid, and it was an honor getting to perform on that same segment with her twenty years later.”

Wyatt’s mom elaborated, “Woodsongs had reached out to Wyatt earlier, but he wanted to wait for a time when Sierra was able to fit it in. She and Justin were just wonderful. They spent their whole afternoon with Wyatt. It was his first experience hanging out in a green room and preparing to perform on stage. Sierra and Justin had just come from the Ryman Auditorium and Carnegie Hall, sharing the stage with bluegrass legends, but to me, it appeared that they had as much joy sharing the stage and the ropes with a twelve-year-old boy.”

Wyatt concluded, “Thank you so much, Sierra Hull, for inspiring me to be the best musician and the best person I can be. Woodsongs Old-Time Radio Hour, thank you for encouraging Sierra so many years ago and sharing that legacy with me!”

Look for more great things from Wyatt Ellis. This kid is just getting started!

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About the Author

Sandy Hatley

Sandy Chrisco Hatley is a free lance writer for several NC newspapers and Bluegrass Unlimited magazine. As a teenager, she picked banjo with an all girl band called the Happy Hollow String Band. Today, she plays dobro with her husband's band, the Hatley Family.