Wyatt Rice teaching guitar at ETSU

Wyatt Rice has been working as a professional musician since he joined older brother Tony’s band in the late 1970s. He’s a master of what has come to be known as the “Rice style” of lead and rhythm guitar, as one might expect, and has spent most of his musical career in support of big brother, serving as second guitarist with The Tony Rice Unit.

For a short time in the 1990s, Wyatt toured with his own band, Santa Cruz. They released a single album in 1996 for Rounder, Picture In A Tear, which introduced Junior Sisk as a vocalist to the wider bluegrass world, but disbanded soon after.

These days, Wyatt is making a name for himself as an instructor, with a guitar DVD in his name, and appearances at multiple workshops and camps over recent years. And now he is offering private lessons as a staff instructor in the bluegrass music department at East Tennessee State University.

But he says it won’t affect his ability to tour and record. The school has arranged things so that Wyatt can take all his students on a single day each week – a long day to be sure, with 12 students each Tuesday.

“I was doing a workshop at a local music store in Abingdon, VA and I asked [program director] Dan Boner about helping promote the workshop. He mentioned me teaching some at the school, so I had lunch with Dan and [department chair] Ron Roach, and we discussed the logistics of my schedule demands. We looked around the school, and I saw Adam Steffey in there teaching mandolin. I saw that they could accommodate  a professional schedule.”

It didn’t take long for Rice to make a committment.

This is a real good opportunity for me. I thought about it for a few days, and then I told Dan Boner, ‘let’s do it.’

The staff has all been really nice and easy to work with, and the students are already good players.”

Boner says that the students are excited about their new instructor.

“Imagine yourself in college. Probability and Statistics has just recessed and you are walking, dreadnought-in-hand, to your next class. Your homework was to learn the proper chords to Manzanita, and you are hoping the instructor notices how cleanly you can play a Csus2 chord. This is reality when you attend ETSU and your instructor is Wyatt Rice!

Wyatt is a masterful guitarist and performer who understands effective teaching. His instructional videos show just how well he communicates complex musical ideas with ease. We are so lucky to have capable teachers like Wyatt on our faculty.”

And Roach feels that Rice is a perfect fit for the department he chairs.

“One of the real strengths of the ETSU program is its strong blend of high-quality academic work with top-notch practical instruction. Students here have the unique opportunity to learn one-on-one from some of the very best musicians in the business, such as Adam Steffey and Hunter Berry.

We are thrilled to welcome another special name in bluegrass to our faculty in Wyatt Rice. Everyone who knows bluegrass music is well aware of Wyatt’s success as a performer, but he also brings great experience as an instructor and studio engineer.”

In addition to Rice, Steffey and Berry, ETSU also has many other private instructors drawn from the world of bluegrass professionals: Sally Berry, Lee Bidgood, Jeremy Fritts, Brandon Green, Jason Leek, Ed Snoderly, and Danny Stewart among them.

Boner and Roach asked us to mention that scholarship opportunities exist at ETSU for graduating high school seniors who are already capable bluegrass pickers. Their Public Performance Scholarship can bring tuition for out-of-state students down to in-state levels, worth up to $10,000 a year.

Full details can be found online.

In addition to his work at ETSU, Wyatt tells us that he’s working on an album for banjo picker Dan Menzone (playing, engineering, producing). He is also slated to teach this season at both Nashville Flatpick Camp and St Louis Flatpick.

He is also open to accepting freelance and fill in work, and is considering joining up with another band now that Tony is unable to play guitar dependably.

Wyatt Rice can be contacted online.

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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.