This article by Bob Vlach appeared in the Feb. 7 issue of the Woodford Sun.
WCHS grad carries on Bluegrass tradition
When Will Padgett began classes at the Kentucky School of Bluegrass Traditional Music this past fall, director Dean Osborne says he was already a very good guitar player. It wasn t long before Osborne, a touring bluegrass musician turned educator, realized his new student from Versailles also had a strong work ethic and willingness to learn.
Will, who graduated with honors from Woodford County High School in 2012, explains, I always try to be the best that I can be in all areas of my life.
During his senior year at WCHS, Will decided to pursue a music education. He and his parents, Lisa and Rocky, were immediately taken by the individual instruction and hands on learning opportunities offered to students at the Kentucky School for Bluegrass and Traditional Music, a program started by Hazard Community and Technical College in 2007.
We feel very, very blessed and lucky, says Lisa , that we found this type of school for Will.
It seemed to be the best place for me, adds Will, 20.
In addition to his music classes, Will has English, Psychology and accounting courses
this semester as he works to fulfill requirements for a two-year associate s degree.
He then plans to continue his education at a four-year college, although he s not
exactly sure what he ll study.
Will does say he has aspirations to work in Nashville s music industry one day, but those plans could change.
I know I want to do something with music in my profession, he explains, but I m just not sure where that is yet.
While the Versailles native may not know where life will take him in three or four
years, he does have a firm grip on his current plans.
For right now, says Will, my main focus is just being the best student and learning to be the best musician I can be.
Lisa says she can remember her son playing his guitar along with music on the radio as a second or third grader. Somehow he was always able to find a song s rhythm.
He would pick up a lot of things by ear, she explains.
Will, had two toy guitars as a young boy and at least five real guitars, which grew in size as he did.
We still have them all, she says with a laugh.
Will, who played contemporary Christian music in his youth group at Versailles Baptist Church, took guitar lessons from a few different instructors before high school. He made his greatest studies musically when he started classes with Jim Lavy, who still lives in Versailles.
Will says he enrolled at the Kentucky School of Bluegrass and Traditional Music because he wanted to build on what Lavy taught him and continue progressing as a musician.
He credits two-time Grammy winner Curtis Burch, his individual instructor at the music school, for helping him become a better musician--not only how to play new songs, but sharing knowledge.
He s a really, really good musician and a great teacher. And I ve learned a lot from him in the time I ve been here, says Will.
It s the guitar s versatility and his enjoyment for many genres of music-bluegrass, country, blues, jazz and rock-that led Padgett to play the instrument.
They both, he says of his parents, introduced me to all these different bands and artists that I listened to growing up.
His dad liked country music singers Hank Williams Jr., Willie Nelson and Don Williams. His mom preferred classic rock, but like his dad listened to other kinds of music too.
Will has vivid memories of hearing Alison Krauss and Union Station on the radio while in his car seat as a very young child. It didn t sound like anything else on the radio, he remembers.
When Will started taking classes at the Kentucky School of Bluegrass and Traditional Music he gained a better understanding of bluegrass music and an appreciation for its long rich history.
I didn t really know anything about bluegrass (music before coming to the school), says Will. I didn t know when it started, who were the first musicians, all the instruments
Osborne, his bluegrass music history teacher, opened a window for him and other students; showing them how the genre has changed and become what it is today.
With knowledge of what came before them, young musicians like Will can help bluegrass and traditional music prosper by crafting what comes next, Osborne says. If our music is not growing, he adds, its dying.
Osborne, a bluegrass musician for 35 years, says he enjoys picking with younger players like Will because of their fresh ideas and an ability to bring a different level of energy to a performance.
It s fun music to play, says Will.
Bluegrass is a real physical genre. You have to be able to play very quickly and very accurately in order to nail every (musical) note down so you sound good.
To prepare students for more than the technical and mechanical aspects of the music business, Osborne says Kentucky School of Bluegrass and Traditional Music instructors bring stage experience spanning more than a hundred years.
No wonder Dean Osborne takes pride in his cousin Bobby Osborne, being a positive influence on students.
We re fortunate to be able to expose these young people to somebody like Bobby Osborne who right now, I believe is in his 64th year as a professional musician, says Dean Osborne. He doesn t have to read things out of a book. He helped write the book.
I encourage my students to take time to talk with people like Bobby "
Osborne says that while earning a living as a touring musician he was asked to serve on a Hazard Community and Technical College advisory board to look into viability of opening a school for bluegrass and traditional music on its Hyden campus. Osborne was very happy playing music, teaching private classes and running three music festivals when what he describes as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to become the school s director came along.
The reason for our school to be here is to help (young musicians) understand the history of the music, but also what s possible in the future, explains Osborne.
Currently, the program offered through Hazard Community and Technical College has 35 to 40 students. A two year associate s degree, diploma and certificate are offered. Students range in age from their teens to their 60 s and early 70 s.
I was just amazed at the diversity of things that people want to do with music education--the different paths and fields they go into, says Osborne. What we try to do here at the college is prepare people for what they want to go do.
A state-of-the-art studio at the Kentucky School of Bluegrass and Traditional Music has become an invaluable tool for students, according to Osborne.
I feel very blessed that I was able to be able to go here, says Will. And no matter where life take him, this guitar picker from Versailles concludes, I m going to keep playing.
Reprinted with permission from Woodford Sun.