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Mandolin Student Spotlight: Rico Wallenda


I started playing, or toying around with, various instruments at young age. My father encouraged my sister and I to play an instrument…any instrument. 

I remember drums being my first choice. After learning the rudiments, I found myself taking an interest in the saxophone thanks to my elementary school band class. By the time I was in middle school, I had discovered the wonderful world of stringed instruments. The bass was the first stringed instrument I began learning, and I stuck with it for a few years. In that time I picked up the guitar. Around my seventh grade year I began taking lessons from a local player named Greg Poulos. My younger brother had also began taking lessons on the guitar from the same teacher, and we both continued to do so throughout most of my high school years. Between those private lessons, music theory classes, and guitar and jazz ensembles at my high school, I had gained a good amount of knowledge about music theory and it’s application. 


When I was nineteen I stopped playing for a while and moved to Colorado where I found a new and thriving music scene. Bluegrass was introduced to me through two bands: Old and in the Way, and Carolina Chocolate Drops. It wasn’t until I moved west and found Colorado’s Bluegrass scene (Telluride Bluegrass Fest, Rockygrass, and all the open picks) that I fell in love with both the music and the community!


Thanks to Yonder Mountain String Band’s mandolin player (Jeff Austin at the time) I had the thought, “That instrument is really cool!”. I borrowed a friends mandolin for a while, and began relearning the theory along with all the new chord shapes. After five years and countless hours of practice I’ve begun performing in a few different groups, and I have also decided to go back to school in pursuit of more knowledge of the field that I love so much. 


Artistworks has created an incredible platform for learning and has some of the finest musicians on hand that are willing to personally take you step by step through whatever you may be wanting to learn about. I’ve really enjoyed being able to get in contact with Mike Marshall in the Bluegrass mandolin school. I’m always going back through lessons, rewatching the performances in the +music tab, and trying to absorb as much as I possibly can!


"Mr. Marshall has had a big hand in helping me not only become a better player, but also refine what I’ve already picked up and point out the details of what I can do to play it cleaner."


It hasn't always been easy and I will always find new struggles along the way, but as long as I keep trying to overcome new obstacles I will become a more well rounded musician. Thanks to ArtistWorks and Mike Marshall, I've been able to learn from the best. Also, thanks to everyone involved. from the players to the stage hands.


"Finding this musical community that has been created by all of us has brought a new fire into my life, and I hope it will do the same for you!"


Happy pickin everybody!


-Rico Wallen




Read more student spotlights at ArtistWorks:


JB Wizardry, Skratch


Squatch and Sons


Mitch, Classical Guitar




Join Rico and study Mandolin with Mike Marshall at ArtistWorks. 





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