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Student Spotlight: Squatch and Sons


In our latest Student Story, we’re featuring someone who’s been a member of ArtistWorks for a little over a year now. Timothy Smith, aka Squatch, first came to our attention when he posted this message on the Shoutboard of the Banjo school:

“Howdy fellow students. I enrolled my son into the Mike Marshall Mando School. It was a ‘knee-to-knee’ talk we had about time management and wasting time on gaming that prompted us to do it. He took it to heart and has daily been practicing. We played our first song last night with me accompanying him on guitar. I am one proud Dad!”

What a great story! We were so thrilled to hear how happy and proud he was playing music with his son that we reached to him with some questions.

How long have you been playing music?

I started playing guitar when I was around 12 - I can't remember the exact date. I'm now near 42 so I've been playing for 30 years now. My main instrument is the mandolin. I discovered a love for Monroe Music as a teenager and that has blossomed into a love of all things mandolin. I'm currently attempting to play Banjo, and I also play the bass when deemed absolutely necessary.

squatch guitar

How did you first get into music?     

My dad played guitar and I loved the sound of his playing. The genres he played were vast ranging from Johnny Cash, CCR , Dylan, Croce, old time Gospel, Blues, and even some Chet Atkins. Dad also had a vast array of LP's I would listen to. I would listen to CCR, Foghat, the Eagles or Meatloaf one day and the next would be Elvis, Conway Twitty, or Alabama.   

I was 11 or 12 when I took an interest in learning guitar. My dad showed me the basic chords and taught me some riffs. When I was 15 or so, I bought a Bluegrass cassette tape. It was a compilation type that featured the likes of Jimmy Martin, Reno & Smiley, New Grass Revival, Etc. It was then that the Bluegrass sounds began to take hold of me. At 16 and 17, my friends would laugh at me when cruising in my car because I would have Ozzy Ozbourne on one end of my tape deck and Bill Monroe at the opposite. Between them would be Hank Williams Jr, ZZ Topp, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Waylon Jennings, Randy Travis etc. By 18, however, I had gleaned my tape deck and it contained 99% Bluegrass/Acoustic music. 

I began playing rhythm guitar for a local fiddle player named Marvin Davis. Marvin Davis was a founding member of The Kentucky Gentlemen and penned many songs. The well known 'Bootleg John'  was written by Marvin. He also wrote 'Rain' that was recorded by Lost and Found. 'Nero's Fiddle' that Clarence Kelly is doing is a Marvin Davis song. Anyway, he was a great catalyst is putting a drive into my playing.

Who are your favorite musicians?    

My first major influence would be Bill Monroe. I bought a tape of Monroe as a teenager and the sound of his mandolin just spoke to me.

I now enjoy a vast array of players and try to glean what I can from each. Reischman is a fave. Love Marshall, Thile, Steffey. I'm a big Tony Rice guy. Also love to hear the banjo of JD Crowe and Jim Mills. Tony Trischka’s vast base of styles has engulfed me recently. 

mandolin video exchange

How did you find out about ArtistWorks?

I found out about Artistworks on Mandolin Cafe. I joined the Mike Marshall mandolin school at first. I really enjoyed it. However, my youngest son, Chamberlain has a desire to learn the banjo and wants me to teach him. With that said, I bought a banjo and switched to the Tony Trischka School of Banjo. In a word.....AWESOME!!

What would you say to someone who’s never tried ArtistWorks?

I have already discussed ArtistWorks with several local musicians or those desiring to learn. I told them that ArtistWorks allows a person to learn from world class musicians at their leisure and on the their schedule and their own pace in the comfort of their own home or office. The lessons can be watched over and over or paused when needed. It's so much better than a weekly 30 minute lesson - because you cannot recall it on demand and you must wait until the next 30 minute session to repeat the same thing, thus hindering the learning process. 

banjo video exchange

The Video Exchange Library is a wonderful learning tool. Exchanges with other students often answers questions or addresses concerns you have about a tune or an exercise. Exchanges always encourage me to continue playing and learning.

banjo video exchange with tony trischka

Also the resource materials, backing tracks, interviews and performances are all extremely helpful in guiding one in the learning curve.

Can you tell us more about your son's experience with learning music?

My oldest son, Quinton, is 14. Like most modern teenagers, he often has his nose in a computer or a device. Gaming, texting, Snap Chatting ....the list goes on. He also has A.D.D. His focus is short. I sat him down and had a 'knee-to-knee'  discussion about the device issue. He had shown some interest in learning mandolin, and I had shown him some beginner concepts but he did not stick with it. I made a deal with him that if he would curb the gaming and reduce his texting, I would buy him a subscription to the Mike Marshall School of Mandolin. He agreed and has been doing pretty well with it.

Quinton is shy, so I have yet been able to get him to record a video exchange. He is playing a couple of tunes really well but he clams up when I mention the word 'record'.  I do the same thing at times, so I‘m not pushing him.

squatch mandolin

What song did you first play together?  

I have been providing him rhythm guitar for 'Old Joe Clark' and 'Wayfaring Stranger'. Though the tunes are simple, the feeling of making music with your son for the first time is simply phenomenal. Words cannot describe it.  

What other songs or styles do you and/or your son want to learn now?

Quinton is wanting to learn some Reischman tunes, like 'Indiana Firefly'. I told him that goals are good but to take his time. I am steeped in learning the 5 string banjo now. Working on JD Crowe and Alan Munde type backup. Tough stuff!!

Having watched your son go from gaming to music, would you recommend that more kids should play instruments?

I would tell parents that if their children are going to have their heads down and hands and fingers moving, why not have it be on an instrument instead of a electronic device! At least, something can be shown for it later.

squatch's son playing banjo

What do you get out of playing music?

Music takes my mind away from work, troubles, or cares. Those things will be there when the instrument is put away of course, but for those moments during the playing - all is good. Frustrations and feelings can be utilized to produce melodies or in songwriting. Music is a great outlet for thoughts and expressions. Music offers the opportunity to create friendships or to touch someone perhaps in need of a boost.

If a person has never played, but thinks they would like to try, I simply say to TRY IT! Start slow, pick a concepts and master it before moving on, make the learning process fun, and try not to take yourself so seriously. There is plenty of time for that later. Always remember, in the music learning curve, we are running a marathon, not a sprint.

squatch video exchange

squatch band

The 'Not good enough' statement has been used a lot. Often, beginning and intermediate players shy away from jams that involve quality pickers. I know, because I used to do it. I found out later, that the best thing in world to do is play with the best pickers possible. The more you observe during these times is worth so much the progress of learning. If you do run across a local that is difficult and reproves you for your playing, simply smile and avoid them. You will find more often than not, that most advanced players are more than willing to encourage and share their knowledge.

Lastly, I just want to say Thank You to ArtistWorks for such an amazing concept. I love it!!!

Read More ArtistWorks Student Stories:




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