Eighth-grader sweeps local banjo competitions
by Staff report
Madison Shepherd, 13, of Laurel Springs is an up-and-coming clawhammer banjoist who has won a string of accolades at several local competitions and showcases this year.
Shepherd, an eighth-grader at Ashe County Middle School, has been playing banjo for four years, and has been competing in fiddler’s conventions and contests for three years.
Shepherd learned to play clawhammer style banjo through the Ashe County Junior Appalachian Musicians Program (JAM). Taking lessons for her first year, she has since been self-taught, she said.
“This year I’m trying to put together a youth band. There’s no dedicated youth group, and none of the people I’ve jammed with want to travel,” she said.
In September, Shepherd played in the inaugural Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion Youth Competition, sponsored by Capo’s Music Store of Abingdon, Va.. She took first place in the banjo category, winning a brand new Deering Goodtime banjo and $100 cash.
Shepherd also completed at the Appalachian State University Fiddler’s Convention this year, where she placed second in youth banjo.
At the Tommy Jarrell Festival in Mount Airy in March, Shepherd won first place in youth banjo, as well as first place in youth flatfoot competition. She also placed first in youth Old Time banjo, and first in youth flat foot at the Ashe County Fiddler’s Convention.
At the 78th Annual Old Fiddler’s Convention in Galax, Va., Shepherd won second place in youth clawhammer banjo. At the Alleghany Fiddler’s Convention, she placed 2nd in junior banjo and 3rd in junior dance.
At the 47th Annual Fries Old Time Fiddler’s and Bluegrass Convention, she won second place in both youth clawhammer banjo and youth dance. Wrapping up August with the Laurel Bloomery Old Time Fiddler’s Convention, she took first place in youth dance and first place in youth performance with her banjo.
She also performed on two youth showcases this year, at Merlefest and at the 1st Annual Blue Ridge Acoustic Uprising in Wytheville, Va..
Shepherd has played with many local bands, such as The Whitetop Mountain Band, Mountain Park Old Time Band and The Slate Mountain Ramblers. This fall, she plans to be in the studio recording a project called Close Kin, a youth version of the original Close Kin CD.
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