For the past 10 years, acclaimed Carroll County musician Josh Pickett has helped aspiring musical artists fine tune their dreams with private lessons at his Cana studio. Through a new 21st Century Grant, certain Carroll County Intermediate School students will now have the opportunity to learn music from Pickett free of charge.
“It’s basically a grant that will give students the opportunity to learn music that might not otherwise have that option through private lessons. I have been trying to get into the schools for a long time,” Pickett said. “We live in such a musically-rich area, and I want some of these kids to have the same chance I had growing up and playing music. It kept me out of a whole lot of other stuff I could have been into. I think it will be a good thing for students to take advantage of.”
The world of music has certainly taken Pickett places must people only dream about. As the guitar player for up-and-coming country band The Church Sisters, Pickett played for President Barack Obama during a campaign stop in Roanoke last summer. As a member of the No Speed Limit Band, Pickett also played for the Queen of England in Richmond in 2008 and at the inauguration for then-Virginia Governor Tim Kaine in 2006.
On his 16th birthday, Pickett became the youngest person to ever win the International Guitar Championship at Merlefest, an honor he still claims. Aside from his current gig with The Church Sisters, Pickett also plays with Larry Cordle, a well-known songwriter from Nashville who has written nearly 20 #1 country hits.
Pickett has always enjoyed teaching as he currently gives private lessons to 40 students in his Cana recording studio, Creekside Studio. There he teaches mandolin, guitar and bass to more advanced students. But he’s always wanted to work with younger students who might not have the means to take lessons. Knowing he would be back home more in 2013 than usual, he began to pursue the idea.
“I love working with kids and seeing them love music, and I love seeing that same fire in them learning that I had when I was that age,” Pickett said. “When you see that it makes you feel really good. You know what they are feeling and you know the drive they have.”
So Pickett called Carroll County Assistant Superintendent of Schools Mark Burnette and told him of his idea to work with kids, especially in a situation where money would not be an issue. Burnette told Pickett about the 21st Century Grant and the two immediately began “brainstorming” ideas.
“And we came up with this idea on offering the afterschool class to students. Sometimes as your buddies play music, I think it not only draws the ones that already play and have interest, I think it will get other kids interested,” Pickett said. “I’ve taught for about 10 years and one of the things I have seen happen in kids is they will come in and they might be struggling in school, or they might be having problems at home, and music is their outlet. Some of those kids I see come in are some of the best I’ve had because music is their getaway. Sometimes it can be the first real thing they have a passion for. I think it will be a really great opportunity for any child in intermediate school that has thought about music, or maybe hasn’t, to think about it and get in on some free lessons.”
Pickett said signups will be held in the office at Carroll County Intermediate in the next couple of weeks. The class will be an afterschool program, and interested students must already be signed up in the Cavalier Afterschool Summer Enrichment (CASE) Program. Initially, classes will last an hour on Thursdays. Each class will have 10 students. When the first class fills up, another class of 10 will be offered, and so on, Pickett said. The program is strictly for CASE program students at CCIS, so it will be offered to eighth and ninth graders this year, and sixth, seventh and eighth graders next year when the grading structure changes in Carroll schools.
“It will be called music ed, and it will be basically any style of music, even covering several instruments they might want to play. It will be for those that might want to play or that already play,” Pickett said. “We’re hoping the class will pull together some of the musical students and some of the ones that would like to be. Maybe we’ll see some local bands form out of it and see some local kids taking off with their music.”
The class won’t solely be about learning an instrument. Pickett plans to bring in professionals from the music business from time to time to show students the different aspects of music, from how music is recorded, made, managed, etc.
“There are so many different paths you can go down in music such as music production and management. The management of bands is booming right now. You can use regular college courses like management and business in music itself,” Pickett said. “Maybe you want to open your own recording studio. There are a lot of avenues you can go if you enjoy music. I’m just trying to open some doors and let kids realize you don’t have to be the greatest guitar player in the world to make a living. The music business needs more than players.”
As for the music itself, Pickett wants his students to be appreciative of all kinds of music. While bluegrass is his favorite, he also likes pop and rock music. You shouldn’t have to choose one style of music over another, he said.
“It is about being appreciative of everything. What a lot of younger kids don’t realize about music, if it were not for some of the earlier acoustic music, there wouldn’t be pop and rock,” Pickett said. “I want to lay the road where they can see how this evolved into that and helped form the styles they know of now.”