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Road to Nashville

Article Published: Sep. 15, 2011 | Modified: Sep. 15, 2011
Road to Nashville

Brandy Miller, right, and teacher Steve Lewis run through a piece Monday afternoon in downtown West Jefferson. Miller is hopeful for a musical career and will be attending the IBMA Kids on Bluegrass program in Nashville, Tenn., later this month.

Photo by Alan Wooten

Brandy Miller was just 6 years old when she grabbed a banjo her father was playing.

From that humble beginning seven years ago, she’s progressed and wowed crowds on a regular basis – and not only in the High Country, but also the bordering states of South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

It is rare that a weekend will pass when Miller is not on stage, often with her father and The Dollar Brothers Band.

“I like getting to know people and talking with them about music,” Miller said of her experience with the audiences, where she is quite popular.

Miller and a number of her musical supporters and friends will be featured Friday night in a concert to help the aspiring artist with her next big event. Activities at the Ashe County Civic Center commence at 6 p.m. with a greeting session and silent auction. The bluegrass music starts at about 7 p.m. and is scheduled for two hours, but Miller said it could go on longer depending on the audience.

Gary Poe lends his voice as the emcee of the event, which will include Johnny and Jeanette Williams, Scott Freeman, Josh Scott and The Dollar Brothers Band.

Proceeds will help get Miller to the IBMA Kids on Bluegrass program in Nashville, Tenn., later this month.

“That’s where 30 to 35 kids get together with bands and showcase what they can do and learn how to be on a stage,” Miller said. “They learn how to work with other musicians.”

The program prepares aspiring musicians for the professional stage and promotes the industry. Invitations are not easy to obtain, but Miller’s came quickly after program officials saw her on a YouTube clip.

“We applied first, and then didn’t hear anything,” said Joy Miller, Brandy’s mother. “One of Brandy’s friends used to be in it, and they were looking for banjo players. So, her friend told the lady about Brandy.”

One YouTube clip and an email later, Miller had her invitation – and a short time (about four months less than most others) to get ready.

Hence, the need for a benefit concert.

From a talent standpoint, her teacher, Steve Lewis, said she’s very ready.

“She lets her picking do her talking,” Lewis said. “She’s worked at it real hard. Brandy has accomplished what she has because she has worked hard at it. She has a naturally good ear.”

Lewis has been playing for 39 years, picking a banjo 37 of them and teaching for 15. He said Miller’s ear for music makes a world of difference.

“That’s everything,” Lewis said. “You can overcome a lot of physical hurdles if you have that. You can make do, you can adapt.”

Miller is hopeful to one day write her own songs. She’ll welcome a workshop on writing in Nashville if it’s available. Otherwise, she’s looking to gain all the advantages she can for a professional career.

Her mother marvels at her daughter’s abilities, just as she does the art drawn by Brandy’s 11-year-old sister, Kendra.

“It’s amazing. I tell everybody she got all her talent from me because I don’t have any left,” Joy said with a laugh. “It’s good. She’s got a little sister that is 11 and she supports her, tags along on the road.

“Just to see her with that much talent and interest in it, she’s always going. It’s the next bluegrass jam, the next fiddlers’ convention, the next gig somewhere is where she has to be, or she’s not happy.”

Joy likes watching the father-daughter experience, as well.

“I try to do all the booking and arrangements to get everything together,” Joy said. “They get along real good. Their conversations are about music and not boys, so that’s good.”

Brandy said the support from her family, Lewis and her friends who’ll be on stage Friday is invaluable.

“The community has really been good to her and showed their support,” Joy said.
They’ll get another special, and important, opportunity Friday night.

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