Young Talent, Old Style
Meet Meade Richter.
At 18-years-old, the recent Watauga High School grad may be young, but his music's old school - old style to be specific. It's a style he's adopted from area picking sensation Cecil Gurganus, and he plans to bring it to future generations.
Richter, however, isn't just about the old style. He's about the fiddle, and the instrument has taken him through old style, Irish and the bluegrass he'll bring with him to East Tennessee State University in the fall.
To a guy that didn't even like bluegrass until he started playing it, Richter's come a long way in the five or six years he's been playing.
"I started in middle school (Bethel) ... I was really into drawing, but my older brother was, like, way better than me, and I was pretty competitive ... so, I decided to do music," he said.
Fiddlers he observed in Norway while on vacation sealed the deal.
"I was fascinated," he said. "Just watching them, I felt a real connection to the music ... so, I sought out some traditional fiddle players and musicians in general out where I live just to see the same kind of music in my own region."
A jam in Todd introduced him to Gurganus, and from there he was hooked.
"I got him to give me a few lessons," Richter said. "I just started working off the patterns he was showing me ... then started working on getting the styles down of other fiddle players. I learned a pretty big old-time repertoire pretty quickly. I sort of learned the formula of how you learn a tune."
He has already started teaching the style to younger musicians.
"It's only natural to pass it on to people," he said. "It wasn't like I saw a tradition that might die and started to play. I wanted to play first."
Irish music, in particular, kept his strings busy.
"It's sort of like a language," he said. "You listen to it, and it's like listening to different vernaculars... Irish music has a lot of really close melodic, almost like circles in the melodies, which sort of mimic the traditional Irish language, as well."
The picking is paying off. At last year's Fiddler's Grove Convention in Union Grove, he was named fiddler of the festival and placed first in the senior old-time category, among other honors. He has also started playing dances for area benefits, and his band, Moon Water, is playing gigs across the state, including in Wilmington.
And this fall, he will enter into the inaugural year of the bluegrass program at ETSU, where he'll start his future. He couldn't be more excited.
"I can't imagine going anywhere else," he said.
And, Watauga County, you may be able to say you knew him when.
"I just want to be a professional musician," Richter said. "That's just my dream, what I want to do."
And Watauga High School will have helped him get there.
"The teachers have helped me out," he said. "They're really encouraging, but I'm glad to be out. I feel like I have more time."
While his dad was wary of his plans to focus on music, he came around, as did Richter's mom.
"They would be supportive no matter what I'm doing," he said. "They've always centered on the arts and wanted us to do the same, encouraged us to get to into art."
And the High Country in general has done a lot to push him toward this career path.
"There's just so many musicians around here that play traditional music," he said.
And, at least until fall, he's one of them.
"This summer I'll just be playing gigs here and there and see what kind of connections I can make," Richter said. "Really, I'm just trying to relax, see my friends for the last time, the last time for awhile, at least."