New Albany, Mississippi- Music from all corners and shade trees of the Union County Fairgrounds rang out on a beautiful May day Saturday as the Mississippi Bluegrass Championships got underway at the Down Form the Hills Heritage Music Festival.
Youth won out on many of the competitions as young musicians converged to win many of the senior divisions. One such contestant Miss Ivy Phillips, a 14 year old talent from Chapmansboro, Tennessee, who won most of the awards. Ivy, 14, started playing the fiddle when she was 4, and has kept it up for the past 10 years and “practices everyday”, she said. Her goals are to play professionally and she credits five teachers through the years who have taught her .
Maddie McKenney, 11, from Cullman, Alabama; an energetic blonde who sings and plays the fiddle and other instruments, started playing the fiddle at age seven, and she, too, is a budding winner of all events.
Matthew Davis from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, started playing the piano at age 6. He started playing the banjo at age 13, and now at 17, he is the winner of the Mississippi Bluegrass Banjo competition, winning over older and much more experiences musicians, and he placed in several other competitions. “Grandpa gave me a banjo, and I just started picking,” Matthew said. He was self taught for a period on the banjo, and later taught by Tony Trisca. Living in the Murfreesboro area, he is fortunate in that is where Middle Tennessee State University School of Music is located. Many opportunities abound for youth who are interested in music. When his mother was asked about how much prodding and telling him to practice that she has had to do through the years, she laughed and said. “Not really any. “It’s more like I have to say, stop and do your home work.”
Jake Patty, 15, from Mayfield, Kentucky; was the another youth who was a big winner. He placed first in apprentice mandolin, 4th in Senior Guitar, and he was the guitarist and vocalist of the bluegrass band which won first place, Jake Patty and the Pattycakes.
Tyler White of Rienzi, MS; was back to compete after an two year absence from the competition. He won the Youth Fiddling competition here when he was 12, and came back and won as an adult. He and others who were winners at earlier festivals here formed the band Breaking Grass which won the top Bluegrass band in the state at this event and have gone on to produce CDs of their music and to play on the Nashville scene. and he said “We are booked through the summer every weekend but one.” He took second place in the senior fiddling event this year.
The consistent trait among these young players who excel is that they are in large part self motivated. And have a supportive family.
The mission of these competitions and the heritage music festival has been to keep the folk and bluegrass tradition alive. “And when you see these young people from other areas come here and win you know that the music is in good hands, “ said jill Smith , director of the Union County Heritage Museum, who produces the event. The festival is also supported by Visit Mississippi, the Mississippi Arts Commission, BNA Bank, Toyota, City of New Albany.
Winners of the event are listed below in the order of the competitions.
1st place – Jake Patty, Mayfield, KY
2nd place Maddie McKenney, Cullman, AL
Senior Mandolin –
1st place Ivy Phillips, Chapmansboro, TN
2nd place – Matthew Davis, Murfreesboro, TN
3rd place – Rob Pearcy, Smyrna, TN
4th place – Christopher Gray, Nashville, TN
5th Place Doug Anderson, Oxford, MS
1st place Rob Pearcy, Smyrna, TN
2nd place – Ivy Phillips, Chapmansboro, TN
3rd place – Jeffery Wilson, Tupelo, MS
1st place Ivy Phillips
1st place – Rob Pearcy, Smyrna, TN
2nd place – Matthew Davis, Murfreesboro, TN
3rd place – David Robinson, Nettleton, MS
4th place – Jake Patty, Mayfield, KY
5th place – Christopher Gray, Nashville, TN
First place – Ivy Phillips, Chapmansboro, TN
2nd place Nick Foster Florence, AL
3rd place – Jake Patty, Mayfield, KY
1st place – Matthew Davis
2nd place – Christopher Gray
1st Garrett Weeks, Pontotoc, MS
2nd Morgan Ashe,
1st Place Zeke Morgan, Jackson, MS
2nd place – Maddie McKenney, Cullman, AL
3rd Alaina Weeks, Pontotoc, MS
1st Mark Ralph, Huntsville, AL
2nd – Tyler White, Rienzi , MS
3rd Ivy Philips , Chapmansboro, TN
4th Christopher Gray, Nashville, TN
5th Jacob Johnson, Lincoln, AL
Old Time Fiddler
Wayne Jerrolds, Savannah, TN
Bluegrass Band Competition
1st Jake Patty and the Patty Cakes, AL, TN KY
2nd – Slim Chance, North Mississippi and Tennessee Area
3rd – The McKenneys, Cullman, AL
For a little about the origins of Down From the Hills: Heritage Music Festival
Jill N. Smith
Union County Heritage Museum
114 Cleveland Street
New Albany, Mississippi 38652