How long have you been playing?
I have been playing guitar for over 18 years, and I picked up mandolin at the tail end of high school and have been playing it on and off again since.
After winning an audition for a bluegrass(ish) band out at Disney (called “Mighty Swell”), I decided that picking up the banjo (to aid as a utility player) might not be a bad idea. I won the audition in November of last year–2017-- and ordered a banjo the first week in December (the Deering Goodtime Zombie Killer). I started really sitting down to practice as of January of 2018, and with Ben’s lessons, am now glad to say I am COMPLETELY addicted! I want to play the banjo now more than any of my other instruments. I picked it up for a few “flash and trash” licks & songs, but I unexpectedly am now completely smitten. I find it meditative with all of the repetitive string tunings, and I enjoy the technicality of the right hand. Different styles of guitar playing can focus on the right hand, but primarily/generally, the focus is on left-hand technique. This is a complete flip flop on the banjo, and I really enjoy the new challenge!
What’s your favorite lesson on Ben’s site?
I am making my way through the Beginner Banjo track, and I really enjoy all of those (except the Square Roll lesson-- that one is a mammoth)! I also really love the build-a-break banjo stuff (which, right now, is over my head as a banjo player) but I really enjoy pushing myself, and taking new techniques/licks/tricks really slowly, and working the tempo up, so even as a “beginner,” I’ve got a few tricks up my banjo-playing sleeve!
As a professional musician, and someone who has played the guitar for well over 18 years, the Bag O’ Licks guitar stuff is invaluable. I have gone through the E licks, and a few of the G & D licks, and I throw them into songs all over the place while playing. They make the songs I play that much more stylish.
What’s your favorite hobby?
Is it lame to say music? I don’t have much time for hobbies outside of music at this moment. Music is not only my passion, but after years and years of hard work and dedication, it is my full time job (which I am so incredibly thankful and lucky to be able to say). I also enjoy caring for animals (I just helped to rehab a little opossum up until last week), and I would love to get into clay modeling and wood carving in the future. When I have some more free time, maybe I’ll make that a priority
What’s your favorite place in the world that you’ve visited and why?
Probably the Maldives. I grew up in Bahrain and Dubai, so traveling to exotic places was quite a bit easier than it is here in the States. My family visited the Maldives, and stayed on an island that my father and I walked around COMPLETELY in 15-20 minutes. Some of the most pristine, secluded beaches (and water) I have ever seen. They also had “resident” stingrays that the hotel staff snorkeled with and fed every single night (which, as a kid, was a really neat experience).
What was your inspiration to learn how to play the banjo, guitar and mandolin?
Banjo was the bluegrass band auditions win.
I learned how to play mandolin in high school, after I saw Nickel Creek on the Grand Ol’ Opry, late on TV one night. Chris Thile had me transfixed as he blazed through “Ode To A Butterfly.” I was instantly hooked, so my parents bought me a cheap A-style mando and I started religiously attended the weekly Ocoee Bluegrass jams (every Friday behind the Twistee Treat). After playing out there for a year and half, and constantly building my mando skills, my parents coordinated with the jam’s leader, Johnny Adams, who built mandolins in his garage, and he built me my own F-style mandolin as a high school graduation present. To this day, I think this might be the sweetest gift my parents have ever given me - all the sweeter considering neither of them play music (beyond playing the radio). My model was the first pot-inlay he ever did on a headstock (charmingly, and ever so slightly, tilted to the right), and my parents also had him dye the wood blue, because my favorite Ovation guitar was a Celebrity model that was dyed a beautiful cyan-ish hue. Because he had never done a dye job like that before, the top came out a brighter, more brilliant baby blue than the and back & sides, which turned out more of a dark gray-blue, but I love that thing. It exudes love, and you couldn’t ask for a better gift than that!
The guitar-- well, succinctly, a friend left her electric guitar (an SG special) over at my house after a sleep over (we were around 14), and I picked it up and started off by playing jingles and theme songs. I’d walk around the house doing that. Then a friend taught me E major, A major, and D major, and told me to try switching between them as fast as I could. From then on, I just kept at it. As an only child, my guitar was always there for me - boredom, anger, excitement, happiness, sadness - and I always managed to find a way to accurately depict my emotions with it. I went on to study jazz guitar at Rollins College for a bit–maybe a year-- (after I obtained my English degree at Stetson University), but mostly I am self-taught. I am so proud in the product that I display almost nightly around Central Florida, because I have worked hard at my craft, and I have worked hard to make it my profession.
I literally couldn’t be happier in the present moment-- I am doing something I love, surrounded by people that I love, and who love me. It doesn’t get any better than that.