Sierra Hull headlines second day of Keystone’s Winter Bluegrass Weekend | SummitDaily.com

Sierra Hull headlines second day of Keystone’s Winter Bluegrass Weekend

Krista Driscoll
kdriscoll@summitdaily.com

Saturday, Jan. 24, marks the final day of Keystone's Winter Bluegrass Weekend, a series of concerts celebrating acoustic roots and mountain culture and benefiting Keystone's Dercum Center for the Arts and Humanities. In addition to much-loved Colorado acts Finnders and Youngberg and The Haunted Windchimes, Warren Station will welcome 23-year-old mandolinist Sierra Hull and banjo player Justin Moses.

Hull released her debut album, "Secrets," at the age of 16 and has since been nominated for eight International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) awards, earned a Presidential Scholarship to the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston and is widely recognized as one of the best mandolinists in the world. We caught up with her to learn more about her music, her inspiration and why she loves the mandolin.

1. SUMMIT DAILY NEWS: What made you gravitate toward the mandolin? What is it about that instrument that captures your interest?

SIERRA HULL: My great uncle on my mom's side of the family lived just up the road while I was growing up. He was self-taught on mandolin and fiddle and played all the time. He gave my dad a guitar in which he started teaching himself chords. He used to play for my older brother and I while we sang in church. Dad had always wanted a mandolin when he was a kid. After finally saving up enough money to buy one, he began taking a few lessons and going to local jams.

When I was 8 years old, I decided I wanted to play an instrument. After picking up the mandolin, I fell in love! I loved going to jams and the joy of playing music with other people. I knew immediately it was what I wanted to do with my life.

2. SDN: Who are some of your musical influences? Are there musicians whom you think you have influenced in your career?

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SH: There have been so many people that have influenced me as a musician and influenced my career. As a kid, I fell in love with Alison Krauss & Union Station, Nickel Creek, Tony Rice, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver … more bands than I could name. There were also so many local musicians that I learned a lot from in those days, and of course, my parents had a really wonderful influence on me — encouraging me and hauling me around to all the different festivals and jams every weekend.

These days, I listen to everything from Michael Jackson to Joni Mitchell to the Stanley Brothers. I just love good music that inspires me to work at my own music.

If I have inspired any musicians out there in even the smallest way that my heroes have me — that's a wonderful thing to think about.

3. SDN: Tell me about your decision to attend the Berklee School of Music at a time when your performance career was just taking off. Why was that experience important to who you are now as a musician?

SH: Going to Berklee just kinda happened. It wasn't something I had seriously planned on, but I'm so fortunate to have had the opportunity. I'm also really thankful that those around me encouraged me to go. It was a bit of an intimidating experience all the way around because I was coming from a world of only playing by ear and having never studied music in a formal way. It was really good for stretching me and getting me out of my comfort zone, as well as helping me realize more clearly what all I want to become and work on as an artist.

4. SDN: Of all of the awards that you've won or been nominated for, which was the most important to you and why?

SH: I've not really won many awards at this point in my career, but the few I've been nominated for have certainly been a humbling experience. The one I remember the most was the first. I'm 16, sitting in algebra class and getting a million texts (I had to sneak to look at it, haha) saying that I had just been nominated for Mandolin Player of the Year for IBMA. I had to not get too excited because I'm in class. After class, I went to the office, asked to use the phone and called my parents. It was a really exciting moment being that young and having it be the first time a woman was nominated. I was definitely proud of that.

5. SDN: What do you love about bluegrass music? Why do you think it's a good fit for the mountains of Colorado?

SH: Bluegrass is such a breath of fresh air. It a fun and very real type of music that is connected to the mountains and stories about home and hardworking people — love, tragedy. Some of the saddest lyrics I've ever heard are in bluegrass songs, yet the melodies, though lonesome, are somehow uplifting at the same time. It makes me think of friends in the fields at a festival or around a campfire jamming together just for the love of music. I grew up loving it, so I'll always have that warm feeling listening to it and playing it.

Colorado is one of my absolute favorite states to visit. Though different from Tennessee (where I live and grew up), it's so similar with the mountains and beauty that I can't help but feel connected to it. Bluegrass makes a perfect fit!

If you go

What: Finnders and Youngberg, The Haunted Windchimes and Sierra Hull and Justin Moses, Day 2 of the Winter Bluegrass Weekend

When: Saturday, Jan. 24; open jam starts at 5:30 p.m., and doors open at 6:30 p.m. for concert, which begins at 7

Where: Warren Station Center for the Arts, 164 Ida Belle Drive, Keystone

Cost: Adult tickets start at $12; discounts available for children

More information: Visit http://www.warrenstation.com

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About the beneficiary

The mission of the Dercum Center for Arts and Humanities is to bring renowned artists and lecturers to Summit County to enrich, educate, strengthen and impact the community.

“We have high-caliber musicians from all around the world on a regular basis each summer for the Snake River Music Festival, going into its 17th year, so that is the main focus of what we do,” said Karina Wetherbee, director of the Dercum Center. “We also like to reach into the community and collaborate with other local nonprofits and organizations, such as Summit Music and Arts, Colorado Mountain College and The Next Page bookstore. We are also heavily involved in the yearly Scale the Summit Music Camp for young, aspiring musicians in the county.”

All of the money raised from Winter Bluegrass Weekend ticket sales will go directly into paying for the highest quality artists, musicians, authors and lecturers for upcoming events, Wetherbee said. The Dercum Center relies entirely on donations and ticket sales for its revenue, all of which are put right back into making memorable events for the community.

“This is a wonderful, collaborative experience this year with the wonderful Keystone Neighborhood Co. and The Warren Station Center for the Arts,” she said. “We are working in tandem to make this year the biggest and most successful weekend of winter bluegrass music yet.”