Youth Spotlight: Maggie Gatley
An Accomplished Musician at Age 11
By Leslie Grace / A! Magazine for the Arts | August 01, 2012Maggie Gatley is an 11-year-old fiddler and vocalist who has won awards in several bluegrass competitions, including first place in the Gathering in the Gap Fiddle competition (ages 17 and under). She has performed with Tyler Hughes and the Generation Gap band since 2010 and together they recorded their first live CD, Heartbreak On Poplar Hill.
The daughter of Burke and Amy Greear, Maggie plays saxophone in the band at Ross N. Robinson Middle School in Kingsport, Tenn. She has participated in her school choir, the Kingsport Youth String Ensemble, and the Mountain Music School at Mountain Empire Community College in Big Stone Gap, Va.
Maggie's musical influences include The Carter Family, Johnny Cash, Old Crow Medicine Show, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Doc Boggs, Papa Joe Smiddy, The Stanley Brothers, Grandpa Jones, Minnie Pearl and Carl Martin.
• How did you begin playing fiddle and/or singing?
When I was 5 years old, I wanted a pink Barbie violin for Christmas. My mom asked me if I wanted to learn how to play, and I did. Then she asked an instructor if I was old enough to play. He said if I wanted to learn, I was old enough to take lessons. Instead of a Barbie violin, we picked up a real instrument at a music store.
I always sing around the house for pleasure. I wasn't confident about singing in public until I joined my school choir. The first song I ever sang in public was "There is a Time" by The Dillards.
• When did you begin entering bluegrass competitions?
My long-time violin teacher, Ashley Wagner, told me about competitions. As a student of the Mountain School of Music, I'm expected to participate in competitions. I was around 7 years old when I entered my first competition. I am now studying with local musician Todd Meade.
• When did you begin playing with Generation Gap?
I knew some of the band members through family. They asked me to play with them one time. After that, we started playing together on a regular basis.
• Has the band recorded other CDs?
We occasionally record informal live CDs. I've never recorded professionally with them.
• Where does the band rehearse and perform?
We usually rehearse at home every other weekend or so. We perform at a lot of different places such as the Southwest Virginia Museum coffee house, which I recently hosted. We also play at the Jessie Lee RV Park, Big Stone Gap, Va.; and Horton's store in Hancock County, Tenn.
I recently performed with the Mountain Music School String Band at Heartwood in Abingdon, Va. That was a very nice venue, and I enjoyed the experience.
• How has music impacted your life?
I love music. It takes time and hard work to learn, but to me, it's worth it. Sometimes I get nervous. Then I think, nobody is going to throw tomatoes. What is the point in playing music, if you can't share it with others? Music gives you the ability to express yourself however you want to.
• Do you participate in other arts-related activities?
I love to act, draw and sing. I attended Drifting Theater acting camp last year, as well as Arts4Kids summer camp in Kingsport, Tenn. In April, I ran in the Kentucky Derby Half-Marathon.
• Do other members of your family play music?
My mom plays guitar and my dad plays the spoons.