Arts for Youth Spotlight: Carson Peters
By Leslie Grace | A! Magazine for the Arts | October 30, 2013Carson Peters taught himself to play "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" on a ukulele his grandmother bought him when he was only 2. A year and a half later, his parents, Jamie and Robin Peters, bought him a 1/8- size fiddle and found him a teacher (Sarah Fletcher Collins). He studies with Keith Williams now.
From that beginning, he is quickly making a name for himself with his fiddle, including a well-known nickname "Fiddlin' Carson Peters." In addition to the nickname, he's picked up awards throughout the region. He placed first at The Old Fiddler's Convention in Galax, Va.; Mount Airy Fiddler's Convention in Mount Airy, N.C.; Tennessee State Pee Wee Fiddle Champion; Tri-Cities Got Talent and then auditioned for America's Got Talent in Atlanta, Ga. He has played with Rhonda Vincent and the Rage; appeared on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno; was the official starter of the Food City 250; played at Bluegrass and BBQ at Dollywood and with Bobby Hicks.
Carson's appearance on The Tonight Show was in August 2013 where "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" showed up again when his sense of humor led him to begin with an out-of-tune version of the song, before going on to get the audience clapping along with his fiddling.
"It was one of the coolest experiences I have had yet. It was so neat to see how everything works backstage. Everyone was so very nice to me. I had a chauffeur and everything ... and my own dressing room stocked with snacks."
His sense of humor also came out when he explained the difference between a fiddle and a violin to Jay Leno and Betty White. "A violin has strings. A fiddle has "strangs,'" he said.
"I really like how each time I pick up my fiddle to play a certain song, I know I can play it many different ways," Carson says. "My parents say each time they hear me play a particular song, it sounds different because I add stuff to it.
"I really, really like music. I am all the time humming and singing, no matter what I am doing. I really like playing and learning new songs and "licks' to play on my fiddle, mandolin and guitar. I have had a good time playing and have gotten to go to many places to play music. I play all my songs by ear, which lets me play the song the way I am feeling it at the time."
Carson also thinks about the feelings of his audiences. "I really like to play bluegrass and gospel music. I like to play fast songs a lot," he says. "There are many bluegrass and gospel songs that are quite speedy. I want everyone who hears me play to leave smiling and thinking my performance was entertaining. I want people to see how God has blessed me with my musical talent and that His greatness can be seen even through a little guy like me."
Carson doesn't just play alone. He has a band to help him entertain audiences at local venues around the region performing old-time, bluegrass and gospel music. The band consists of Tom and Bobbie Dier from Greene County, Tenn., and Carson's father Jamie Peters. Tom plays the bass or "big fiddle" as Carson calls it. Bobbie is a musician of many talents and has been an avid bluegrass and old-time music fan for many years. Besides playing the mandolin for more than 30 years, she also plays banjo, guitar and mountain dulcimer. Carson's father Jamie plays the rhythm guitar in the band.
In addition to entertaining with his band, Carson plays music with his friends, Howard and Vivian Hammonds, and their gospel group, Headed Home, in churches around the region.
His father isn't the only musical one in his family. "There is lots of music in my family. I have several great-uncles who play in gospel and bluegrass bands. One is playing for Jesus in heaven now, though. My cousin Haley is taking voice lessons and sings with me sometimes."
He says his influences are "my mom and dad for taking me everywhere to listen to music and for taking me to church, Hunter Berry (fiddler for Rhonda Vincent and also from Elizabethton), Keith Williams (my fiddle teacher) and Kenny Baker (longtime Bill Monroe Band fiddler). Tom and Bobbie Dier, who are in my band, are awesome and have helped me with my music a lot, too."
Carson says he wants to be a professional fiddler, baseball player or Navy Seal. "If none of those work out, I will be an engineer like dad and hopefully work with him at Eastman."
Music is Carson's only arts-related activity. "I can't even draw a stick man, and poetry writing didn't work out too good either." He loves to play baseball, basketball and football. He also runs cross-country at school. "I have also started shooting shotguns and my bow and arrow. I hope to get to hunt this year."
At age 9, Carson is in the fourth grade at Providence Academy in Johnson City, Tenn., and lives in Piney Flats, Tenn.
On Nov. 16, Carson will perform at Providence Academy's "Happy 20th Birthday Party," a dinner/auction that supports their needs-based scholarship fund. "I feel honored they would select me again this year for the birthday party/fundraiser. I played for last year's fundraiser too. There are many talented musicians in our area they could have chosen to play, so it is really special to me."
Carson Peters has a band to help him entertain audiences at local venues around the region performing old-time, bluegrass and gospel music.
Nine-year-old Carson is nicknamed "Fiddlin' Carson Peters."