Aiden Keeney: Blazing A Path
by Shelby C. Berry
Every day another Gen Z artist hits the radio with their music, asking listeners to download their new album. What sets bluegrass musicians and the bluegrass community apart is their desire to embrace young artists wanting to make a future in music.
Tomorrow’s Bluegrass Stars (TBS), the nonprofit organization that prides itself on preserving yesterday’s bluegrass music for a new generation of musicians, was born out of the need for community amongst young musicians in bluegrass and old-time music. Over the years, it has become their mission to champion new artists and support them in every way possible.
There are hundreds of current members of this group — and some pretty impeccable and outstanding musicians that have grown from it, too — that have built and are building a legacy for themselves through the community within Tomorrow’s Bluegrass Stars.
Each artist welcomed into the TBS family helped embrace the future of bluegrass music in unexpected ways. How will these artists creatively blur the lines between genres while also remembering the roots and traditions of the bluegrass greats that came before them? How will a new generation of a musical genre created on simplicity and tradition present their music relevant to the world?
Young artists are the future of music, specifically bluegrass. They are vital to the community as they develop their sounds and embark on careers that impact in meaningful ways.
Most long-lasting partnerships of Tomorrow’s Bluegrass Stars start with a simple interaction that builds momentum over time. The same goes for 14-year-old Kentucky native Aiden Keeney and his start with this community-based organization. In fifth grade, he joined the strings program before taking string lessons from Steve Day.
“About three years ago, my great-uncle Joey Boston began playing with me every chance we had together. We would play gospel, old country, and bluegrass music. He recognized my ability and was the one that recommended that I start taking lessons with Steve,” said Aiden.
By the time he joined Tomorrow’s Bluegrass Stars, Aiden had played for years, dedicating that time to growing and defining his sound in traditional bluegrass music and learning how the music industry operates.
“I met Larry Smith and his family at a private meet-and-greet event for Rhonda Vincent in Somerset,” said Aiden. “He introduced me to TBS. I joined as a way to develop friendships and opportunities with other people around my age with similar interests.”
Immediately upon joining, Aiden connected to artist powerhouse Ashlyn Smith, and they performed together.
While Aiden’s parents would say that he was born with a passion for music, he credits his most significant influences to his teacher Steve Day, Kenny Baker, and his grandparents, whose God-given talent was passed on to their grandson years later.
“Both of my great grandfathers played music, including the fiddle,” said Aiden. “Sadly, I never met either of them.”
While he may not have gotten to meet his grandfathers, whose musical talent he inherited, Aiden no doubt represents them in a way that would have only made them proud if they were still living.
Aiden has now found himself fully emerging into the bluegrass community, really focusing on the tradition and roots of bluegrass in his music.
“I have a love for older music. I enjoy personalizing each song — putting my own spin on it. Orange Blossom Special, Lost Indian, and Cheyenne are among some of my favorites to perform,” said Aiden.
Currently not recording any music, Aiden is using this time to progress into who he is and wants to be as an artist. The challenge of learning and maturing in his music and seeing where that journey leads has become Aiden’s focus, but not without reward.
Last year, at age 13, Aiden placed third overall in Southern Kentucky’s Got Talent.
“The show was a mix of many talents, including comedy, vocals, and dance. I met some amazing people with a lot of talent at the competition,” he said.
His other opportunities include playing with Steve Day, Rhonda Vincent, Hunter Williams, Mark Wills, Alex Miller, and other musical family and friends. Blazing his path forward and making a name amongst the bluegrass community, Aiden works diligently as a multi-instrumentalist on guitar, banjo, and fiddle.
“I’m excited to improve, have fun and see where my musical journey takes me,” said Aiden, adding that he appreciates the kindness and support he has received from others in bluegrass music. “I hope, with continued growth, that someday I can extend the same encouragement to future youth.”