by Shelby Berry
Emerging Artist Cassie Sibley Making Her Mark
We live in a crazy time in this world. It seems as if smartphones, social media and having everything at the touch of our fingertips changed the way we live our lives. It has changed how we talk to the people we love, get the news and listen to our favorite music. With our world moving into a futuristic way of life, it’s expected that our young people would lose interest in traditional, old-time folk and bluegrass.
That couldn’t be more epically wrong.
Throughout bluegrass music history, countless young musicians have made their mark alongside their favorite artists. This happens so often, in fact, that it’s become a mission to encourage young musicians to work hard to keep our favorite traditional music alive.
This mission belongs to Tomorrow’s Bluegrass Stars, an organization whose purpose is to provide guidance for young artists and to foster an atmosphere where they perform as individuals and with each other, coming together from all walks of life around the country. Known by most as TBS, Tomorrow’s Bluegrass Stars was founded over a decade ago by John Colburn to fill a niche in bluegrass music.
“I remember when I was six or seven playing with my dad’s pad console radio,” said John Colburn of his introduction to bluegrass music. I found a radio station out of Nashville, and I fell in love with what they were playing – bluegrass.”
It was this love for bluegrass and a desire to see it continue to thrive in today’s world that led John Colburn to create TBS. The fostering of young musicians allows them to understand that they are the future of bluegrass through the opportunities they receive and the legacy of bluegrass music they share.
The community of support and understanding created when John Colburn founded TBS still exists today, and it thrives as a dynamic genre of old-school bluegrass while nurturing the inventive style and mindset of the out-of-the-box grass that is becoming a favorite of young musicians.
Cassie prefers a simpler, more traditional sound, so she stuck with her roots.
“I love the way that Larry Wallace played his music, and he is really what made me want to learn to play the banjo,” said Cassie. “I started with the guitar at 12 years old, and then I worked my way up to playing the banjo at 13.”
Larry Wallace wasn’t the only person who encouraged Cassie with the sound of the banjo. She comes from a family with a love for bluegrass – and the talent for it, too. Both of Cassie’s grandparents played traditional bluegrass, with her grandad focusing his energy on the guitar. Even so, the banjo is what really made Cassie’s eyes sparkle. With the banjo on the mind, she credits many more people than Larry Wallace for her love for bluegrass, although he was the one who initially made her ears perk up.
“My biggest influences on my music would definitely be my dad, Larry Wallace, Earl Scruggs, and Robert Montgomery,” said Cassie. “I really like their style of playing a lot. Robert Montgomery plays a similar style to Earl Scruggs, which is why I like him so much.”
Cassie set a goal for herself to play banjo and sound like Earl Scruggs. “I play more on the traditional side, but a lot of artists don’t really tend to do that these days,” said Cassie. “I really like to play like Earl Scruggs and in the old-style way of playing.”
Her passion for traditional music and keeping it alive led Cassie to join other young bluegrass artists in Tomorrow’s Bluegrass Stars. This, along with the exposure to other artists her age and the opportunities for forming bands together, encourages Cassie to stay a part of this organization.
“Mr. John Colburn and the other TBS leaders really helped me to want to play my music more and connect with other musicians. They encouraged me to keep playing my music, even though the instruments might get hard, and not give up,” said Cassie. “Getting a standing ovation for that song made me really happy,” said Cassie.
Apparently, Cassie isn’t the only one who appreciates great banjo music – Hawthorn Banjos does as well.
“I am actually getting an endorsement with Hawthorn Banjos, and they are creating me a custom banjo,” said Cassie. “This endorsement means a lot to me because Hawthorn makes great instruments, and the people who work there are genuinely really nice and caring.”
Although she is just beginning to lay down her roots, Cassie is working on recording her banjo album with the help of her father. She hopes that her album will encourage and help other young musicians to play the banjo in an older style like Earl Scruggs.
“I would really love to have my own band one day and be able to make a living doing this.”