The “Aha!” moment of Isabela March
By: Shelby C. Berry
Many musicians have an “aha” moment. Some of these moments turn to dreams that eventually become reality. Often the best of these musicians are young, like the members of Tomorrow’s Bluegrass Stars (TBS). New TBS member, fifteen-year-old Isabela March, attends Cab Calloway School of the Arts in Wilmington, Delaware where she majors in vocal and strings.
“I even enjoy being in the pit orchestra for the school musicals and participating onstage in the musicals,” said Isabela. “My dad was always interested in music, especially bluegrass. He plays the banjo, mandolin, and guitar and always brought me to bluegrass festivals. My mom is also musical, so we would go as a family.”
Isabela’s “aha” moment happened while she was sitting on the third row at the Delaware Valley Bluegrass Festival. “I enjoyed the festival so much that it seemed like just minutes went by for each band’s set. My parents knew how intrigued I was by bluegrass, so I signed up for the kid’s academy at the festival when I was four and later did the kid’s academy at the Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival as well,” said Isabela.
At these academies, one intriguing teacher, Ira Gitlin, got Isabela engaged with music and Isabela slowly learned to play the fiddle.
Influenced by the bluegrass greats as well as her instructors and mentors, Steve Field and Ken Gehret, Isabela found her distinct sound.
“Steve Field is a classically trained violinist who also plays bluegrass,” said Isabela. “He prepared me for my assessment at Cab Calloway School of the Arts where I attend. Ken Gehret performed with Jim and Jesse and Mel Tillis in the late sixties before returning to Pennsylvania where he teaches and performs a wide variety of music.”
With these notable mentors and much practice, Isabela worked her way to a memorable stage performance with Danny Paisley at the VFW in Northeast Maryland.
“I’ve been watching Danny Paisley and Southern Grass since I can remember and have always loved how much personality every person in the band has and how precisely they all play,” said Isabela. “When TJ Lundy invited me to play a few tunes with them, I was so excited but also nervous, of course! Playing with such a tight band really helped me understand where I need improvement and what playing in such a well-run unit feels like.”
Her favorite part is playing with other people
and communicating something to an audience without even speaking, she explained. “I think that’s really special and is a common reason why any performing artist is drawn to an art form,” said Isabela.
This love for community and performing led Isabela to Tomorrow’s Bluegrass Stars. Isabela joined because of the positivity of the community and the joy of meeting other young musicians like her. She was invited to perform on the TBS-sponsored online bluegrass festival.
Her dream is to embrace this community and become part of a touring band, but for now she is still growing as a musician.
“I think that I’m still searching for what kind of sound I want to have and how broad I would like my playing to be. Many musicians have many sounds throughout their career and learning. I’m curious to see where I end up,” said Isabela. “Whenever I feel tired or reluctant to keep practicing and learning more music, I remember that image of the fiddle player who I never even learned the name of and the feeling of being close to that kind of energy.”