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Indian Land teen wins spot at prestigious guitar camp

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By Chris Sardelli

INDIAN LAND - For years, Tyler Mitchell has honed his guitar skills, modeling his style after several musical greats. Now he’ll have the chance to play guitar with some of them at a musical workshop this summer.

Mitchell, 16, was one of only a few performers asked to audition for a chance to win a scholarship to the Swannanoa Gathering, a folk music event, after performing at the annual Charlotte Folk Society Young Talent Showcase at the Great Aunt Stella Center in downtown Charlotte in April.

The event spotlighted several young musicians. Mitchell performed two songs from his set list that night.

The Swannanoa Gathering, which takes place at Warren Wilson College in Asheville, N.C., allows young musicians to study different musical techniques with professionals. There will be six different weeks of study, including an Old-Time Week and Guitar Week.

Two scholarships were available through the Charlotte Folk Society – in the youth and adult categories. Mitchell auditioned for the 2009 Marilyn Meacham Price Youth Scholarship. He played a few of his songs and was interviewed about why he was interested in attending the camp.

He bested the other contestants and won $1,000 to attend Guitar Week, which takes place the last week of July.

“It was a lot of fun actually,” he said. “I’m real excited. I want to further my writing skills and music skills as much as I can.”

As it turns out, Mitchell has a connection to the scholarship.

His parents recognized the name of the person for whom the scholarship is named.

Marilyn Meacham Price played in a folk band during the 1980s called The Down Home Folks. Mitchell’s parents were fascinated with folk music at that time. They even hired that band to play at their wedding.

Who’s Who of guitar players

Mitchell has heard about the guitar camp for years.

His guitar instructor, John Tosco, who has played at the Swannanoa Gathering for the last eight years, has always raved about the event. The event will include several guitar professionals, including a Celtic guitarist and world champion finger-style player.

“There will be a lot of people there,” he said. “It’s a Who’s Who of folk music guitar players.”

Since winning the scholarship, Mitchell has taped a segment for LearnTV, the cable access channel filmed at Lancaster High School. The 30-minute show featured Mitchell and a selection of his music.

His mother, Robin Mitchell, is excited for her son to attend the Swannanoa Gathering.

“It’s very competitive. The top guitar players in the world are there. It’s a big deal and we’re real excited for him,” she said.

Mitchell, who is a rising junior at Indian Land High School, plays at least 10 instruments other than the guitar, including violin, piano, mandolin, harmonica, stand-up bass and most brass.

He plays in his school’s marching band, and also performs mandolin and fiddle with the local bluegrass group, the Osceola Boys.

Mitchell also recently worked with a professional recording company to produce a list of five songs for a demo CD. The songs show off his varied musical styles, ranging from folk to bluegrass. They are now available on his Web site at www.myspace.com/tylerjmitchell.

Mitchell is interested in attending the Berklee School of Music in Boston, where he would like to major in performing arts, with a minor in guitar. He said he hopes to turn his love for music into a career.

And even though he won’t begin applying to colleges until next year, he has already started working on his audition piece. Mitchell said he plans to master as many different musical styles as he can.

“As far as guitar playing, folk is one of the most difficult styles,” he said. “If I can play that, I can play anything. That’s why I chose that path.”

Contact reporter  Chris Sardelli  at csardelli@thelancasternews.com or at (803) 416-8416