Student pursuing his dream

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By Chris Sardelli

INDIAN LAND - As he prepares for an upcoming performance in downtown Charlotte, Tyler Mitchell remembers how his life as a musician began.

It all started singing in the background as his father, Robert, played guitar. His father gave Tyler his own guitar when he was about 3. That’s when Tyler first discovered his calling.

“I was just a young kid singing with my dad. It was great,” Mitchell said. “I’ve been around music my whole life.”

By the time he was 8, Mitchell had moved on to the piano, then took on the trumpet two years later and formally learned guitar soon after that.

Now 16, Mitchell has become a serious-minded singer and musician, hoping to one day become a professional performer.

He spends his days in class as a sophomore at Indian Land High School, but is spending a lot of time honing as his musical skills.

Mitchell plays at least 10 instruments besides the guitar, including violin, piano, mandolin, harmonica, stand-up bass and most brasses.

With all those skills, Mitchell said he could probably play as a one-man band, but “only if I had enough hands.” And he’s also making the transition between apprentice and teacher, giving guitar lessons.

“I like to think I’m giving that gift to other people because that’s what my dad did for me,” he said.

Mitchell has found a way to incorporate music into his extracurricular activities as well. He’s in Indian Land High School’s marching band, and next year will take over as drum major.  

Mitchell also plays the mandolin and fiddle with a local bluegrass group, the Osceola Boys. And he’s dabbled in songwriting, penning a few original songs, though he says they’re not quite ready to be unveiled.

“I want to get a very good base of musical ideas before I move on to the next stage,” Mitchell said.

The next phase of his career recently began when he learned that a member of his bluegrass group had a son working for a recording company in Nashville.

Ryan Griffin, a former Indian Land High School student, works for Stiff Audio, which helps up-and-coming bands create demo CDs.

Realizing this was his shot at becoming more widely known, Mitchell quickly put together a list of five cover songs that reflect his range of musical tastes from folk to blues to bluegrass.

“It’s always been something I’d like to do and to have,” he said.

Mitchell’s professionally produced tracks are on his Myspace page at www.myspace.com/tylerjmitchell. His favorite track, and the one that means the most to him, is “Leader of the Band” by Dan Fogelberg.

“The whole song is sung to his dad and I thought it was great because of the relationship I have with my father,” Mitchell said.

He cites his musical influences as contemporary artists like Dave Matthews and John Mayer and more classic figures, such as Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan.

Mitchell hopes to master the way those artists sing, play and write. He wants to attend a musical college, such as the Berklee School of Music in Boston.

But he’s been busy practicing for his performance at the annual Charlotte Folk Society Young Talent Showcase today at the Great Aunt Stella Center in downtown Charlotte. Mitchell will join several other young local musicians in demonstrating their skills at the show.

He’s considering playing a couple songs from his demo CD, but realizes he’ll be expanding his set list as time goes on.

“I want to explore as many styles as possible,” he said. “I want to be as rounded musically as I can be.”

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