5 Kids, 10 Years, Amazing Talent

In 2004 I had the pleasure of moderating an on-line session between the CoMando Discussion List members asking question to five mandolin players. The two youngest were Sierra Hull and Scott Gates, both 11 years old. Sarah Jarosz was 12, Josh Pinkham was 13, and Jacob Henry Jolliff was 15. I was impressed by not only their talent and what they had accomplished by that age, but also their maturity and commitment to their music.

Sierra Hull (11) - www.sierrahull.com
Sierra Hull is eleven years old and has been playing mandolin since the age of eight. In 2002, she won the National Beginners Mandolin and Guitar Championship at the Smithville Jamboree. She has appeared on the Grand Ole Opry three times, and played at the Ryman Auditorium with Alison Krauss + Union Station, which aired live on CMT. She also played with Alison Krauss + Union Station at the All Star Bluegrass Celebration II. For the past three years, Sierra has been invited to the IBMA, and has played with IIIrd Tyme Out, Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder, and Sam Bush. In Byrdstown, Tn., where Sierra lives, they recently had The First Annual Sierra Hull Bluegrass Festival.

Sierra at 11:  With Alison Krauss - All-Star Bluegrass Celebration. Grand Ole Opry

Follow Up 2014:  Sierra recorded "Secrets" in 2008 and "Daybreak" in 2011 for Rounder Records. She attended Berklee School of Music on the first ever Presidential Award Scholarship for a Bluegrass musician. She was nominated for 2013 IBMA Mandolin Player of the Year. This was Sierra’s sixth nomination for the title. She remains the first female mandolin player to be nominated for this award, and is also the youngest with her first nomination coming to her at the age of sixteen. She recently was invited to be an instructor at the Mandolin Symposium, and conducted the student Bluegrass Ensemble.

Sierra Hull performing "Daybreak In Dixie" at Music City Roots live from the Loveless Cafe on April 23, 2014

Josh Pinkham (13) - www.joshpinkham.com
In the winter of 2001 Joshua Pinkham picked up the mandolin and learned his first scale and tune, and since then, he has improved exponentially; with an impressive repertoire of tunes ranging from Old Time, Bluegrass, Fiddle tunes, Dawg, Jazz, Classical and Brazilian choros. By age 13, Josh was the Florida state mandolin champion, placed 3rd at the Merlefest Mandolin contest, and has performed on stage with Mike Marshall, David Grisman and Chris Thile. He has played with guitarists Tony Rice and David Grier. He also performed on stage with fiddle greats Darol Anger, Vassar Clements and Sara Watkins of Nickel Creek. Josh has been a performing member of Grammy winner, Jim Lauderdale's bluegrass group at many festivals as well.

Josh at 15:  Mandolin Symposium 2006 (Josh Pinkham - Mandolin, Alex Hargreaves - Fiddle, Sam Grisman - Bass)

Follow Up 2014:  Josh performs with his parents in the Pinkham Family Band. The PFB present a wide variety of Acoustic Blues, Bluegrass, Newgrass, Jazzgrass and original instrumental and vocal music. The PFB has appeared at many of America's premier music festivals and events. Including; Merlefest, Springfest at Suwanee, Festival International de Louisiane, Magnoliafest at Suwanee, Riverhawk, Union Grove, Mandofest and Magnolia Midwest. In Europe the PFB has performed at Au Sonnes de Mandolines on the isle of Corsica, Festival de Mandolines in Lunel France (multiple times) and tours of the South of France.

Jeremy Kittel and Josh Pinkham play Chick Corea

Scott Gates (11) - www.scottgates.com/
Scott began studying mandolin at age seven, after playing piano for a few years. Scott has extraordinary talent (possibly inherited from his grandfather, mandolinist Marco Manzo) and quickly outgrew his first mandolin instructor. Scott won second place at the 2003 Classical Mandolin Society of America convention in San Diego. Scott's dedication and talent impressed Evan Marshall, who accepted him as a student and has been his primary instructor for over three years. Scott is releasing his first solo CD early in 2004, and has studied under John Reischman, Butch Baldassari, Ugo Orlandi, Sam Bush, Chris Thile, Don Stiernberg and Steve Smith.

Scott at 11:  Scott Gates, with Jarrod Walker (11) - "Redhair Boy" - Mandolin Symposium 2004

Follow Up 2014:  By 13, Scott established his own bluegrass bands (Pacific Ocean Bluegrass; The Scott Gates Band), winning several mandolin and band competitions. Scott has played with comedian/actor/banjo player Steve Martin on the Ellen DeGeneres Show, performed as a guest with The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and recorded with music legend Kenny Loggins. Scott currently plays with The Salty Suites, and they released their first album in 2012.

Scott Gates and Evan Marshall perform "Maidens Prayer" and "Lady Be Good"

Jacob Henry Jolliff (15)
At the ripe old age of 15, Jacob Henry has been hard at work on the mandolin for half his life. In seven short years, he has become a favorite performer at festivals and camps, churches and coffee houses throughout the Pacific Northwest. His chops have earned him guest appearances with Ricky Skaggs, Chris Thile, Leah Larson, and acoustic music legends The David Grisman Quintet. Though Jake's tastes and compositions run along the progressive lines of Dawg music and Nickel Creek, he performs regularly with the very traditional bluegrass gospel group, Jacob Henry and Bill Jolliff. In reviewing their CD release, Good Neighbors, Bluegrass Unlimited has had this to say: "Although in his early teens, Jacob Henry displays an incredible level of skill on both mandolin and tenor vocals."

Jacob Henry at 15:  Mandolin playing by Jake Jolliff with Bill Jolliff on Banjo, Louanne Fugal on Upright Bass, Steve Blanchard on Rythym Guitar

Follow Up 2014:  Jacob was the first full-scholarship mandolin student at Boston's Berklee College of Music, and recently graduated. He won first place in the National Mandolin Championship in 2012 at the Walnut Valley Festival. Jacob currently plays in Boston-based Joy Kills Sorrow.

Jake Jolliff & Mike Barnett - "Just Friends"

Sarah Jarosz (12)
Sarah Jarosz (pronounced juh-ROSE) is twelve years old and has been playing mandolin since she was 10. She shares her talent and love for music through her powerful, soulful voice and skillful mandolin picking. Sarah was invited to perform on stage in 2003 with The David Grisman Quintet, Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder, and Billy & Bryn Bright of the Two High String Band. She was also invited to do a "tweener" at the RockyGrass festival in Lyons, Colorado. Pete Wernick invited her to be part of a group of young musicians who performed at the 2003 IBMA Awards Ceremony and Fan Fest in Louisville, Kentucky. She performed at the Old Settler's Music Festival in Austin, Texas in 2002 and 2003. Some of Sarah's mandolin heroes include Mike Marshall, Chris Thile, Tim O'Brien, David Grisman, Ricky Skaggs, Ronnie McCoury, and Billy Bright. She gets great joy from participating in a weekly jam in her hometown of Wimberley, Texas (outside of Austin). Although Sarah considers playing mandolin her first love, she has recently begun exploring the fun of playing the acoustic bass. She also studies piano and has been selected for three years as a member of the OAKE (Kodaly) National Children's Choir.

Sarah at 12:  "Summertime" - Mandolin Symposium 2004 (with Jacob Henry Jolliff, Jarrod Walker, Bryce Milano, and Mike Marshall)

Follow Up 2014:  Sarah signed with Sugar Hill Records at age 16, and was nominated for her first grammy at 17. She attended the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, and after graduation, recorded "Build Me Up From Bones", which was nominated for two grammys. Sarah is currently touring Ireland and the United Kingdom.

Sarah Jarosz - "Ring Them Bells" : The Americana Sessions


Q - What got you interested in the mandolin?

Josh Pinkham: Lets see, probably Chris Thile, Mike Marshall, David Grisman, and my Dad.

Sierra Hull: My dad had some insruments laying around the house and it just looked like it would be alot of fun to try and learn to play!

Scott Gates: My Grandfather Marco Manzo plays the mandolin. He plays mostly Old Country Italian music and hits of his era. He is now 82 years old, and still playing mandolin every once in a while. Whenever he takes it out, we say yay! My grandfather encouraged me by having a conversation that started with a question from me asking, "Is it fun playing the mandolin?"

Sarah Jarosz: My family always liked listening to music, and I always liked the sound of the mandolin. A friend of ours at our church happened to have a mandolin. I always wanted to try it out, so she brought it one Sunday and said I could borrow it for awhile. I wound up not wanting to give it back! My parents surprised me that Christmas when I found it lying under our tree. I've moved on from that first mandolin, but it's become very special to me because I now have autographs of some of my favorite musicians on it.

Jacob Henry Jolliff: As part of my homeschooling, I had to start studying some instrument. I didn't have a particular preference, so my dad said, "Why not the mandolin?" He made me practice ten minutes a day. At first I didn't like doing it at all, but after about six months I suddenly went from ten minutes a day to two hours a day. I still don't know why that happened. It just did.


Q - What mandolin do you play?

Josh Pinkham: Right now I play a Kelley F5, it's his 5th mando. But I will be getting my Jim Triggs F5 in about a week, wich I am totally stoked about!

Sierra Hull: I play the Adam Steffey signature series Gibson model mandolin and I love it!

Scott Gates: The very mandolin I played was from "the American Conservatory", whatever that was at the time, and is an old Italian "potato bug" style. This came from one of my dad's co-workers, who had a family member that played years before. Soon after I got a 30 year old Ibanez mandolin that was stored for years in my dad's friend's closet. It was everything I was looking for -- F-style, sunburst, creamy white binding --all about looks....then. Three years later, and about four months ago, I met Michael Lewis, one of the best luthiers in the U.S. (www.michaellewisinstruments.com), at the Strawberry Festival near Yosemite, CA where he was a vendor set up to sell his mandolins and offer his services repairing instruments. I walked in and asked if I could play some of his mandolins and I played a couple of songs on each one, until I reached one that was not only beautiful but had the exact sound I wanted to hear. It was love at first sound. Mr. Lewis and I later met at Plymouth, CA at another festival where we were able to purchase my Lewis 158JR, made to the specs of John Reischman's Lloyd Loar!! It was made impeccably and I can't put it down! [Editor comment: The mandolin is not a John Reischman model, but made to the specifications measured from his mandolin. John is endorsing Michael Hieden.]

Sarah Jarosz: My first mandolin was an A-style Lotus. My second mandolin was an F-style Bitteroot model Weber. I just recently got an MF5 Collings mandolin. I love how it sounds, and I'm proud to say that I saved my money for a long time to be able to pay for it myself. Thank you to Steve McCreary and Collings Guitars.

Jacob Henry Jolliff: I play the second Rigel G5 made. It's a blacktop that I got through Ken Cartwright.


Q - Who has influenced you the most?

Josh Pinkham: Mike Marshall and Chris Thile mostly.

Sierra Hull: Adam Steffey, Chris Thile, Alan Bibey, and many more!

Scott Gates: Who else? Chris Thile! His perfect clarity, his licks, his sound, HIM! Chris Thile is really somebody to look up to. He is easy to relate to. I met with him, as you've probably seen on my web site. He really works well with kids. He remembers how adults treated him and how he liked and/or didn't like it. Of course, my teacher Evan Marshall is a God-given present to me. His mandolin playing makes you feel like Christmas morning! There isn't a better mentor for me. His influence is his remarkable genius (literally!) in music all around and his technique, theory and choice of mandolin and mandolin set up are all a great influence on me. My grandfather, Marco Manzo encourages me all the time to play and practice as much as I can.

Sarah Jarosz: Billy Bright has been a big influence. He's been my mandolin teacher for about two years. He's invited me to play with him at a few of his shows and has taught me a lot about playing and performing. Mike Marshall has also been an influence to me. I met him and took classes from him at the RockyGrass Academy. He has encouraged me to keep on playing. I love how Tim O'Brien sings. He has influenced me as a singer. Mike Bond is the host of a jam in my hometown of Wimberley. He was the first one to invite me to pick and sing with him in a public place. He has been a great friend to me, and I continue to learn new things from him every Friday night.

Jacob Henry Jolliff: Probably David Grisman, Adam Steffey, Ronnie McCoury, and Chris Thile.


Q - What are some of your favorite recordings?

Josh Pinkham: Ohhh so many! Of course all of Chris Thile's recordings are great! And I love Gator Strut from Mike Marshall, and all the Duo cds ( which is Mike Marshall and Darol Anger. ) And all of Tony Rice's stuff! And I love lestening to jazz, Charlie Parker especially.

Sierra Hull: Chris Thile's stuff, Alison Krauss, Adam Steffey, Alan Bibey puts out great albums and more people!

Scott Gates: This one i need to make a list!
Alison Krauss and Union Station "Every Time You Say Goodbye" and "Let Me Touch You for A While" and "Lucky One"
Ron Block, "Faraway Land" and "In Memory of Steve"
Nickel Creek, "This Side", "Cuckoo's Nest", "The Lighthouse", "Ode to a Butterfly" -- oh so many.
Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli, The Quintessential - cd
John Denver "Rocky Mountain Christmas" - cd
John Reischman, "Eighth of February"
Chris Thile, "Slime Rock"
Evan Marshall, "The Lone Arranger" - cd
Don Stiernberg, "When I'm Sixty-Four"
Dave Brubeck, "Take Five" (5/8 timing!)
Marco Manzo, "Old Country" - cd, "Remember?" - cd

Sarah Jarosz: Wow-that's a hard question. I'd have to say that I can't really put one cd in the number one spot. I know I'm going to leave something out. Chris Thile and Mike Marshall's "Into the Cauldron". Chris Thile's cd's. Mike Marshall's cd's. Nickel Creek's cd's. Mark O'Conners "30 year retrospective". Bela Fleck and the Flecktones' "Little Worlds". Tony Rice's "Manzanita". All of the Hot Rize cd's. Tim O'Brien's cd's . The Sam Bush and David Grisman cd "Hold on we're strummin'". All of Dawg's stuff. Ricky Skaggs's cd's. Alison Krauss's cd's. Psychograss. Two High String Band. The compilation "True Life Blues". The Beatles "White Album".

Jacob Henry Jolliff: Grisman's Acoustic Christmas, the original DGQ album, Chris Thile's Not All Who Wander Are Lost, George Winston's Linus and Lucy--the Music of Vince Guaraldi, The Del McCoury Band's Cold, Hard Facts (and all their other albums, Blue Highway's Blue Highway, and lots more.


Q - Who are some of your favorite mandolin players?

Josh Pinkham: Mike Marshall, Chris Thile, David Grisman, and Sam Bush

Sierra Hull: Adam Steffey, Chris Thile, Alan Bibey, Sam Bush, Doyle Lawson, Bill Monroe, Aubrey Haynie and many others!

Scott Gates: Evan Marshall, Chris Thile, Don Stirenberg, Don Julin, Steve Smith, Marco Manzo, Adam Steffey, Bruce Graybill

Sarah Jarosz: Chris Thile, Mike Marshall, David Grisman, Sam Bush, Ronnie McCoury, Ricky Skaggs, Tim O'Brien, and Billy Bright.

Jacob Henry Jolliff: Really about the same as the ones I mentioned above. They're the people whose playing I've spent the most time transcribing and trying to emulate. To that list, though, I'd want to add Mike Marshall and Jethro Burns. They're both such great players.


Q - Do you play any other instruments?

Josh Pinkham: I played Drums for six years before I played the mando.

Sierra Hull: I play the Guitar, fiddle, electric bass some!

Scott Gates: Yes, I have about six years of formal training in classical piano. I also play around a little bit on the bass, fiddle, drums and stuff like that.

Sarah Jarosz: Yes. I play acoustic bass, piano, and guitar. I also consider my voice to be an instrument. I love to sing and harmonize.

Jacob Henry Jolliff: Some piano and a little bit of guitar.


Q - What has been the most exciting mando event for you so far?

Josh Pinkham: Well, it was probably Floyd Fest. I got to play with all of my musical heroes on stage for the Grisman Reunion! It was actually the first time I had met Chris Thile. We were back stage picking, and Grisman walked by and asked us if we would want to do the last 2 encore songs for his show. So we said yes and I taught Chris Dawgs Bull! So yeah it was amazing, I got to play on stage with Mike Marshall, Chris Thile, Darol Anger, Tony Rice, Dave Grisman, and Sarah Watkins! So much fun!

Sierra Hull: Playing for the first time at the Grand Ole Opry!

Scott Gates: CMSA (Classical Mandolin Society of America -(www.mandolincafe.com/cmsa) is very exciting because I have learned a lot there. My favorite part about it is that you look to your right and you see the best mandolin players from Germany, or you look to the left and see some of the best names in jazz mandolin, classical mandolin, bluegrass mandolin. No one, not one, came up to me and said "I like your little guitar!" Last but not least, one of the best parts was the food!!

Sarah Jarosz: That's a really hard question. This past year has just been amazing for me. I've had so many incredible opportunities to pick with mandolin players I admire so much. I've learned so much from all of them and have come away from each experience inspired to get better and keep on picking... classes with Mike Marshall and Ronnie McCoury at RockyGrass... backstage jamming with David Grisman, Ronnie McCoury, Billy Bright, Steve Gilchrist, Tom Rozum, Darol Anger, Pete Wernick, Mike Bub and others... performing on stage at RockyGrass... singing and picking with Sierra and the other kids in the Bluegrass Idols at IBMA... singing and picking with Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder at their Austin show... performing with The David Grisman Quintet at their Austin show. I know I still have so much to learn. I'll keep playing, and I'm hoping my most exciting mando event is yet to come.

Jacob Henry Jolliff: I've been really fortunate to get to play with some wonderful people, but, the most exciting? It would have to be this: I flew down to Carmel, CA, to do a concert with the David Grisman Quintet. It was great to play in the kind of theatre those guys play in. Then I got to spend some time visiting at Grisman's house, doing some recording in his studio, and jamming with him and Sam (his son, who is a really excellent bass player).


Q - Do you have any practice routines that you do?

Josh Pinkham: Well I guess I never start out without stretching before I play. That is super important to me, being loose while I play. And then I just start out with something really simple, even if it's just like a first lesson G scale, mainly just play something easy, slow, to break yourself in. And I try to learn a new fiddle tune every 4 days, and a more advance piece ever month.

Sierra Hull: Fiddle tunes are great for me to work on. Chris's stuff is a good work out! And fiddle tunes most of all in my opinion help me to build a good amount of improvising licks and help increase speed level...

Scott Gates: YES! Scales - thirds, three octave scales, modes, 11different ways to play 12 scales in 12 keys. To warm up I play my favorite songs like "Cuckoo's Nest", by Nickel Creek, and lots of Traditional Irish Jigs, Bluegrass Breakdowns, and Swing Tunes. Also, I try to make up my own licks, put them all together and Viola! you get a new tune.

Sarah Jarosz: One of the first workshops I ever went to was with Tim O'Brien. He said that he thought that you should just leave your mandolin sitting around and ready to play. I totally agree. I leave my mando sitting on the couch so I can easily play it whenever I feel like it (which is a whole lot of the time)! I don't really like to call it practice, I like to call it playing. I like this idea because then it becomes something you "want" to do instead of something you "have" to do.

Jacob Henry Jolliff: At different times I've had different routines of exercises and scales that I would go through everyday, but they change pretty often.


Q - How do you know where to put your fingers?
[Ed: Read Position Shifts]

Josh Pinkham: Cute! Ask Tony Rice, I'm sure he would be able to tell ya. hehehe

Sierra Hull: In learning so many songs it all eventually start to come together and you have to work your way up and it seems more easy every time I pick my mandolin up!

Scott Gates: Muscle memory!

Sarah Jarosz: That's a funny question! It made me laugh. I'm always trying to learn more about the answer to that one.

Jacob Henry Jolliff: I've heard Chris Thile say that the first and second frets are to be covered by the index, the third and fourth by the middle finger, the fifth and sometimes the sixth by the ring finger, and the seventh and sometimes the sixth covered by the pinky. I usually try to follow this rule but depending on the difficulty of what I'm playing, I'll sometimes vary my fingerings. That's just first position, though. Up the neck I have less of a system. I use what feels most natural or what makes most sense, even if it's a little more difficult at first.


Q - Do you read music? If so, did you learn to read on the mandolin, or another instrument?

Josh Pinkham: Yes I do, and I learned on the mando.

Sierra Hull: Well I started in a band class in 5th grade but everything went kinda slow so I decided to quit, but I still remember the few notes we learned that year!

Scott Gates: Yes, I read music in treble clef and in bass, and also in alto and tenor clefs. I don't like tab, but it is useful sometimes. I learned to read standard notation in piano lessons.

Sarah Jarosz: I do read music. I actually learned how to read music first on the piano. My music teacher at my school, Diana Riepe, has taught me a whole lot about music theory. She teaches the Kodaly method, and I have been a student of hers since Kindergarten. Because of the things she taught me, the strings and neck of the mandolin made sense to me pretty quickly in terms of reading music.

Jacob Henry Jolliff: I can read, but I'm not a fast sight-reader. I learned on the piano, and I haven't applied it much to the mandolin yet.


Q - We've been discussing on CoMando playing multiple instruments, and the difficulty switching from one to the other (especially guitar to mandolin, and back to guitar). Do you find it difficult to switch instruments? Does it help your mando playing to play another instrument?

Josh Pinkham: I think that drumming really helped my improv, especially with phrasing notes.

Sierra Hull: Not at all the more you play the instrument the more it seems like it is getting easier and you can transfer mandolin licks on to guitar so it is really not that bad!

Scott Gates: It's hard to switch from piano to mandolin because there is a fifth finger on piano but there's only four fingers in mandolin. It's also hard to switch from mandolin to fiddle because fiddle has the bowing techniques that you need to learn and the placement of the fingers without frets. Piano does help my mandolin playing because of learning heavy college theory with my piano lessons, and applying it to both instruments.

Sarah Jarosz: I don't necessarily think that switching from one instrument to another helps you on one particular instrument, but overall, I think it opens up your mind about music theory in general.

Jacob Henry Jolliff: When I play in shows, I usually don't play anything but the mandolin, so I haven't noticed that difficulty in switching. Guitar strings always feel nice after playing the mandolin because of the the tension, but they're a little harder to play fast on. Playing the guitar hasn't affected my mandolin playing very much, just because most of the things I know on guitar come from my mandolin playing. I think playing the piano has helped me developed my musical taste a little more. It's helped me like more different kinds of music such as classical and jazz.


Q - Most of us on CoMando are affected with MAS (Mandolin Acquisition Syndrome) from time to time. Are there any mandolins that you dream of owning someday?

Josh Pinkham: I don't really have a title on a mando that I want, as long as it sounds good, thats all that matters, and so far, I have not heard my ideal mando out there yet.

Sierra Hull: I someday would love to have a Loar mandolin, one of the old Gibson models, or maybe a Gilchrist.

Scott Gates: I've already fulfilled that dream with my Michael Lewis JR mandolin, but I'd also like to own a Steve Gilchrist mandolin (www.carmelmusic.com/gilchrist) someday when I'm ready to make extreme specifications.

Sarah Jarosz: Well, it would be nice to own a Gibson Lloyd Loar! Also, I'd have to say that a Dudenbostel would be pretty nice. At this point, I'd love to just have the chance to play an instrument like one of those. There are also some luthiers out there that I have never heard of that might be making great instruments, too. I really love my new Collings mando.

Jacob Henry Jolliff: No, not really. I've played lots of wonderful mandolins--including some Loars--but the tone my Rigel has and the way it plays fit my style really well. For several years, Ken Cartwright let me play all the great mandolins that passed through his shop, and that was really good experience. Before I got the G5, I played a Weber Big Sky for five years, and it was hard for me to find mandolins that I would actually prefer playing over it. It worked well for me, and it had a nice, dark tone that I love--it was just an all-around great mandolin. But the Rigel has great playability, even with a higher action, and is really responsive.


Q - How do you learn new tunes? Do you transcribe from a recording, learn by ear, learn from another player?

Josh Pinkham: I like to learn my reading, if I can get a copy of the piece in standard notation.

Sierra Hull: All of those things; if I hear a record and it has a great lick I might try to learn it or if one of my pickin' buddies has a cool lick I can always ask them!

Scott Gates: All of the above, but you missed standard notation!

Sarah Jarosz: I learn new tunes by ear, by reading music, and from other players. If I want to learn a song loosely and improvise on it, then I'll probably learn it by ear. If I want to learn a song note for note, it makes it easier to have the sheet music. I like learning by ear, but I enjoy exercising my reading skills, too!

Jacob Henry Jolliff: I have a machine that allows me to slow CDs down to half speed that I've used to transcribe a lot of solos and tunes. David Grisman has taught me some of his tunes, and so has Chris Thile.


Q - I don't mean to be presumptuous, but I would think that some of you have small hands. Do you find it difficult to make some chords, and how do you compensate for a difficult stretch?

Josh Pinkham: I don't think I have small hands, I'm not sure. Mike Marshall said I have long skinny pointy fingers, like Chris. Yes pointy I know, weird. But great for the mando!

Sierra Hull: I have to say that I am kinda small and have small fingers so it does make it hard at times. Right now I am working on guitar, the Tony Rice version of "Georgia On My Mind" and it has some unbelievable stretches which is pretty hard to do!

Scott Gates: The full G chord is hard to make because I have to stretch all the way from the e-string G, b-string A, d-string G, and g-string D. You are not being presumptuous at all however, I was born with long fingers! I also practise keeping my fourth (pinky) finger up near the third (ring) finger so that it's available when I need it.

Jacob Henry Jolliff: When I was eight, I had trouble getting a full G chop chord, so I played an open G and damped it with the flesh of my right hand to get the chop sound. I've never really noticed having difficulty with stretches, and any that seemed hard at first came with practice.


Q - Do you improvise at all? If so, how do you go about it? Do you hear the melody and just play it, or improvise off a scale?

Josh Pinkham: Well, so many players improv off of a scale, especially pentatonic, scales. But I try to hear a melody, and play it. I think that pentatonics can really limit you in improv.

Sierra Hull: Again, Fiddle tunes really have helped me just learning licks and trying new stuff. Just go by it the way you hear it!

Scott Gates: I hear the melody and try to play it, and I improvise off all 18 scales, plus modes.

Sarah Jarosz: I improvise quite a bit. I think that the more you play, the easier it gets. You become more familiar with the notes and the neck. I participate in a weekly jam in my hometown. Sitting in the circle and being thrown a chance to go for it has taught me so much about improvising. The thing is... you can't be afraid to take chances. Sometimes what I come up with doesn't work at all and sometimes it's awesome. The fun is in just trying. I also learn from both the times I've been wrong and the times I've been right.

Jacob Henry Jolliff: I seldom improvise from just a major scale. A lot of what I do comes from licks and solos that I've transcribed, and I've worked out a lot of solos for myself; so when I improvise, the licks and patterns are already in my fingers and I don't think about them much. So I can concentrate on the whole solo--I can sort of hear in my head what might sound good there. It's really hard for me to explain how I improvise. When I was little, I learned scales in all the keys, major scales and others, and different patterns like hemiolas and arpeggios, which have helped a lot.


Q - Josh, are you related to Jerry Thompson, the great tenor guitarist and son of fiddle legend Benny Thompson? Has he spent time playing music with you? Has he helped you improve?

Josh Pinkham: Yes, he comes down all the time to pick! I love playing with Jerry, he is just amazing, he can move chords like no one else!


Q - Sierra has a list of some great goals on her Web site. What are 3 to 5 goals you have for the next 10 years?

Josh Pinkham: Mainly, Just improve my self as much as possible for the better, especially my mando playing.

Sierra Hull: I want to as well as the rest of mine, want to join the Grand Ole Opry, and recently I am going to work on an album with Rounder Record and Alison Krauss, my hero, is going to produce it, which was one of my goals listed on my website... I am excited HAHA! And I would love to be the first female to ever win Mandolin Player of the Year!!!! (if there hasn't been one already! HAHA!)

Scott Gates: I have seen Sierra's website and her goals (which are great) and have a few goals for my self!
1. To be a VERY good mandolin player
2. To be known as a good mandolin player
3. Having a band named Shadow Hills (already Shadow Hills (already fulfilled)
4. To have a kind (not cranky all the time) soundman. haha
5. And last but not least, to write 5 of my own caprices. (and my own pieces and more CD's)

Sarah Jarosz: I think my main goal is to keep learning as much as I can and to be a true musician.

Jacob Henry Jolliff: 1--Mainly I've done bluegrass, so I want to explore other kinds of mandolin playing.
2--I want to go to college and study music.
3--I might like to do music professionally for a while, and see if it's what I want to do for a career.


Q - Sierra, you had Adam Steffey's parts note for note in "Every Time you Say Goodbye" and "Cluck Old Hen" on the All Star Bluegrass Celebration. Did you learn from the record, from Adam?

Sierra Hull: I got a chance to set down and pick some with Adam and I learned some from him and then mostly listening to the CD.


Q - What about your right hand positioning? do you plant or brace? how do you like your action set on your mando? what pick, strings, etc...?

Josh Pinkham: I rest the bottom of my hand just behind the strings on the bridge very lightly. And I have my action very low, almost to the point of buzzing. And I use Elixer strings, and Pro-Plec picks, or Clayton 1.28 rounded triangle picks.

Sierra Hull: I mostly brace, but I occasionally play close handed as well. I don't like a real high action I like mine set low but not were it slides of the edge a lot! HAHA! I have an endorsement with GHS strings I like the silk and steel medium gauge. I like the tone, they last longer and they feel good as well. I use a 1.14 size pick. I don't like a thin pick! They work great for me.

Scott Gates: My right hand positioning is a plant with my pinky finger and ring finger lightly held together and my middle finger is loose and dangling in the air, but I lift them when I need to. I don't really think about it when I'm playing, it just comes natural from what I've learned from Evan Marshall. Action is pretty low compared to most, but not low enough to make it sound tinny. I use .80mm Clayton USA picks, medium size. My strings are light gauge, Elixer. I like them because they slide easy and they are easy to press your fingers down and get good tone. They work very well in Classical (which they are sort of made for) but they work good in bluegrass, jazz, swing -- anything that you're doing. Evan Marshall taught me this: If you take an ordinary stethoscope, pull off the end, stick the tube into the mandolin and put the listening device in your ears you get a home made microphone to yourself. It's really useful if you are in a loud place. You can step into a corner and tune there.

Sarah Jarosz: I rest the side of my right hand on the bridge, but not too hard. I don't plant my fingers. I think that when you plant your fingers it can hold you back. My action isn't extremely low, but it's not too high, either. I use a golden gate pick. It's pretty thick, and it has rounded sides. I just recently changed to D'addario J74 strings when I got my new MF5 Collings mando. I really like how they play.

Jacob Henry Jolliff: I rest the flesh of my hand on the bridge, but I don't plant it. The hand moves, but it touches. I don't plant fingers, either. I tuck in my fingers a little, and I keep my wrist very loose. My action is not terribly low. The radiused fingerboard on the Rigel helps make the mandolin play easily even without terribly low action. For a pick, I use a Clayton 120, the big triangle. And for strings, I use the heaviest D'Addarios, J75s.


Q - Hi Sierra, I really admired your poise during the Bluegrass Allstars program that PBS broadcast. I remember playing mandolin in front of a crowd when I was about 10. I think I would have died if I had played in front of an audience that big. How do you think about being in front of a huge crowd (not to mention a national television audience)? You were quite wonderful -- how do you stay so calm? What do you think about?

Josh Pinkham: I focus on the players I'm on stage with, I don't pay attention to much to the crowd, I think I look at it like, if they like it great! If they don't, I don't really care I'm having a great time playing!

Sierra Hull: Thank you very much, I appreciate that. I think for me it is easier in front of a big crowd rather than a small, because... you don't have one person picked out to look at I guess! I just try to get up there and do the best I can and not worry about the people looking at me.

Scott Gates: It's pretty easy to stay calm in front of a crowd that understands stage fright, but if you're in front of a crowd that never really listens to music, they just talk and don't pay attention, they sort of think of you as background noise, it's kind of sad. Ha ha! I enjoy performing on stage. I'm thinking where my mandolin is held up to the microphone, if I'm standing in the right place, where my hand is, if it's positioned right and everything. When I'm actually playing I start to get into the music and totally forget about the crowd sometimes. When the crowd gets excited at a run or lick that I did, I laugh because it's nice to know that the crowd is enjoying me. It's nice to be enjoyed.

Sarah Jarosz: I love to perform. When I step out on the stage, no matter how big or small, I get so much joy from just being out there. I also love to interact with the audience. I think the audience will enjoy me more if they can tell I care about the music and them. The excitement of being on stage makes the best come out of me.

Jacob Henry Jolliff: I've never really gotten nervous except when my hands are cold. I concentrate hard on what's going on on stage, on what the other instruments are doing.


Q - Scott, can you tell us anything about the CD you will be recording. Will you be including your jazz solo for Turkey in the Straw?

Scott Gates: Yes, lots! I will be having Evan Marshall on the CD, Eric Uglum will be playing and recording the CD, John Marshall, my Uncle Scott, (who toured with some pretty hot bands during his time), and yes, I will be having the Turkey in the Straw solo on the CD. (how did you know about that :-) solo?) The band I'm in is Shadow Hills, consisting of 2 fiddles, one mando, guitar, bass, and vocals, is a band with the highest age level of 17. I am making a CD with them and we already cut our first demo.


Q - Jacob Henry, it is so great that you perform with your father. Do you teach each other tunes?

Jacob Henry Jolliff: My dad writes quite a few new songs and instrumentals, and of course he teaches those to me. Often I will work on the music with him. Also I teach him guitar parts for the instrumentals I write. When I was younger--like eight or nine--Dad also taught me lots of fiddle tunes and sometimes wrote them out in tablature.


Q - Sarah, can you tell us about your band Spurs of the Moment? How do you go about choosing tunes? Do you do some of the arrangements?

Sarah Jarosz: That band doesn't exist anymore. I am currently performing in a band called Sarah Jarosz and BlueEyedGrass. BlueEyedGrass includes my mother, Mary, and other friends from a weekly jam in my hometown of Wimberley. We pick together just about every Friday night. We've become pretty familiar with the way each of us likes to play and sing, so we don't really focus on arrangements too much. We usually decide together how we're going to begin and end a song, then we play through it and make suggestions to each other. We choose songs to perform that we like to sing and play together. The band members are so kind to feature me on most of the vocals and instrumentals, but we like to give each member a chance to shine on at least one tune in a set. They're all really talented musicians, and I'm so fortunate to be surrounded by such good pickers and friends... they motivate and inspire me. We all just really like picking and singing together! Since I'm so young, I think it's important to be able to play in all different kinds of situations. That's why this past year has been so neat. I've learned so much and have had a blast playing with lots of folks. I like the freedom of knowing that the future is wide open.


Q - Do any of you have perfect pitch?

Sierra Hull: I just play where I feel comfortable and the tone sounds right to me. But after a while I seem to keep going back to a certain spot.

Scott Gates: I don't really have perfect pitch, but I am always ear training.

Sarah Jarosz: I'm not really sure. I've always heard a story in my family about my great grandfather who was a highly sought after piano tuner. My family tells me that he had perfect pitch. It might be in my genes, or maybe it's in my shoes! HaHa


Q - What advice do you have for a beginner? It can get very frustrating trying to learn new tunes, especially getting up to speed.

Josh Pinkham: I think just practice, speed and clarity comes with time, and the more tunes you learn, the quicker you get at learning them.

Sierra Hull: I think that you just have to practice, practice, and practice. The main thing I think is to try and get a clean sound, practice slowly and then gradually just work it on up.

Scott Gates: Isolate problem spots, segment them, and practice them until they're good 4 times in a row, then go on. Speed isn't always everything. Just because one is fast doesn't mean one is that good. You can get good tone, clarity, and control if you play it slow at first. Then after everything is perfect, try getting it faster until you have it where you want it.
"Speed is a byproduct of control, but control is not a byproduct of speed"- Evan Marshall

Sarah Jarosz: I think as a beginner, you need to make it fun. If there's a jam near your town, that's a great place to start. Don't feel like you have to sit in the center of the circle the very first time. Just try to hear what other people are doing and try to pick along with each song.

Jacob Henry Jolliff: Keep a loose wrist, and don't try playing tunes fast before you can play them clean. Again, keep the tension out of the wrist. At first, it's easier to play clean with a tight wrist, but don't do it. If you keep your wrist loose, your playing will clean up in time.


Q - Scott talked about Evan Marshall using a stethoscope as a home made microphone. Radim Zenkl cuts the fingers off a left hand rubber glove and uses it to practice. Do you have any other unusal ideas for playing the mandolin?

Scott Gates: If you want to be quiet if you are backstage or something, you can weave a soft cloth or sock through the strings between the bridge and the fretboard and still practise with full force. I know this isn't the answer you were looking for, but it made me think of something very fun -- "dobro mandolin" -- take a pencil or a pen and use it like a dobro slide and lay the mandolin down flat on your lap. Seems to work best on the G string...


Q - We cover lots of topics on Comando, and one that many struggle with is getting a good tremolo. How do you rate yours, and what advice do you have for improving?

Josh Pinkham: Tremolo was kinda challenging for me, I had a really hard time with not making it sound like I was unloading an AK47 on my strings, it sounded to spazzy, but its getting better, I would say just stay really losse and really mellow when you are doing it. Grisman is the king of tremolo, I would listen to him alot.

Sierra Hull: I think that termolos are very important. I have had several chances to sit down with Chris Thile and pick. He is a really great guy and he taught me alot about tremolos. Here was what he told me. He said when you are playing a tremolo, most of us just want to cut the note short and not let it ring we mostly bounce the note. But all you really have to do is think about a person singing a song softly and think about how they let it ring. I think the main thing is to feel what you are playing!

Scott Gates: As I said earlier about how I practise with scales and 11 different ways to do 12 of them -- I practise in unmeasured tremolo and measured tremolo and listen to Evan Marshall's and Chris Thile's tremolo.

Sarah Jarosz: I really enjoy using the tremelo and I 'm always working on my skill. I first started working on my tremelo with a metronome, but now it is something that I feel more than think about. I think the tremelo is unique to the mandolin and it is something I try to use in my playing.

Jacob Henry Jolliff: I wouldn't say I have a particularly good tremolo--certainly nothing like Grisman's. I work on it by slowing it down, practicing regular triplets, then speeding up.


Q - If you could do a one night concert with your dream band, who would play:

Josh Pinkham:
Guitar: Tony Rice
Fiddle: Darol Anger
Bass: Edgar Meyer
Banjo: Bela Fleck
Dobro: Jerry Douglas
2nd mandolin: Mike Marshall
Other: Chris Thile

Sierra Hull:
Guitar: Tony Rice - He is an awesome guitar player!
Fiddle: Alison Krauss (O yeah!!) me hero, I love that girl to death!
Bass: Barry Bales - Of course!!
Banjo: Ron Block - He ROCKS! I loove his syle and he is just a really great guy to be around!
Dobro: JERRY!!! (Douglas) - I know you all love him!!
2nd mandolin?: That is a hard question I have so many heros that I look up to, it would just be hard to pick one! HAHA!!

Scott Gates:
Guitar: Eric Uglum
Fiddle: Stuart Duncan
Bass: John Marshall
Banjo: Ron Block
Dobro: Jerry Douglas
2nd mandolin: Evan Marshall and Chris Thile and Josh Pinkham (I'd like to pick with him)
Other: Alison Krauss - vocals, Bruce Hornsby - bluegrass piano

Sarah Jarosz:
Guitar: Bryan Sutton and Tony Rice
Fiddle: Darol Anger
Bass: Edgar Meyer
Banjo: Bela Fleck
Dobro: Jerry Douglas
2nd mandolin: Mike Marshall, Chris Thile, David Grisman
Other: percussion: Joe Craven, harmony vocals: Tim O'Brien and Ricky Skaggs
Lead vocals and mandolin: Sarah Jarosz

Jacob Henry Jolliff: Oh that's tough!! There are so many great players I'd love to play with. Here's one dream band, but I know I could come up with others.

Guitar: Tony Rice
Fiddle: Stuart Duncan
Bass: Jim Kerwin
Banjo: Bela Fleck
Dobro: Rob Ickes
2nd mandolin: David Grisman
Other: I'd bring Joe Craven--he's great, and really fun to play with.


Q - Are there any teaching material (books, tapes, video) that you recommend for beginners?

Josh Pinkham: The Chris Thile techinque dvd or video from Home Spun is great!

Sierra Hull: I enjoyed this one that really helped me is the Butch Baldassari - "Thirty Fiddle Tunes For The Mandolin" it has some good mandolin workouts on it and fun stuff to play!! All of Sam Bushes stuff I have is Cool.

Scott Gates: Chris Thile's Homespun tape is good for beginners -- he plays one of his best caprices on it. I listened to Sam Bush's audio tapes, Bill Monroe, there's some pretty decent stuff out there.

Sarah Jarosz: There's a really great Homespun Tape taught by Chris Thile. He teaches "Ode to a Butterfly", and he also has some great tips.

Jacob Henry Jolliff: Chris Thile's video is really good. He has great exercises and he talks about technique on both hands and good habits to get into. Grisman's book with six CDs is really good, though it's not really for beginners.


Q - We have over 2300 transcribed tunes for download on the Co-Mando.com site in TablEDit format (you need the free TablEdit Viewer to play the files, available for both PC and Mac). Have you downloaded any of these to learn?

Josh Pinkham: I've learned many songs from Co-Mando and have reccomended it to a lot of people.

Sierra Hull: I have gotton tab off of there before! Thanks I really apreciate that. I hope to visit there again really soon!

Scott Gates: I'm actually downloading right now. Thanks for the tip!

Sarah Jarosz: I did download one sheet. It was Tim O'Brien's arpeggios. I havn't downloaded anything else, but I'm sure I will in the future.

Jacob Henry Jolliff: I don't have the internet at home (I'm answering these questions from my dad's office), but I've downloaded a couple at my Grandpa's house. "For Vic" is one that I learned from the site.


Q - In regard to your strokes, do you play up-down-up-down? Or, when crossing strings, do you play down on the first note of a new string?

Josh Pinkham: The rule is down up down up. Down on the down beat up on the up. Alot of people have problems with cross picking and staying with this rule. But its allways up down unless you are doing some odd timing type somgs.

Sierra Hull: Yes I just up-down-up... I think by doing this it is much easier to gain speed instead of just doing like down-down-...

About crossing to another string... I will do the best I can in explaining that... when I am playing a note that is a down stroke, the next note I play will be a up stroke. If I am playing a up stroke, the next note I will play will be a down. I think is just depends on what you are playing. I hope you understand this because it may be a little confusing! HAHA!!!

Scott Gates: Down-up-down-up or whatever is right. It just kind of comes naturally.

Sarah Jarosz: When I play, I play up-down-up-down. But, I don't really think about pick direction because it is something I have a feel for.

Jacob Henry Jolliff: I do up-down-up-down steadily, though with pull-offs or hammers I resume on a different stroke, the next logical stroke. So no, I don't make my first note on a string a down stroke.


Q - How do you approach playing up the neck?

Josh Pinkham: Most importantly you need to know how to get there. Make use of the A string when wanting to get up high on the E.

Sierra Hull: That's a good but hard question!! I think when I am about to play a break up the neck, I might think of a song that is played there that I am familiar with or maybe thinking of a scale that is played there. I just try to play the melody as much as possible, and throw in some Hot Licks!! Don't forget just to make your playing tasteful!

Scott Gates: I lightly let go of the fretboard with my hand still curved around it and come up to the high notes, play them and do the same thing (lightly let go of the fretboard) and bring my hand back down. Another way is if I'm going up in a song, I shift positions. Sometimes my fingers step out of a position into disposition. Wow, that was a really hard question!

Sarah Jarosz: I really love the sounds of the notes up the neck. It takes a little more work to make the notes sound clean. At this point, my fingers just follow where the music leads them.

Jacob Henry Jolliff: I've worked a lot on my scales, so that helps. Plus, there are positions that I use a lot down the neck, and I choose ones that feel right up the neck. That's really hard to explain.


Q - Do you practice with a metronome? What speed do you set it at for practice? Has this helped you?

Sierra Hull: I did when I was first playing. It is really important to stay in time and all of that. I know Ron Block has a metronome that has head phones with it and he will just set it to a good speed to warm up with and jam with it! HAHA! I know that when people are just playing out jamming and stuff like that the timing has a tendency to flow back and forth. So this helps him to practice keeping good time.

Scott Gates: Yes, I practice with a metronome. I don't like it but I need to use it and it does work, but what you can do it turn on the metronome to the speed you need, beat your feet to the same tempo, turn off the metronome while your feet are still keeping time, and play to your feet in time. Ha ha!

Sarah Jarosz: I practice with the metronome every now and then. I normally set it on a pretty slow speed to start of with and then I speed it up gradually.

Jacob Henry Jolliff: Yes, I practice quite a bit with a metronome when I'm working certain techniques up to speed. I start slow and work up as long as it sounds clean, finally working up to the point where it starts to get sloppy or I can't quite play it. But the next day, maybe I'll be able to get a little faster.


Q - How much do you use your pinky? Is this difficult for you?

Josh Pinkham: I use my pinky all the time, I started out using songs with alot of pinky, so I wouldent have to deal with it later on.

Sierra Hull: ALL THE TIME!! Since I have small hands anyway, I really have to use it alot! When I first started playing I had to learn to use it all the time because my third finger wouldn't strech that far. But now that I am 12 (I know it says I am 11) HAHA! I have realized how much it has helped me to have a strong pinky to play hard to reach tunes!

Scott Gates: I use my pinky a LOT and no it is not difficult at all because I always keep my pinky finger up near my ring finger so that it is always available to be used. Anybody who doesn't use their pinky should use it. I practise scales open going up, and closed going down to keep my pinky strong. Why, you might ask? It's harder to put the pinky down going down the scale than it is going up the scale.

Sarah Jarosz: I'm using my pinky more as I learn new songs that require me to use it. It is kind of hard for me now, but it's getting easier the more I play.

Jacob Henry Jolliff: I use my pinky all the time, though it isn't quite as strong as the others. Playing scales in closed positions really helps the pinky get stronger, and that's what I'm shooting for.


Q - What do you think is the best mandolin you have heard? If you win the lottery (or sell a million CDs) what mandolin would you buy for yourself?

Josh Pinkham: There is not one for me. I own my ideal mando for right now.

Sierra Hull: Well I really have had the honor to play an Adam Steffey Gibson Signiture series mandolin that Danny Roberts of Gibson built and gave to me. I really love it and was really excited to get it! I love the sound and it has a great tone! Thanks Gibson U.S.A. and Danny!!! HAHA! I had the chance to play Alan Bibey's Loar! I couldn't beleve it when he handed it to me and said, "You want to try it!" It sounded great!! It has such a great chop and a great action on it! I would love to have one of those someday!

Scott Gates: My Michael Lewis is everything that I'd ever want, except I'd also like to have a Steven Gilchrist mandolin made for me sometime.

Sarah Jarosz: I really think Chris Thile's Dudenbostel has a really great sound because he can get beautiful clean notes, but still get a driving bluegrass sound if he wants to. I'm not really sure what mandolin I would buy for myself in the future. I still think there are a lot of great luthiers out there who maybe I havn't heard of that are making fantastic mandos. But I really love my new Collings MF5 mando!

Jacob Henry Jolliff: I guess you mean sound, not playability. Often it's the player playing it that makes the great sound--the way the player attacks the strings, how he frets, the thickness and size of the pick. Also, how the mandolin is set up makes a big difference. So if we're talking about "mandolin sound," I'd say David Grisman gets great tone on his Loar, but he gets great tone on any instrument. Adam Steffey gets great tone, too. Their tone doesn't sound anything alike--they have two great, very different tones. John Moore gets a great tone on his Kentucky, and his tone is completely different from David's or Adam Steffey's.

If I won the lottery, I'd keep my Rigel G5--I haven't played another mandolin that fits my playing better. I WOULD love to have a good mandola or mandocello, though.


Q - Do any of you play a regular venue or have places you get to perform at often? If so, where?

Sierra Hull: Well there is a place where I can pick with some friends of mine we we are not doing a show. It is a place in Jamestown, Tn. called PineHaven. It is a lot of fun! It is on a Friday night and we always have fun!! Church is always a great place to go and play and sing, my dad, brother and I play and sing a lot there!! Which is always fun! And just going to some of the same festivals every year!

Scott Gates: I play a lot at Disney's California Adventure with the BarnCats, a bluegrass band that plays at the section of the amusement park named "Bountiful Farms", but that's not currently a formal thing. I play at the High Desert Center of the Arts, and have done several other performances at various places and house concerts.

Sarah Jarosz: I don't have a regular venue where I play an actual gig. But, there is a great jam every Friday night in my hometown of Wimberley (TX) at a restaurant called Charlies. Even though it isn't a gig, I always look forward to going there to pick and sing every week.

Jacob Henry Jolliff: We play about fifty or sixty dates a year, but they really vary. We play coffee houses, churches, festivals, concerts, camps, retreats, and sometimes local rest homes, too.


Q - I would bet that you would all love to get together and swap tricks and tunes, have any of you met or communicated with each other?

Josh Pinkham: I have not had the chance too. I would love to though!

Sierra Hull: I have met Sarah before we were on the award show at the IBMA and then we played that weekend on the "All Star Kids" show, but I would definately love to meet the other ones. And I talked to Scott in a E-mail before! HAHA!

Scott Gates: I communicate mostly with Josh Pinkham, then "second in line" with Sierra Hull, both by email, and my father has spoken to Jacob Henry on the phone. I'd love to get all five of us together. The problem is, we'd probably have to go to the middle of the country because everyone lives all over America.

Sarah Jarosz: I met Sierra at the 2003 IBMA in Louisville, Kentucky. Pete Wernick invited us to perform with a few other kids from around the country at the awards ceremony and Fan Fest. We were called the Young American Bluegrass Idols . I had a blast! I hope that one day (soon) I get to meet and jam with the other kids on the roundtable. It's been really fun reading their answers and learning from them.

Jacob Henry Jolliff: I haven't met any of the kids on this roundtable, though I'd heard about Josh through David Grisman. I'd really like to meet them, though.


Q - Do you have a "signature tune" you play, something you consider to be your theme or a tune you are kind of known for? If so, what is the tune?

Sierra Hull: Not really I play diffrent tunes most of the time!

Scott Gates: My "signature tune" is called 1812 Fantasy, a condensed arrangement of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture by Evan Marshall. That with my jazz arrangement of Turkey in the Straw I have put together as a medley for contests and performances. I either do that or put in my arrangement of Hamilton County Breakdown.

Sarah Jarosz: I do have one tune that I play a lot, but I don't consider it to be a "theme" tune. It's Roanoke. I think it's a really fun song to play. Although I like that song, I don't want to narrow anything down. I really enjoy playing every song I learn.

Jacob Henry Jolliff: I wrote a tune called "Brandtsville Train" when I was ten that we play at most of our shows and that we recorded on our Good Neighbors CD. It's not my favorite tune I've written, but it's one we play a lot and that people like.


Q - How many of you attend regular school and how many of you are home schooled? With the music in your lives, I would imagine that it requires creative school scheduling to keep lessons and gigs going.

Josh Pinkham: Well all the gigs are usually at night, unless you are doing a weekend festival, so I don't really have a problem with schooling.

Sierra Hull: I go to a public school and I love hanging out with my friends and I don't really think I would want to be Home Schooled. HAHA! Although it might be pretty fun! It is hard, but my school is pretty good to let me out without a problem when I need to go play a show or go out of town for a few days!

Scott Gates: I'm home schooled and it does require nutty scheduling to keep lessons and gigs going. We travel 1 1/2 - 2 hours one way for weekly mandolin lessons. Lessons usually last about 2 hours or more, then we have the drive back home. Those days are usually a wash for schooling.

Sarah Jarosz: I am in 7th grade at St. Stephen's Episcopal School in Wimberley, TX. I have to wake up pretty early, but I like to practice in the morning before I go to school, and in the afternoon when I get home. One of the things I've learned at my school is time management. I don't have too much trouble trying to work lessons and gigs around school.

Jacob Henry Jolliff: I'm homeschooled, so there's not a certain time of the day I have to do my work. If we play a gig in the morning, I just do my school later in the day. Or if we have to leave on Thursday to play for the weekend, I can either cut something out or do extra before or after I go. Since I'm not in school, too, I have more time to practice.


Q - What types of music do you find the most challenging to learn, and why?

Josh Pinkham: Bebop jazz. Most of them are in terrible mando keys!

Sierra Hull: Sometimes Chris Thile's stuff is hard to learn by ear. And I think The Classical sounding stuff is sometimes hard, it has a lot of finger work. Because unlike bluegrass you can't really improvise much on it because then it wouldn't sound right! HAHA!

Scott Gates: That's a really hard question. I'd have to go with Classical. Right now I'm working on a three movement Vivaldi. In Classical music, the reason it's hard is because there's 10 times more dynamics than in any other kind of music. The least hardest is fingering (to me) in Classical because my pinky finger is strong. (Playing Nintendo helps exercise my pinky too!! lol)

Jacob Henry Jolliff: I've mainly played bluegrass. Right now, the most challenging music for me is Chris Thile's, because much of it is more harmonically complex and physically difficult.


Q - For those of you that have raduised fret-boards, what advantages do you find in having it that way. For those of you that don't, why have you chosen to keep them non-raduised?

Josh Pinkham: Well I found my mando on mandolincafe.com for sale and allready made, and I saw that the guy selling it was gonna be at merlefest, so I met with him at merle, played the mando and fell in love with it for the sound, but it dose not have a radius, but if it were up to me when it was being built I would have had him put a radius on. But I think that the radius is helpful in a lot of areas, like barring chords are easier, and stuff like that.

Sierra Hull: I have a mandoin that is radiused and one that isn't. I love them both but I really love the steffey!

Scott Gates: My Michael Lewis mandolin has a radiused fret board, but my Ibanez doesn't. Lime Rock is easier on the Ibanez because of the non-radiused fret board. Same thing with Devil's Dream. I prefer the radiused. It's pretty rare I see one. That's not the reason I prefer it though.

Sarah Jarosz: At this point, I really don't have enough experience to answer that question.

Jacob Henry Jolliff: I think it makes the mandolin play easier--it feels more comfortable. And even with higher action, the G5 plays more easily than my old, flat-fingerboard mandolin with a lower action. That helps my tone.


Q - I imagine that all of you can pretty much always play at the same level any given day...not having a terrible day, and then a really super awesome day the next day. Has it always been this way, and if not, how did you manage to overcome it?

Josh Pinkham: Well, I never really have bad days physicly, but I deffinately get like a creative block so to speak, like with improvosing, there will be days I can come up with new things while im playing, and then other days, be improving so bad I cant even hear what Im gonna do, but yeah you deffinatley get blocks, and the best thing for me to do is just play through them.

Sierra Hull: Yes I think when I first started learning I might have a little bit of a hard time trying to learn something, but the more I learn it still comes easier to continue to going to different levels.

Scott Gates: I have good mandolin days and bad mandolin days. I overcome the bad days by fixing my eyes on piano for a while, ha ha! Or fiddle. Stay on it long enough to take your mind off the bad mandolin day, then go back to it and it will be much better. That's only my opinion.

Sarah Jarosz: Some days are better than others. But on the super awesome days, I'm really in tune with my fingers and my soul.

Jacob Henry Jolliff: Some days I do feel like I'm playing better than others, and some days I feel like the tone of the mandolin just sounds better. Some days my tone sounds just like I'd like it to, and other days it doesn't sound right at all. Also, I think your hands won't feel right if you don't play for a couple days. My hands always feel better, too, if I get a chance to warm up and play a few songs before a gig--I like to play at least a solid half hour before we perform.


Q - How much do you practice?

Josh Pinkham: 6-8 hours a day most of the time, but thats not solid practicing, that's broken up through the day.

Sierra Hull: I go to school it makes it hard sometimes! I have to get homework done to keep an A average because I think that is important, plus I have work I have to do around the house. But all in all I like to get at least 1 hour or more of practice in. Like today I have got a lot of practice in! HAHA!. (since it snowed here and I was out!) O yeah!!!

Scott Gates: I practice a lot every day, even if it's just watching music videos and playing along with them.

Sarah Jarosz: Well, I normally practice everyday in the morning, and also at sometime during the evening. When I play in the morning my parents unfortunately have to tell me to stop to get ready for school. It's always so hard to stop. I don't know how long I practice. I don't have a set time I do everyday. It varies, but I play everyday.

Jacob Henry Jolliff: About three hours or so a day between the mandolin and the piano, and how it's divided betweeen the two varies. It would be more than that if I'm transcribing.


Q - Who have you taken lessons from? Does your instructor teach with notation? Tab? What kind of assignments do you get, if any. What are you working on right now?

Josh Pinkham: Well my dad started out teaching me, but my main teacher now is Mike Marshall, and he teaches with notation, and mainly he is working on theory right now. and right now im working on all of Partita 2 Bach, great pieces!

Sierra Hull: When I first started I took lessons for about 6 months every now and then from a man named Carl Berggren that used to live in the next county. He didn't really give lessons to anyone but me and I think he did a good job, he was a good teacher and a good mandolin player. He mainly taught me mandolin tunes,but before that my dad taught me everything he knew and that really helped me to pick up quick on the tunes Carl taught me.

Scott Gates: I take lessons from Evan Marshall, master mandolinist of San Gabriel, CA!! Now that the intro is done, (ha ha) Evan teaches with notation, but also utilizes Tab for those that only read it. Assignments: Daily scales routine; bluegrass, classical and jazz/swing repertoire; classical assignment is currently Vivaldi's Concerto in C Major, all three movements. I also spend a lot of time practicing piano studying Hanon Virtuoso scales and exercises, Bach, a technique repertoire book, hymns and seasonal tunes.

Sarah Jarosz: My mando teacher is Billy Bright. He usually teaches me things that I learn by ear. Billy really makes learning fun. I'll normally learn one song a lesson, and then I'll work on it till the next one. Our lessons aren't regular because he is out of town a lot with his band "Two High String Band" (check 'em out!). He always makes time for lessons with me when he's in town. Right now, we're working on learning the first track of Sam Bush and David Grisman's cd "Hold on We're Strummin'" - "Hartford's Reel". Some of my friends at the jam in my town have given me some sheet music to some pretty common fiddle tunes. I've really gotten some use out of those. My friends at the jam are always introducing new music to me, and I learn from listening to them every Friday night. I listen to a whole lot of music, and some of the stuff I've learned (instrumentals and vocals) I have learned on my own, both by reading and by ear.

Jacob Henry Jolliff: My dad taught me for the first couple years. He taught me a lot of fiddle tunes and different patterns--scales and hemiolas and arpeggios. He wrote them out in tab. Right now, I'm working on some of the songs on Chris Thile's new album, and I'm trying to work them up to speed. I can learn them, but not to a satisfying level--when I play them they don't sound like he does. I'm also practicing scales way up the neck, like in sixth position, trying to use the upper frets with good tone.


Q - First let me say that I am thoroughly impressed with your erudition in regards to the mandolin. It is clear from all your posts that you not only know how to play but that you have all thought about and understand how and why you play as you do. Even more impressive though is your ability to express this verbally. There are folks out there multiples of your age, teaching seminars even, that do not do as good a job of expressing their knowledge as you folks have done here. Kudos to you all!

Do you compose? - If so, do you have a preference for just music or both music and words? - What is the "hook" that gets a song started for you? A phrase that makes you think of a song, a bit of melody, a cool riff, ...?

Josh Pinkham: Well inspiration is every where, you never know when its gonna hit, really overcast days do it for me, I dont know why, but overcast has allways been really pretty to me. And I never have written a song with words, allthough I plan on it later.

Sierra Hull: Yes I write instrumentals quite a bit. I think it is a lot of fun to be able to take most of the stuff you have learned and sum it all up in your own expressive way. I might just be sitting at school taking notes or something (HAHA!). And I can't get some songs out of my head so I might think about what I could make out of those songs it is alot of fun but sometimes I have so say to myself, "Sierra you had better be paying attention" HAHA! But also me and my dad write a lot of songs that have lyrics to them. He has really good ideas for words and I do most of the music. HAHA! I just have trouble naming them sometimes.

Scott Gates: Thank you very much for your thoughtfulness in saying how we've expressed ourselves. In my head, I've composed about six songs. All on the mandolin except one, which I composed on piano. There's one song on the mandolin called Willow Valley, which is what I'd like to name my CD. I'm horrible at making words. I think the best at making words here is my mother and my brother Dustin who plays in a band called Neighborhood Radio.

Sarah Jarosz: I do compose. I've written three instrumentals so far, but my favorite one is called "Marley's Blue Chair". I wrote it about my dog who always goes to sleep in our big blue chair. I haven't written any words to songs yet, other than just fooling around. Just recently, however, I did write a melody to some words that were sent to me by a good friend of ours. She had written the words one day on the way to work and asked me if I would write a melody to it. It wound up being a really great tune that I love to play and sing. In the case of that song, her lyrics set the mood for the melody, so it came really easily to me. In the case of the other instrumentals, when I'm fooling around, sometimes I'll hear a lick that I really like, and build off of that.

Jacob Henry Jolliff: I've written quite a few instrumentals. We don't play many of them with the band, though, because they're not the kind of music our band does. They tend to have multiple parts and difficult chord structures. I can't really say that I compose in a systematic way. I'd like to learn more composition theory.

Really all those sound about right. It varies with the song. Sometimes if I'm trying to write I'll just play around with different licks.


Q - What sort of career plans do each of you have? Music related? Other?

Josh Pinkham: Well, I plan on beeing a musician, but I want to really find out what is out there and what is right for me, I gueass really I dont have enough experience to say what exactly I want to do.

Sierra Hull: That's what I have wanted to do since I started playing music. I think it would be so much FUN!!! I would love to be able to play professionally. There is no doubt in my mind that I wouldn't want to be!

Scott Gates: Career plans? I would like to have a career in all kinds of music. I would like to spend my free time drawing. I like science a lot. It's my favorite subject in school.

Sarah Jarosz: I definitely want to make music my career! I can't think of any other way I'd rather spend my time than doing something I love and being around people who love the same thing.

Jacob Henry Jolliff: I've thought about being an architect, and I've considered trying to do something with music, maybe in a bluegrass band for a while. But I haven't given it a lot of thought.


Q - If stranded in a desert island with only your mando, a cd player and one cd, which cd would you want it to be? Why?

Josh Pinkham: Into The Cauldron, I never get board with that cd, I love transcribing the solos, so I guess it would give me something to do.

Sierra Hull: (Any Alison Krauss CD)!!I can't get enough!!!! HAHA!

Scott Gates: What about batteries?? My Chris Thile mix that has my favorite Chris Thile songs on it.

Sarah Jarosz: That's a really hard question! I've been thinking about it, and I think it would have to be "Heartland - An Appalachian Anthology". It has Mike Marshall, Bela Fleck, Edgar Meyer, Mark O'Connor, Sam Bush, Yo-Yo Ma, and Joshua Bell. It also has special guests Alison Krauss and James Taylor. I would choose that cd because it has a mix of bluegrass, newgrass, classical, and vocal tunes. And by the way, I think I would really be happy to have my mando there with me more than anything! Do batteries come along with that cd player??!!

Jacob Henry Jolliff: That's a cool question. But it's a hard one. Maybe the first David Grisman Quintet album. Because it has some of my favorite musicians on it, and I don't know all the chords to all the songs so I'd have a lot to practice and work on, jamming with it.


Q - Tell us about any recordings each of you have that may be available or any plans to release any? Where can they be purchased?

Josh Pinkham: Well Im actually leaving in Jan to start recording my cd, but im not sure when it should be out, but we are working on it!

Sierra Hull: Well I have a cd out that I made when I was ten years old. It is called "Angel mountain" it has a some traditional stuff on it also: I am going to record a cd with Rounder Records and Alison Krauss is going to produce it can"t wait to get started on it! If you would like to order the cd i have now go to sierra hull dot com!

Scott Gates: I have plans to begin recording my first solo CD in early 2004. The CD will become available first on www.scottgates.com. Thanks for asking!

Sarah Jarosz: Not yet. But everytime I play somewhere, lots of people are always asking me if I have a cd to sell because they want to buy one.

Jacob Henry Jolliff: We have one CD that's bluegrass gospel, called Good Neighbors, and we should have a new one early this coming year. To get one, email us at my dad's email address wjolliff@georgefox.edu


Q - What do you see yourself doing in say 10 years? Is this a career for you or just an enjoyable pastime?

Josh Pinkham: I really have no clue yet, I dont know what I want to do with my life just yet, I have some pretty good ideas, but Im just going along with an open mind, ready for anything. But yeah, totally not sure just yet.

Sierra Hull: In my head if I had to picture myself doing what I would love to do, it would have to be me having the chance to play music for my profession! And I would love to play for Alison Krauss for a little while before that!! And possibly win mandolin player of the year and be the first female to do that. And most importantly to be a good a Christian and stay as humble as I possibly can!

Scott Gates: Something like what Chris Thile is doing would be great! This is ALSO an enjoyable pastime.

Sarah Jarosz: In ten years I plan to be a college graduate. At this point, I want to make music my career, and I want to become the best musician I can be.

Jacob Henry Jolliff: I have no idea!


Q - There seems to be a lot of fiddle players out there at a young age but the number of young mandolinists, especially those who are as skilled as you five is a rare thing. Do you find this true and why do you think that is?

Josh Pinkham: Well I think the mandolin has had a bad rap for a long time for having a really plinky tinky sorta sound, But since guys like Grisman, Marshall, and Thile and guys who play cleanly have not really been that well known for a while up till now, I think I would agree with you the mando had such a bad rap. But I think its all about to explode, cause now the mandolin can be looked at as a pretty floaty sorta sound.

Sierra Hull: I appreciate that, but there is lots of great mandolin players other than us out there. I have picked with a few of them! Sometimes it is hard to find someone who takes it really serious!

Scott Gates: Yes, that's true. Mandolin isn't known as much as fiddle in all areas of music. For instance I wasn't allowed to play mandolin in the orchestra at the local college. There are pieces written for mandolin with an orchestra, but it wasn't allowed. Ha ha!

Sarah Jarosz: I do find that to be true. I'm not really sure why there are less young mandolin players than fiddle players. Maybe it's because the mandolin is a unique and lesser known instrument than the violin. I do however think that there are more young mandolin players lately.

Jacob Henry Jolliff: Violin and fiddle have a longer history. And here have been a lot more composers for violin. Also, there are a lot more teachers of violin, too, in schools and in band. Kids here more about the violin and they hear in in more concerts--you just don't SEE the mandolin around as much as you do the fiddle or violin. So some of the difference may be a matter of exposure.


Q - If you could meet any famous mandolinist from the past who would you want to meet and why?

Josh Pinkham: I think I would want to meet Dave Apollon, I think he was seriously ahead of his time, and would have loved to hear what made him want to take it a step further and why.

Sierra Hull: If I could meet someone from the past, it would be Bill Monroe, he didn't really have anyone to look up to and to learn new stuff from so it is really neat that he is now someone we all admire and look up too! I think he wrote some really great fiddle tunes and if it wasn't for him bluegrass might have never really gotton the sound it has today!

Scott Gates: Jethro Burns and Dave Apollon.

Sarah Jarosz: Wow, that's a tough one. I really would like to pick and sing with Bill Monroe. I think it would be cool to talk to him about what he thought about the music. It would also be pretty cool to meet Jethro Burns. It would be neat to jam with him because of how creative he was.

Jacob Henry Jolliff: That's a good question. Maybe Jethro Burns. I think I could learn a lot from him.


Q - Do you all compete in mandolin picking contests or in bluegrass competitions?

Josh Pinkham: I dont really seek out contests, but if I'm at a festival, and there is a contest Ill enter for sure.

Sierra Hull: Yeah I have competed in quite a few mandolin contests and I think they are always tons of fun! It is always great to see old friends and even watch them take home the gold sometimes!! Because it is always nice to win, but you can't forget to be a good loser too! And even though sometimes we may lose, don't forget it is only three peoples opinion!! And don't let it get you down!!

Scott Gates: Yes, when my schedule permits. Except for the first contest I ever entered, I've at least placed 3rd, 2nd or first in the rest. I compete in bluegrass and classical music.

Sarah Jarosz: I've haven't competed in a mandolin contest yet. To me, music isn't about competition. Art and music aren't necessarily created to be judged. I understand, though, that competition is a way for some people to be motivated to get better.

Jacob Henry Jolliff: No.


Q - You all have mentioned what instruments you play now, or what ones you would like to own someday. What kind of mandolins did you all start out on? I'm sure everyone on comando is aware of how expensive a mandolin habit/hobby can be; if you couldn't afford to buy your current mandolin yourselves, did any of you have any problems getting you parents to invest in a nice instrument?

Josh Pinkham: I started out on an ElvenWood mandolin. And when I first got a high dollar mandolin, it was more of an indorsement. So buying ( Luckily ) was never a real problem.

Sierra Hull: Well I am sure this may sound strange to some of ya'll but I actually started out on what they call a gourd. (Chill Dipper or Tater Bug) HAHA! My dad had a mandolin a "Woods" mandolin and you know if you were in his place, would you have handed a mandolin you had worked hard to get to a little 8 year old, that you didn't really know if they were going to take it seriously or not!!! Hehe! So he taught me some simple songs, like red haired boy, (easy version for me) and some cords and how to chop and how to keep time! He had told me if I would take it serious and would learn a few songs that he would go buy me a mandolin! So I worked hard and he went and got me one like he told me he would!! He bought be an A style Kentucky mandolin. And it wasn't long after that when he got me an Epiphone gibson made mandolin. I played it for a while then he let me use his Woods mandolin. I played it for a pretty good while and then I was ready for a better one again. So I wanted to buy my own so I saved up all my money and bought my Flatiorn!!! I love it still I was playing it today! HA! It is a really great mandolin. It was one of the originals made by the company in Montana before Gibson bought them over. And I was really happy to have it, it has a great chop too! I LOVE IT STILL!!! But now I play the steffy a lot!

Scott Gates: That's a loaded question. I started out on an old round back, then went to my Ibanez, then to my current mandolin, the Lewis. I pretty much stuck to one mandolin at a time. It was my mother who had the Mandolin Aquisition Syndrome! She bought a bunch of old mandolins from ebay and old stores and had them hanging all over our walls for a while, but she sold them to fund some music trips.

When I fell in love with the Lewis, they fully supported me. I appreciate them, their support and giving me mandolin lessons with not only Evan Marshall, but they make sure I am able to learn also from other great mandolin players. I work hard on the mandolin to show my appreciation.

Sarah Jarosz: I started out with an A-style Lotus mando. I think it was a great one to start with. My second mando was an F-style Bitteroot model Weber. I am now playing an MF5 Collings mando, and I did buy it with money I saved myself. My parents have been so supportive of me wanting to play mandolin. They bought my first two mandos for me. When I started wanting another mando, they helped me learn how to save my money to work for something I wanted. It felt so good to pay for my new MF5 Collings with my own money.

Jacob Henry Jolliff: I started on a Kentucky KM500S--it was a nice one, from when they were made in Japan. That was my dad's. About a year or two after I started I got a Kentucky KM620 for Christmas--that was the first mandolin I owned. Then I got the Weber that I used up until I got the Rigel.

No, I didn't have trouble getting my parents interested. They paid for most of my Weber, and half of the part I paid was money I made by learning fiddle tunes. My dad used to pay me a certain amount for each fiddle tune I learned, because he knew I was saving for a good mandolin.


Q - What is the hardest tune you have learned? Why was it so difficult?

Josh Pinkham: Donna Lee composed by Charlie Parker, and Starnded In Kodiak composed by Chris Thile ( the actual melody is not that hard but his improv is what was killer )! and they were physically hard.

Sierra Hull: That is a hard one! I don't really know! SORRY! HA! I think some of the really fast ones that just sound like a blur of notes sometimes is hard to understand, but some come easy than others and some are harder than others!

Scott Gates: They all seem hard at first. When they start to seem easy, it's time to choose more difficult tunes. The hardest tune that I've learned I would probably have to "cut" into three songs. Lime Rock, 1812 Fantasy, and Vivaldi's Concerto in C.

Sarah Jarosz: I'm not sure if there has been one tune that was the hardest to learn. I have been trying to learn some of the Chris Thile and Mike Marshall tunes on "Into the Cauldron" and it's hard to pick some of those things out totally by ear. I would like to have the notation to help me figure out some of the parts.

Jacob Henry Jolliff: "In the House of Tom Bombadil" by Chris Thile was hard. It has some triplets in it and a lot of switching positions. It has some weird timing things in it, too. I learned a couple parts of it on my own, then Chris taught me one part, then I learned another part later. I couldn't learn it all at once.


Q - All of you have met and played with many of the mando greats. Do you have any stories about that experience?

Sierra Hull: Well I have enjoyed setting down with Chris, Adam, Sam, Alan, Ricky, Doyle, Wayne Benson, and all the other guys that I admire, I got to play a song on the Wood Songs Old Time Radio Hour with Sam Bush which was a lot of fun. And I got to play with Chris on stage before at the IBMA awards, but at the Opry, the All Star Bluegrass Celebration, we were in a dressing room and we were jamming, alot of that was going on! HA! We were playing a song I had written and he could twin it like crazy it was so awesome so that was a good experience for me! And I got to play with Ricky Skaggs and his great band on stage one time and it was a whole lot of fun!! And I got to set down with Adam Steffy and Alan Bibey before and both diffrent time were great!! And Doyle and his band which was fun getting to jam with them a little bit. And I got to play on stage with IIIrd Time Out and got to play Big Mon with Wayne twinning me and he is so clean and awesome!! So that is just some of the great times I have had pickin' with my heroes!!

Scott Gates: I met Evan Marshall at Disneyland before I had the experiences that showed me how to determine great mandolin players. When I realized how much more there is to Evan Marshall than Disneyland alone, I was breathtaken when I saw him again. The second one would probably have to be Chris Thile. I met him after one of his shows with Nickel Creek and had a lesson and played with him. I would love to play on stage with him some day.

Sarah Jarosz: I think one of the neatest experiences I've had was jamming backstage at RockyGrass with David Grisman, Sam Grisman, Darol Anger, Pete Wernick, Mike Bub, Ronnie McCoury, Tom Rozum, Steve Gilchrist, Billy Bright and others. I just started singing and playing and all of those people just started sitting down and jamming with me. Also, performing at the IBMA awards show and Fan Fest was incredible. It was such a thrill to be backstage at such an exciting event. Another neat experience I have had was playing with Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder at his Austin show. I had a blast singing "Molly and Tenbrooks" and playing "Bluegrass Special" with them. Another awesome thing I got to do was play with the David Grisman Quintet at their show in Austin, TX. Trading licks with David on Roanoke was awesome. Those guys are all so cool and nice, and it was so much fun performing with them.

Jacob Henry Jolliff: I met David Grisman when a friend of my dad's was selling him a mandolin. He asked David if he could bring me along and maybe play a tune. Grisman said yes, and we met him at his hotel room and jammed for about an hour and then went out to lunch. He gave me some tips and looked at my playing. Then a few weeks later he sent me a Christmas present--a package of CDs. He isn't the kind of guy that makes you feel nervous, and he always makes you sound better when you play with him!

A few months later we were at Wintergrass in Tacoma. I went back stage and Grisman and Mike Marshall and Chris Thile were all jamming there. Grisman ask me to play some with them and introduced me to Mike and Chris. They were really nice, and Chris showed me some stuff. The next night before the Nickel Creek concert he had me on stage to play a song with him. A year from then at the same festival I got to jam with him some more. He really inspired my playing.


Q - Do you have a favorite lick that you have learned. Who, or where did you learn it?

Josh Pinkham: No not really, Ive learned alot of licks from different people, and all of them I like about the same.

Sierra Hull: Not really I don't guess. I like to play in the open A and E strings. I like the groving sound you can get there! And this may sound kinda weird, cause a lot of mandolin players don't like to play here, but I like B really well! Don't forget B for -BLUEGRASS!! Yeah!! It has some really great lick that you can use there too!

Scott Gates: My favorite lick is one I made up myself. It's a jazz lick.

Sarah Jarosz: A month or two ago I was watching a special with Ricky Skaggs on TV. He does this great tune called "Amanda Jewel". I love the tune, so I decided I wanted to learn it. I learned the tune, and at the end of the song, he does this really cool lick that I liked. I learned the lick, but then I built off of that lick to make something of my own. I really enjoy using that lick in all different songs.

Jacob Henry Jolliff: Not really.


Q - Do you record your own rhythm tracks on mandolin, piano, or guitar and then play lead along with it or even record multiple tracks that may include rhythm, harmony leads, and percussion on a regular basis as part of your practice routine or creative writing process?

If so, what do you think the benefits are in doing this and how do you think it affects the way in which you learn and create music?

Josh Pinkham: I have done that before, but it is not a reagular thing, I recorded Fishers Hornpipe by my self with rhythm lead and harmony, it was alot of fun, but I didint like it as much as doing a live jam with other people, but yeah it was fun, and it helped with working out counter parts to things.

Sierra Hull: I think that is a great thing to do. It can be very helpful if you are trying to get a song up to speed. Or it is great if you have some cool chords and you want to compose a song! I would do it on guitar but you could do it with another instrument you play or just use your mandolin to play the rhythm on!!

Scott Gates: Shadow Hills has recorded practice CD's for one another when we're learning a new song the others don't know. It's really helpful. I can listen to it a lot, play along with it, and make up fills. It's a good tool.

Sarah Jarosz: I havn't done that before, but I'll have to try it because it sounds like a neat way to practice arranging songs.


Q - We would love to have all of you become permanent members of CoMando. We hope you will consider joining up. I think all of you would make good additions to our group of mando nuts. To me one of the really neat things about our music is that everyone is welcome, without regard to age, gender, ethnicity or anything else. If you are interested in picking, then you are one of the guys, so to speak. It's kind of a fraternity.

Have any of you noticed that you get included by adults more in your capacity as a musician than you might have expected just as a person in a normal social setting? BTW, I am 56 and I like to pick with REALLY old dudes. I always learn a lot about life as well as about the music. Thanks so much for sharing this time with all of us.

Sierra Hull: Well first off I want to thank everyone that has taken the time to ask us these questions and I hope somehow they might have encouraged you as a musican! And I hope to be a part of something else that might happen on here in the near future! Don't forget BLUEGRASS RULES!!!!! HAHA! But back to the question-

Yeah I have noticed that you do get included in the adult world more so to speak, it makes you feel good to know people respect what you are doing. Here just a month or something like that back, Jim Clayton from "Clayton Mobile Homes" flew down to my house in his helecopter and played some music with me. He had seen me on CMT and was nice enough to want to come and meet me! After we were through playing, he took us for a ride and then when landed I got up in the front with him on the passenger side and he let me fly it we had so much fun!! But that goes to show you how nice people are and how they appreciate what you are doing and it always makes you feel great inside!

Thanks again for all of the questions you all have sent for us to answer and I hope you will keep playing and keep loving it as much as we do!!


Scott Gates: Yes, I really notice that a lot. Other kids also accept me because I"m doing the whole music thing and also just being a normal kid and they think that's kinda cool. I pick with musicians of all ages.

Thank you for spending YOUR time with US!! I've enjoyed this a LOT. Yes, I will become a member of Co-mando. To the rest of us five, I hope to meet and play with each of you sometime soon. We should all get together in one place...let's work on that!

Sarah Jarosz: I have noticed it a lot. That's one of the things I really like about this genre of music. Most people who play this kind of music don't really make age a big deal. Some of the older people that I have played with have become some of my good friends. I'm also learning more about other kids who love music as much as I do. Hey Josh, Jacob Henry, Sierra, and Scott. Let's jam sometime!!!!!!!

Thanks to John Baxter for inviting me to be a part of this neat experience. It's been really inspiring and a lot of fun.

Jacob Henry Jolliff: Yes. Everything's different when you're playing music. As soon as they see that you can play, they don't care that you're a kid. At festivals, I usually hang out more with adults than people my age. But I'd sure love to meet these other mandolin players who are answering these questions!

Thanks a lot for asking me to be on this roundtable. It was a pleasure to be a part of it, and a lot of fun.