13-year-old Banjo Player Riley Gilbreath becomes a
Bluegrass Heritage Foundation Youth Showcase Artist
October 21, 2017
In October 2016, the Bluegrass Heritage Foundation, through the Play it Forward! Instrument Lending Program®, presented 12-year-old Riley Gilbreath of Fort Worth, Texas, with a five string banjo so that he could start taking bluegrass banjo lessons. Riley made dramatic progress quickly, impressing his teacher Jim Penson and others who helped him along by exhibiting a dedication and drive to play shown by few others.
At the Bloomin’ Bluegrass Festival & Chili Cook-Off held in the Farmers Branch, Texas Historical Park on October 21, 2017, Steve Huber of the Huber Banjo Company was on hand to perform with Texas & Tennessee. He also had a number of new Huber banjos on display. Steve enjoyed picking with Riley, and spent a great deal of time giving him pointers on how to play more proficiently.
One thing led to another, and the decision was made by Alan Tompkins of the Bluegrass Heritage Foundation, Steve Huber, and Jana & Danny Gilbreath (Riley’s parents) to present Riley with a new professional-grade walnut Huber Workhorse banjo for his continued development. Riley is only the second person to be named a Youth Showcase Artist, with the first being Brandy Miller in 2012.
The presentation was made to Riley on stage at the Festival, and Riley was moved nearly to tears. His father reported that Riley asked for days afterwards, “how can something this good be happening to me?” In the weeks since the presentation, Riley has played on stage several times as a guest with Dallas/Fort Worth area bluegrass bands. We expect that he will continue to have opportunities to perform on stage for years to come.
As always, the Bluegrass Heritage Foundation is thrilled to be able to help deserving young people play bluegrass music, and we sincerely appreciate all of our supporters for helping to make it happen. We’d especially like to thank the family of Johnny Lee Vincent, including Rhonda Vincent, Carolyn Vincent, and Darrin Vincent, for their support of the Foundation’s Play it Forward!® program and the Johnny Lee Vincent Memorial Scholarship Program. Their support helped to make these programs possible.
Here’s a video of the presentation, courtesy of Mark Shaffer. Photos are courtesy of Nathaniel Dalzell.