WANT TO GO?
With Billy Joe Shaver, Matraca Berg, Noam Pikelny & Friends, April Verch and the Caleb Klauder Country Band.
WHERE: Culture Center Theater
WHEN: 7 p.m. Sunday
TICKETS: Advance $15, at the door $25
INFO: 800-549-TIXX or www.mountainstage.orgCHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Noam Pikelny might never have picked up the banjo if his brother hadn't picked up a mandolin first or his mother hadn't picked up a baseball.
The banjoist, who performs Sunday night on "Mountain Stage," took a circuitous route through the banjo arts that began in Skokie, Ill. but eventually led him to Elkins.
"My brother was 10 years old when he fell in love with the mandolin," Pikelny said. "He was subjected to a bluegrass show at school and wanted to play."
Their parents, both of whom played a little music, got Pikelny's brother a mandolin. Pikelny and his mother took him to the lessons.
"So while he studied the mandolin," Pikelny explained, "I was out playing catch with my mother."
After two years and countless hours of tossing a baseball back and forth, Pikelny had become very jealous of his brother's new musical hobby. He told his parents his parents he wanted to learn an instrument; they suggested the banjo.
Pikelny said, "I guess they figured that if I could figure my way through the instrument and carry a tune, my brother and I could play music together."
Also, he thought, the banjo was a very visible instrument on the local folk music scene in Chicago. Pikelny had no opinion. He was 9 years old.
"I was like, sure, why not? Sounds cool."
His parents rented a banjo and got him lessons at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago. While he studied, his brother's fascination with the mandolin waned.
"We did realize our parents' dream of performing together: once," Pikelny said.
They played at an open mic when he was about 10 years old. "We played 'The Spanish Fandango' or what is called 'The Union Maid.' That was our one moment in the sun."
They never played together again.