I recently just sent in my application to The Acoustic Music Seminar. They choose 16 young people whose lives are dedicated to acoustic string music. Some of their criteria are the quality of their solors are, how they perform in an ensemble, their chops, and their future potential.
The two videos I sent in are of my band Cat and The Moon playing two of my original songs.
Here are the songs followed by my personal statement. I hope you enjoy them :D
Hello family and friends of The Acoustic Music Seminar!
My name is Ricky Mier and I’m from a small suburb 20 minutes north of San Francisco called Corte Madera, California. My music career began in my high school music class where I first wanted to be a slap bass player. It was there that I learned about Victor Wooten. It was there I learned about The Flecktones. It was there I was taught my first Earl Scruggs tune. There was something about the banjo that just took me away. Something about fingerpicking on the banjo satisfied my soul in a way that nothing else in the world did. What I felt was a very visceral reaction to the instrument. Upon retrospect, that feeling was a calling for mastery. One day my mom brought home a banjo and I would not put it down. I immediately started a bluegrass band the first day of my sophomore year in highschool with the other quasi-bluegrass pickers in the class which lead to a successful band for the rest of my high school career: The Itchy Mountain Men.
I always loved The Flecktones, so after high school I started a band with a slap bass player, alto saxophonist, and percussionist. I played electric banjo, and we performed original material and experimented with complex time signatures. That band was The Cosmic Shenanigans. Somewhere along the way I heard that Berklee had a happening scene so I applied, got a $20,000 scholarship, and decided to move to Boston to study there. It was here I was struck by the sheer awesomeness of the Boston bluegrass scene. At the first jam I went to at The Cantab Lounge on a Tuesday night, I was surrounded by people in their 20s playing twin fiddle harmonies, improvising tenor and baritone parts, and even playing harmony banjo parts. It was that first week I knew in my soul that I was in the right place.
It was in my first semester at Berklee that I sowed the seeds for the myriad of projects that I’m involved with now. First, through meeting bluegrass musicians that I got along with I formed a group and joined the bluegrass ensemble for tutelage under the one and only Dave Hollender. It was here that I learned the importance of playing the melody in a solo or kickoff, how to harmonize bluegrass vocals, and the paramount need for good group chemistry.
At a house party I met the Irish violinist Kathleen Parks, and I got excited because I knew a few pop Irish melodies. She thought I was pretty annoying but we decided to get together later and jam anyway. It turned out that we are both passionate for pushing ourselves in improvisation and composition. This is how our group Cat and The Moonwas formed.
The two songs that I’m officially submitting to AMS are originals of mine entitled Logan’s Farewell and Home Again. I chose them for a couple of reasons:
My personal website (www.rickymier.com) is what I now use for ‘GB’ purposes. I also built Cat and The Moon’s website (www.catandthemoonmusic.com) and update the blog regularly. My newest project is a straight ahead bluegrass band entitled Twisted Pine (www.twistedpinemusic.com).
Currently, two pieces of literature have been directing the course of my life. The first is Bela Fleck’s Picking Styles 6 CD set and tab book. It’s common knowledge that Bela Fleck revolutionized the banjo by producing music that was millions of years ahead of it’s time, but it’s not common knowledge that he revolutionized banjo technique. You see, first there was Scruggs and he said ‘Let there be Scruggs Style’ then was was Bill Keith and he said ‘Let there be melodic style’ then there was Bela and he made Bela Fleck’s Picking Styles where he methodically shows how he optimized fingerings for modal single string technique. Triplets, 4th and 5th intervals, every mode in every key, even some silly fiddle tune endings are included in this revolutionary yet relatively unknown collection.
The second is Robert Greene’s book entitled Mastery. He says the purpose of the human being is mastery. The best way to attain mastery is the apprenticeship. An apprenticeship is where you do something for 7 hours a day for 7 years. For me, now is that time. Bela’s book has served as my mentor as I’ve dedicated myself to this apprenticeship thus far, and the opportunity to finally learn from him in person would be, without a doubt, the ultimate pinnacle of this banjo apprenticeship.
Anyway that’s where my career in music is now. I’m 1,000% dedicated to my instrument and plan on living a life playing the banjo. AMS would allow me to meet people my age who are just as dedicated and who plan on living a life of writing and playing music. Also getting mentorship from Bela Fleck has been my greatest desire ever so that would be monumentally life changing. I recently turned 23 and I realize that there is technically an age limit but I hope that alone would not disqualify my application, given what I know I can contribute to and learn from this awesome experience.
Thanks for reading and happy holidays,
The Jon Cumming Band recently asked Dan Bui and I to play some shows with their band! Last night we played at The Strange Brew Pub in Norwich CT. Halfway through the set the bass exploded and the bridge and the strings fell off. Not pretty. The sound post fell out so we had to finish the set with the bass of the opening band! At least we got a couple cool photos of us with the blue lights and smoke machine.
Notice anything wrong with this next pic? And I don't mean my or Dan's sense of humor.
Kathleen and I got invited to perform on The Berklee Internet Radio Network (The BIRN) to perform some music from our band Cat and The Moon.
We Performed Brown County Breakdown, Logan's Farewell, and Home Again. The host, Nikolas Gartner, is a charming German who has a great radio personality and also is a shredder country guitarist. Chicken pickin' anyone?
Anyway, he'll be giving me the mp3 from session soon and I'll post it ASAP!
Cold Chocolate's leader Ethan Robbins invited me to sub as a banjo player for a gig at John Harvard's Brewery in Harvard Square. It was fun learning all of his originals as well as playing through pick ups with a New Grass Revival style instrumentation. Having Forrest O'Connor shredding 16th note triplets in my ear was pretty sick too.
Check out Cold Chocolate
Check out Forrest O'Connor
Check out John Harvard's
And check out New Grass Revival while you're at it.