By DAVID DUPONT
BG Independent News
Musician Grant Flick, 17, has gone from being the talk of the town to earning plaudits in national roots music circles.
A few years back he was jamming with guitarist Frank Vignola, when the New York-based jazz recording artist, was playing a show at Grounds for Thought. This spring when Vignola brought together his favorite young guitarists for a showcase in Salt Lake City, he made sure Flick and his violin was on the bill as well.
Flick, who also plays mandolin and tenor guitar, continues to gig locally with Acoustic Penguin and as a duo with his father, Don Flick. He’s also spreading his wings with his own trio of fellow string prodigies Ethan Setiawan on mandolin and Jacob Warren on bass. The trio, billed as New Branch, with vocalist Sadie Gustafson-Zook, will perform at the Red Wing Roots Festival this summer.
Local audiences will get a chance to get a taste of Flick’s trio when the band plays the Black Swamp Arts Festival. That trio will have string wizard Josh Turner on subbing for Setiawan who will be off studying in Valencia, Spain, at the time.
For all the whirlwind activity of his career one thing remains constant for Flick: “I still do it for fun. That’s the main reason I do it. I wasn’t going after this as a career; I was going after it because it was fun. And that’s still the reason I do it. I enjoy it.”
Flick met Turner, Setiawan and Warren at the American String Symposium, a select gathering of the best roots music strings players under 22, hosted by the Savannah Music Festival.
At the event players have time to collaborate and work on original music. The trio, Flick said, plays all their own tunes.
Flick has expanded his musical arsenal. He often plays a five-string violin, which extends the range of the fiddle down into the viola register. He also plays the mandolin and, more recently, the tenor guitar. That instrument, like the mandolin, has the same tuning as violin. He recently taught at a national tenor guitar workshop. These instruments provide different colors when playing with the trio or in a duo with his father.
Having a Main Stage show with his band at the festival is a special treat for him. He’s played the festival’s acoustic stage several times with Acoustic Penguin. More memorable were the chances to hear and meet those he admires. Just a couple years after he took up violin, he got a chance to hear the renowned Cajun band BeauSoleil and meet the band’s fiddler and founder Michael Doucet, one of the pioneers of the roots music scene. Last September he got to hang out with the members of the Rhythm Future Quartet. He went to all the band’s shows including a late night bar gig. Rhythm Future is returning to the festival this year.Support Independent News In Bowling Green
Flick started playing violin in fifth grade orchestra at Conneaut. About a week after his introduction to the instrument, his father, a guitarist, taught him a few blues scales and some basic bluegrass tunes, including “Boil That Cabbage Down.”
“He just took off on his own,” Flick said. And he hasn’t slowed down.
He studied with several teachers and still takes lessons when his road schedule allows it. He studies with multi-instrumentalist Brad Phillips on Michigan and takes classical lessons with Cheryl Trace of the Toledo Symphony. “It’s always good to do Bach,” he said.
Via Skype he’s tapped into the knowledge of a Bowling Green fiddling prodigy of an older generation Alex DePue – “he’s been a good teacher” – as well as Tammy Rogers, of Grammy nominated band The Steel Drivers. He’s also attended many different summer camps.
Flick’s gotten nothing but support from the musicians he’s met along the way. ”They’re all really nice guys,” he said. “They’re open and always trying to help someone out.”
Flick is a student in the Ohio Virtual Academy. He’ll be a senior in fall. The academy allows him the flexibility to take his studies on the road with him as his music schedule demands.
His father travels with him, as does his mother, Lorraine Flick, when she can get time off from her job as Woodlane principal. This coming summer they will add college visits to the itinerary. Among the possibilities are University of Michigan and Oberlin College and Conservatory. Manhattan School of Music also has a good jazz violin program, Flick said. And Berklee College of Music in Boston has one of the few programs devoted to roots music.
That broad category fits Flick’s musical approach. He’s not interested in adhering to stylistic boxes. He got hooked on the music of Dave Grisman first, and that led him to the legendary gypsy jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt and his compadre violinist Stephane Grappelli.
Lately he’s been listening to fusion jazz violinist Jean-Luc Ponty and jazz visionary John Coltrane.
All that shapes the music he’s performing at any given time. “There’s always more to learn.”
(Hear Flick play his original composition, “Spring Thaw,” at: http://smfeducation.tumblr.com/post/139125009828/get-to-know-ams-grant-flick)