At 13 years old, Eliza Meyer seems a bit too young to already be reminiscing about childhood, but some musical memories make a lasting impression.
“This was where I played in my first jam, in the lobby of the Earle,” she said, referring to the historic theater on Main Street where the Tommy Jarrell Festival Youth Competition was held Friday night.
Fiddle in her then 8-year-old hand, Meyer had approached a group of old-time music-playing old-timers.
“They asked if I knew ‘John Brown’s Band,’” she said.
After cheekily replying “not yet,” she jumped into the session.
“That’s the song I played tonight,” said Meyer, whose performance earned her a first place fiddle win in the 13- to 18-year-old category.
The Raleigh teen also earned first place for vocals for her rendition of “Meet Me by the Moonlight.”
The youth competition was one of many events offered throughout the weekend to honor legendary musician and Surry County native Tommy Jarrell.
Regardless of her competition success, Meyer said wouldn’t have missed the chance to celebrate one of her heroes.
“He’s an amazing artist,” she said. “He’s one of my inspirations.”
The event drew competitors with a range of ages and talents.
“They all did a great job,” said Lew Bode, master of ceremonies. “It’s real exciting for the music to carry on.”
Travis Watts, a 14-year-old from Mount Airy, performed in several categories: fiddle, vocals, guitar and dance.
“Travis is one of those multi-talented musicians up here playing different instruments,” Bode when introducing Watts. “Now he’s up here singing.”
“And picking,” quipped the youngster from the stage.
“Picking and grinning,” Bode finished.
Watts, who placed first for guitar and dance and second in the vocal category, later said he’d attended the youth competition for the past several years.
“I don’t feel nervous,” he said. “My mama taught me to make sure I imagine everyone in the crowd in their underwear.”
He added, “I don’t look at the girls.”
Victoria Blakeley, 10, of Tobaccoville, said, “I really don’t prefer to be on stage. It’s fun to play the fiddle and I just enjoy the thrill of competition.”
Sounds like she learned a lot from Jim Vipperman, a Mount Airy music teacher from whom Blakeley used to take lessons.
“I try to tell all these kids it’s not about winning, it’s about getting up there and feeling the presence of the music,” said Vipperman, who accompanied several students on stage.
He talked about learning from Jarrell as a young musician.
‘When I was a kid he was one of the first old people I met who treated a kid just like anybody else. I can still hear him saying ‘Come over here, let me show you something,” Vipperman said. “I’m a product of this.”
Bode announced the winners at the 7 p.m. beginning of the Tommy Jarrell Birthday Concert, after which the Slate Mountain Ramblers took the stage.
Fiddle player Richard Bowman shared anecdotes about Jarrell between songs.
“I can remember when I was a kid trying to learn about this stuff,” Bowman said, recalling a fiddle convention when Jarrell complimented his performance.
“He’d brag on you at times but not very much,” but that time, Jarrell told him, “you played that tune exactly like I did. It’s about time you did something like that.”
Bowman, now a well-respected fixture in the old-time music community, said the fact that the memory had stayed with him for so long taught him a lesson.
“Things people say stick in kids’ minds,” he said. “Keep bragging on them kids.”
Winners are listed beginning with first place.
In the 5- to 12-year-old age group:
Fiddle — Victoria Blakeley, 11, Tobaccoville; Victoria Edwards, 10, Mount Airy; Brooke Haynes, 8, Mount Airy.
Guitar — Brody York, 8, Mount Airy; Gus McGee, 10, King; Chase Hatcher, 12, Cana.
Vocal — Victoria Blakeley, 11, Tobaccoville.
In the 13- to 18-year-old age group:
Fiddle — Eliza Meyer, 13, Raleigh; Samuel Solies, 15, Ashe County; Christina Blakeley, 14, Tobaccoville.
Clawhammer Banjo — Samuel Solies, 15, Ashe County.
Guitar — Travis Watts, 14, Mount Airy.
Dance — Travis Watts, 14, Mount Airy.
Vocal — Eliza Meyer, 13, Raleigh; Travis Watts, 14, Mount Airy; Christina Blakeley, 14, Tobaccoville.
Other — Luke Morris, 16, Galax, Virginia (mandolin).
Reach Terri Flagg at 415-4734.