Ketch Secor

Ketch Secor performs and speaks to students at Metro Schools band and strings clinic.
Musician Ketch Secor Brings Songs and Stories to Students
Posted on 06/03/2021
Ketch Secor and music student
A roots band front man brought his instruments, his songs and stories, his humor, and his love of teaching to two groups of MNPS music students this week.

Ketch Secor, the leader of Nashville-based band Old Crow Medicine Show, performed for, and spoke to, students in the district’s orchestra and band clinics Wednesday morning. He talked about his own musical journey, which began when he was 12 years old and learned to play harmonica. That led to learning the guitar when he was 13 – and figuring out how to play guitar and harmonica at the same time – and eventually learning the banjo, which opened up the worlds of country and bluegrass music to him and encouraged him to travel and see the nation.

“This was my ticket,” Secor said, holding up his banjo.

Secor now plays more than a dozen instruments, from fiddle to piano to pennywhistle, and writes songs for a GRAMMY-winning band that was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in 2013. He played “Nashville Rising,” a song he wrote after tornadoes ripped through the city on March 3, 2020, and Old Crow Medicine Show’s most famous song, “Wagon Wheel,” which he developed from a Bob Dylan song fragment.

Speaking to about 75 middle school and high school orchestra and strings students from around the district at John Overton High School, Secor talked about the pains of being off the road during the COVID-19 pandemic, the opportunity to learn new things while stuck at home, and the thrill of getting moving again.

He invited a student who had learned a new harmonic technique on the guitar to show it to the group; asked students to talk about their own songs; answered questions about gear; discussed Old Crow’s participation in Black Lives Matter protests; sang a Roy Orbison song after a student said his parents had worked with the late singer; and encouraged students to listen to a wide range of music, from country to K-pop.

“Commingle your influences,” Secor said. “Because your best teachers aren’t people; they’re sounds themselves. So you’ve got to tune in to them, and tune in wide and far. Don’t just listen to the stuff you tell yourself you like. Listen to stuff you tell yourself you might not like.”

Secor also spoke to about 200 MNPS band students from across the city at Nashville School of the Arts. The students are attending band and orchestra clinics through the district's Music Makes Us initiative administered by the visual and performing arts department. The clinics this year are sponsored by community partner, Notes for Education, which paid a portion of student registration fees. MNPS partner PENCIL helped make Secor's visit happen.

“I am somebody who just thinks music in the schools is just the most important thing next to core curriculum,” he said after the first event.

“Music is the way that I learned to embody all of the things I learned in middle school and high school. When I became a musician is basically when I was able to get my diploma and say, ‘Thanks for showing me how to write the formula for a cosine; here’s how I’m using it. I’m using it on my fiddle.’ ”
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