Eldersburg teenager cultivates love for bluegrass

Michel Elben
Contact ReporterCarroll County Times

Jubilantly playing her fiddle, 16-year-old Alani Sugar entertained library patrons with guitarist Greg Fury, of Olney.

“I love that she’s so young and enthusiastic,” said Kathy Martin, of Eldersburg. “She represents the next generation of music.”

According to Carroll County Public Library’s Eldersburg branch manager Nadine Rosendale, the branch often schedules local performers.

“It gives our community the opportunity to hear different kinds of music for free, brings people in and it brings people together,” Rosendale said.

Sheila Murphy, who was visiting from Birmingham, Alabama, described Sugar’s performance as “inspiring.”

“It lifted my spirits and touched my heart. It really spoke to me,” Murphy said.

Sugar, of Eldersburg, is a Wilde Lake High School junior. She has been playing for seven years.

“I like playing for people and seeing what they like,” Sugar said after the performance. “I like to see their reactions to different tunes, and it’s fun to see people enjoy what I’m doing.”

Sugar said she has always had an interest in music because her grandmother plays the piano. She decided to try the strings program at school, using her grandmother’s old violin. Now fiddle is Sugar’s main instrument and mandolin is her secondary.

“Music is definitely a passion of hers,” said Sugar’s father, David. “I enjoy seeing her and my mom get together to play and have fun. It’s so nice to hear and watch.”

At 13, Sugar’s parents enrolled her in private lessons with teacher Patrick McAvinue, a bluegrass fiddle player.

“He quickly realized I wasn’t a classical violinist so he started teaching me fiddle tunes from different traditions,” Sugar explained. “It was freeing to be away from sheet music. It was more relaxing to just play. It’s bright and happy and makes me feel like jumping around and dancing.”

Sugar said she has played with McAvinue at different events and also performed in “Always, Patsy Cline" at the Dundalk Community Theatre in 2016.

She has also attended DelFest Academy for the past two years. The academy is an intensive, four-day learning experience during which bluegrass musicians offers instruction for guitar, banjo, fiddle, mandolin, bass and dobro.

“I’ve learned how to be more confident when I’m playing,” Sugar said.

Sugar also participates in jam sessions at the South Carroll Senior and Community Center on most Sundays.

“Jam sessions have helped me a lot,” Sugar said. “I think it’s an important skill to be able to pick up your fiddle and play a song even if you’ve never heard it before. I’ve also met a lot of other musicians that way.”

Sugar plans to apply to East Tennessee State University to major in bluegrass.

“I want to join a band and play as much as I can,” Sugar said. “I’ll probably also end up teaching.”




Copyright © 2018, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad