Infantry Soldier brings bluegrass to desert
July 8, 2009
FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALSU, Iraq (Army News Service, July 8, 2009) -- With influences like Earl Scruggs and Jody King, it would be hard for someone not to fall in love with the simplicity and the complexity of bluegrass music, said Pfc. Christian J. Josey.
Starting at 11 years old, Josey, an infantryman for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 172nd Infantry Brigade, and Lawsonville, N.C. native, began playing the banjo after his dad suggested he learn to play an instrument.
"I've always liked the banjo, but I love it now because I took the time to learn how to play," said Josey, who practices two to three hours a day to stay proficient.
Josey's passion for playing grew when he began to take lessons from a local bluegrass musician, Jody King. King taught him everything from chord progressions to precision of finger placement. King also helped Josey to enter several fiddlers' conventions and competitions.
"I've won second place and third place in two of the competitions I entered," Josey said. Of all the conventions and competitions Josey has been in, he is particularly fond of two.
"My brother and I went to the Moxville Fiddlers' Convention and dressed up as Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs to play our set," said Josey. "It was fun to do what I love and have my brother with me to share that experience."
The other competition Josey is most proud of was at the Galax Fiddlers' Convention which aired all the competitors on the radio during the competition.
"I was very excited to play in the Galax competition just to be on the radio," Josey said. "It was cool to know that I was on the radio playing my banjo."
After 10 years of playing, Josey has some of the same challenges now he faced when he first started.
"My biggest challenge has been motivating myself to practice longer," said Josey. "But I knew the more I practiced, the better I would become. So far it's been very beneficial for me."
Josey currently owns one banjo, a gift from his parents.
"I didn't bring my banjo with me because I didn't want to run the risk of having it get warped by the heat or ruining it," said Josey. "My parents paid a lot of money for my banjo, my lessons and everything else of which I am truly thankful for."
Borrowing the chaplain's banjo, Josey practices every day to hone his skills.
"Josey played a song for the deputy commanding officer a little while ago and it was passed through to the brigade commander and command sergeant major. He was then asked to play in the farewell video for Maj. Gen. Michael Oates of the 10th Mountain Division," said Master Sgt. Karl F. Goehlich, HHC, 172nd Inf. Bde., assault command platoon operations sergeant and a native of Lupburg, Bavaria.
"Playing the banjo helps me to calm down and collect my thoughts, especially after a long day," said Josey. "The most rewarding thing from playing is after I've practiced a song for so long, I finally play it to the point where it is smooth. There are no interruptions and it sounds almost flawless. That's when I know all the practicing and effort was worth it."
(Pfc. Bethany L. Little writes for the 172nd Infantry Brigade)