High school student proves to be accomplished musician

Published 9:44 pm Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The night was rather nasty with a mixture of fog and rain but nothing could dampen the spirits of those who gathered at Monticello Baptist Church because the Sheppard Family was playing their special brand of bluegrass gospel.

The Sheppard Family is lead by Arnold Sheppard and made up of his daughter, Renee Brown, and his grandchildren, Morgan Brown and Montana Brown.

Morgan is an 11th grade student at Pike County High School and an accomplished musician at age 16. He plays the acoustic guitar, mandolin, banjo and Dobro.

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“I’ve been playing the guitar for about 10 years,” Morgan said. “When I was a little boy, I would sit in my granddaddy’s lap while he played the guitar. I wanted to learn to play like him.”

Sheppard bought his grandson a guitar and taught him to play it. When Morgan showed an interest in the mandolin, Sheppard bought him a mandolin and helped him learn to play it.

“One day Morgan told me he wanted to learn to play the banjo,” Sheppard said.

“We got him one and he just let it lay around. He didn’t try to play it much.”

Not too long ago, Morgan mentioned to his granddaddy that he would like to have a Dobro but Sheppard wasn’t too quick to grant his wish.

“I told him if he learned to play the banjo, I’d see what I could do,” he said.

“In a few days, he came back and could play the banjo a little.”

“Little” was enough for Sheppard to hold good on his word and, soon Morgan was the proud owner of a brand new Dobro.

And it was the Dobro that caught the attention and peaked the interest of those in attendance at the singing at the country church at Monticello.

“Not many people around here play the Dobro and a lot of people have never seen one,” Morgan said. “I really like the sound. It’s different.”

Morgan described the Dobro as an acoustic steel guitar.

“I could help him and Montana learn to play the guitar and the mandolin but I couldn’t help him with the banjo and the Dobro,” Sheppard said.

“I got him some videos on how different people play the Dobro and left him with it.”

Being left to his own devices to learn to play the Dobro, Morgan depended on the videos and the Internet as his teachers.

“The Dobro’s not as hard to play as the banjo,” he said. “The banjo has different cording and rolls. It was harder for me to learn. The Dobro has a different sound that I like and it has a slide like a steel guitar and you mash it for the cords. I like playing it.”

And, he really likes playing with The Sheppard Family.

“I never thought that all of us would be playing on stage together but it’s fun,” Morgan said.

“We play at a lot of churches and, when we do, me and my granddaddy and Montana get together and practice for two or three nights before. We play with a group every other Tuesday night in Troy and it’s a lot of fun.”

Morgan plays by ear and that talent is a gift from God and he uses his talent for the glory of God.

When he graduates from high school next year, Morgan plans to attend Auburn University and become a veterinarian.

But no matter what career path Morgan chooses, he’s sure that it will be lined with bluegrass all along the way.