Arts & Entertainment

Music Students to Take Center Stage at Local Venue

The stage at Bangkok Blues is used to seeing big local acts like Beltway Rockers and Curbfeelers, but on the evening of Thursday, Feb. 24, the show may just open with a pair of guitar-playing six year olds.

The stage at Bangkok Blues is used to seeing big local acts like Beltway Rockers and Curbfeelers, but on the evening of Thursday, Feb. 24, the show may just open with a pair of guitar-playing six year olds.

“They are just adorable,” said Larry Rice, the duo’s teacher at Falls Church’s Little House Studio. “The song they wrote is called ‘I Love Animals,’ and it’s precious. We’ll try to get them on first, because I know it’s a school night.”

Those students and many more of Rice’s students will be showing all they’ve learned through his instruction that night in what will be an eclectic program featuring selections from the classic country and bluegrass repertoire to modern-day tunes by Green Day and The Red Hot Chili Peppers, with a couple of budding performers opting to play original pieces.

This will be the second year that Little House Studio students will be performing at Bangkok Blues. Last year, 12 students took to the stage and played pieces on a variety of string instruments.

“We had a really good turnout of family and friends, and it was just a nice, fun night,” said Rice, who added that over 100 people showed up for the performance. “I have a much bigger student body now. I have 20 students that are going to play, so I expect a bigger crowd.”

Rice was inspired to put on the recital by his students and the parents of his students, who asked if they would have the opportunity to perform, too. Rice, as a performing musician in his own right, decided to put together his own take on a music recital by staging the performance at a local restaurant and club.

And students and parents are glad he did.

“My daughters played instruments before and the recitals have been kind of dull, just in a well-lit community center, but his idea, with the atmosphere … it just changes it and makes it a lot more fun,” said Jessica Pineda, of Falls Church, whose son, 10-year-old guitar student Jeremiah, has been a student with Rice for about a year and performed at last year’s recital. “My son felt really special because he was on stage at a restaurant. It makes them feel better, and more accomplished, than just the normal recitals, which aren’t as glamorous. I think it’s a great idea and we are looking forward to it.”

“I think it’s really neat,” said 16-year-old fiddle player Danny Willson, who will be performing the Beatles hit “Something in the Way She Moves” at the recital with a friend. “I have other friends who are more classically trained, and I hear about their recitals, and they sound more stressful and not like a lot of fun. Getting the opportunity to perform like this is something that I’m looking forward to again this year. It’s a lot of fun to be able to do.” Willson will also be performing two tracks with Rice.

But parents and students won’t be the only ones in the audience enjoying the performances.

“To see them perform, it’s incredibly rewarding,” Rice said. “It make me very happy to seem them progress, and in some cases, to become a better player than me, and launch them maybe into a career of music, but at least into a love of music. If I can teach them that, it’s quite an accomplishment.”

Rice began performing in his 20s. He has learned to play fiddle, guitar, mandolin, banjo and electric bass and instructs his students on those instruments. But his full-time job as a music teacher comes at the end of a long non-musical career.

“I had worked as a software developer for about 25 years and decided that 25 years in a cube was enough,” Rice said. “I had been teaching on the side and I always wanted to make a go of making a living doing it, and so I just hung my shingle and started teaching out of my house. Then I kept doing better and was able to get a commercial space on West Broad Street.”

Rice’s students range in age from 6 to 65, and of his 65 students, 20 have volunteered to take the stage. Performing is an integral part of his teaching method.

“I try to make it as easy as possible. Some will play by themselves, but most I accompany in one way or another on guitar, mandolin, or fiddle,” Rice said. “Other than being in front of an audience, it’s like what we do here at the studio. I accompany them so they get a feel for what it’s like to play with someone, and I think that builds a better musician, playing with others. That’s the whole point of it, playing music with others.”

And students under Rice’s tutelage will be well-prepared to perform songs, as he introduces song playing early in their lessons.

“I do love teaching and I try to get them excited about learning and make it fun,” Rice said. “I get every student playing songs right away. I find tunes that teach technique. Based on them learning to play a tune, they learn the technique at the same time.”

And if the thrill of performing at a real rock club isn’t enough for these students, as a special treat this year, they will be opening for the local country-rock outfit the Morrison Brothers Band, who will perform at short set at the end of the recital.

Rice, who performs with his daughters Lea Mae and Shannon as the band The Big Cheese, recently joined the Morrison Brothers Band on fiddle.

“He joined our band a few months ago,” said Truman Morrison, who with Willie Morrison makes up the namesake brothers of the band. “He is a wonderful performer and teacher, and we meshed really well. We knew he was perfect for our band after meeting with him.

Morrison said the group is happy to perform for their new band mate, and looking forward to the gig.

“We jumped at the opportunity to perform with them,” Morrison said. “We’re excited about it.”

The Little House Studio Recital will be held Thursday, Feb. 24, at 7:30 p.m. at Bangkok Blues. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Bangkok Blues is located at 926 W. Broad St.,
Falls Church. Little House Studio is located at 1073 W. Broad St., Suite 210, Falls Church.