Guitarist Bill Mize might be a Grammy winner, but the musician’s mild voice and manner suggest a humility unusual in one with such an achievement under his belt.
“I was in Asheville, North Carolina,” Mize said of the recording session that would win him a Grammy. “I was hanging out with some friends, and I transposed some music to guitar for 120 bucks. I’d forgotten all about it. Then one day I was holed up in a hotel during a snowstorm and watched it win on TV. There’s a bit of an irony to it I guess because I’ve never played it since.”
The winning piece was a collaboration with storyteller David Holt called “Stellaluna.”
During the years Mize’s work also has appeared in places such as Ken Burns’ documentary “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea,” and his compositions have been transcribed for magazines such as “Fingerstyle Guitar” and “Acoustic Guitar.”
Mize says it all began in 1956 when, at the age of three, a televised performance by Elvis Presley transfixed him.
“It totally floored me,” Mize said. “I knew what it was about, and ever since then this has been my life. I started out with electric guitar, but probably somewhere in the seventies I started getting back to simpler forms of music.”
Mize’s acoustic stylings present elements of a variety of different music genres.
“I’m not a gunslinger type of player,” Mize said. “I throw in a little something every now and then, but after 55 years of listening to music I’ve become a musical sponge. People tell me they can hear Memphis soul, classical and Appalachian elements in my music. For the last few years, I’ve been listening to a lot of European Jazz. It’s rare for me to play a song and nail it down to one style. A lot of people say my music’s multi-layered.”
While he may live in Montana now, Kansas has proven important to Mize’s career. Mize first entered the Winfield National Fingerstyle Guitar Competition at The Walnut Valley Festival in 1984 in Winfield and took home third place. In 1985, he won first place, which initially brought him attention.
Mize said he looked forward to playing in the McPherson Opera House.
“I played McPherson a few years ago in a different building,” Mize said, “and this will be the first time I’ve played in the Opera House. It looks like such a pretty building.”
When asked what his ideal performance experience was, Mize described a dream he’d had in past years.
Page 2 of 2 - “I had a dream where I was playing in front of an audience in a little theater, and there was a silver thread going through and connecting everyone, including me,” Mize said, “and I remember wondering in the dream, who’s holding the needle?”
Bill Mize will perform at 7:30 p.m. Friday at The McPherson Opera House. Tickets are $15, with student and second balcony tickets $10. Ticket prices include Opera House preservation fee.
Contact Jeremy Webster by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @WebsterSentinel.