By Christi Marsico • Staff Writer
Born 16 minutes apart in the Bethel community of Haywood County, twin brothers Travis and Trevor Stuart have been immersed in music since childhood.
“Music was all around us growing up,” Travis said.
Sharing that mountain music with others continues as the brothers perform in Western Carolina University’s concert/jam session series with an old-time and bluegrass concert at 7 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 8, in the auditorium of WCU’s Mountain Heritage Center. Performers of old-time and bluegrass music are invited to bring their instruments and take part in the jam session that will follow.
The brothers, 40, continue to reside in Haywood County where they learned to play old-time mountain music 30 years ago from masters such as Byard Ray, the Smathers family and Red Wilson.
“We play a lot of tunes from around this region and are really based in fiddle tunes and music for dancing, which has a lot of drive,” Travis said.
Travis plays the banjo and Trevor plays the fiddle. Being twins has helped their technique, as they can easily swap the melody and rhythm parts of songs.
Growing up playing together, the Stuarts learned from people who were in their seventies and eighties, and Travis said not many children their age were learning how to play old-time fiddle tunes.
“We are different from bluegrass because our tunes are older and unique to this region — a style that is Western North Carolina that’s different from Kentucky—It’s the way people flavor their notes here.”
Continuing to share their heritage, the brothers teach the next generation of old-time musicians at Haywood County’s Junior Appalachian Music Program.
In the summer time, they are busy as full-time musicians performing at dances, concerts, festivals and music camps.
Recently, they have traveled throughout the U.S. and to England, Germany, Ireland, and Russia performing and sharing their style of traditional old-time music and culture.
During their travels, Travis was surprised how many people knew about Appalachian music as well as their familiarity with the old masters, noting that “people move here to learn this kind of music.”
Having appeared on numerous other old-time recordings, the Stuart brothers have two CDs of their own — “Pretty Little Widow” and “Mountaineer.”
With an upcoming old-time Irish weekend planned in Nashville and another trip to Europe, the brothers are in process of putting together a new CD.
While their concerts feature old-time music, they enjoy playing different instruments and performing with other bands and musicians such as Martha Scanlan.
After their concerts, the Stuarts look forward to the pickers and singers who join them in playing the mountain music.
Reflecting on his musical upbringing, Travis emphasized how important listening is when learning to play.
“My advice to those getting started is to immerse yourself into it, go to where people play, sit back and listen,” Travis said.
For more information on the Stuart brothers visit www.thestuartbrothers.com.