Young Windsor guitarist wows bluegrass crowds

Ashley Thompson
Published on July 24, 2014

The fresh new face in the provincial bluegrass circuit is just about to enter his first year of middle school in West Hants.

Ayden Clarke, 12, is lending his talents as a rhythm guitarist to the Next Generation Bluegrass Band this summer.

The young Windsor resident had modest expectations when he first grabbed a guitar about a year ago and sought instructions from local teachers Andrew Maynard and Jake Smith;he just wanted to be able to play the thing.

“I never knew that it would lead to all of this that I am doing right now,” said Ayden.

Maynard, a teenage whiz on the banjo and guitar also hailing from Windsor, invited Ayden to join Next Generation. The band scored paid gigs at festivals in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island this summer.

Hopping on stage with a bluegrass ensemble wasn’t an obvious choice for Ayden, whose favourite song to play is Nothing Else Matters by Metallica, but he adapted to the genre in no time flat.

Proud mom Maria Marques says Ayden can listen to a song and have it mastered in short order.

“He has a good ear for it and that’s why it’s working out so well.”

To watch her boy face an audience, smile for the crowd and crack a few jokes on stage as a member of Next Generation for the first time was an emotional experience forMarques.

“They got the standing ovation that night,” she said, referring to a show in Berwick. “They are all so young. Bluegrass is usually an older crowd.”

Though appearing calm, cool and collected on stage, Ayden admits he’s still getting used to playing for large crowds that aren’t populated with familiar faces alone.

“I’m always nervous because there’s always that possibility that I could mess up, but then I see all of my family in the audience and it always cheers me up.”

Rather than picking strawberries for a summer job, Ayden Clarke is pickin’ tunes.

©Ashley Thompson