Nine-year-old Nazareth boy loves his banjo
By Amy Leap, The Chronicle, Allentown, Page 3, 7/2003
When other five-yar-old boys were playing with Matchbox cars, Andrew Kowalczyk of Nazareth was playing with a banjo. 'I had an old banjo I bought about 25 years ago and never learned to play, ' said Greg Kowalczyk, Andrew's dad. Long since forgotten, the heavy wooden banjo sat gathering dust on the third floor of the Kowalczyk home.
When packing to move to their new home in Nazareth, Andrew found the forgotten banjo and the two soon became constant companions, 'See it was my dad's, but he never learned to play it,' Andrew said. 'I knew I could learn to play it.'
Asking his dad if he could have the banjo, Andrew began his quest to learn to play the awkward, long necked instrument. 'The banjo was as big ahs he was and he carried it everywhere he went,' Andrew's mom, Kathy Kowalczyk said laughing.
Once settled in at the new house, Greg Kowalczyk started looking on the Internet for a smaller and lighter banjo, better suited to Andrew. 'I found a 'Goodtime' banjo made by the Deering Banjo Company in California,' Andrew's dad said. Made in America, the banjo has a slender, low profile neck that makes it easy for even the smallest hands to play. 'One of the biggest advantages is there is no back on the banjo so it weighs only four pounds. It's light enough for Andrew to hold,' Greg said. [Greg found the listing of Deering dealers on the Deering web site; he and Kathy came to Meadowood Music to get Andrew his banjo. Andrew was most interested in Bluegrass, which typically uses a banjo with a resonator on the back and a heavy tonering under the head. Andrew's size made those choices less desirable until he's older; Deering's Goodtime-I was perfect.]
Playing his new banjo for the past year, nine-year-old Andrew travels all the way to Zionsville every week to take lessons. When you ask Andrew if he minds the ride to his teacher's he simply shakes his head no. When you talk about the car ride to his music teacher's house, Andrew is much more interested in telling you about his teacher's cats and dogs. Pixie Wright, Andrew's music teacher, is quite amazed at Andrew's muical abilities. 'I don't normally recommend starting banjo lessons for children until they are 12 years old because of the long neck on a banjo, but Andrew was so determined that I started with him when he was barely eight.' Wright said. [Pixie is a degreed music educator who has received rave reviews from each of the students that we've referred to her... we are sorry to announce that Pixie has moved from Zionszille to Lebanon since this article was written, and is now too far for Meadowood to make regular referrals to her.]
Picking out tunes on the banjo comes as naturally to Andrew as breathing air. 'Andrew practices at night, but tends to pick up the banjo all day long, playing a song here and there,' Kathy said. When asked if he gets nervous playing in front of people, Andrew calmly replied, 'Nope.'
Besides playing the banjo, Andrew sings in the Pocono Boys Choir and played in the third grade tone chimes choir at Schafer Elementary School this past year. 'You have to try out for the tone choir and only two other people beside me made it, ' Andrew said with a big smile.'