• Emory Lester Interview

    Emory Lester

    Emory Lester has been a notable fixture in the acoustic mandolin world for the past four decades, and is an innovator of mandolin technique and renowned creative artist, multi-instrumentalist, and instructor. His large body of recorded work has placed him among the elite mandolinists of our time. He has inspired and influenced many of our current generation's mandolin players, and pointed the way with his clean, clear, fast and efficient mandolin technique.

    Emory has performed across the U.S., Canada, Europe, U.K. and Czech Republic, with Clawgrass banjoist Mark Johnson, Wayne Taylor and Appaloosa, his own Emory Lester Set, his Emory Lester & Jill Jones Band, as well as a roster of famous notables such as Del McCoury, Tony Rice, Steve Martin (on the David Letterman Show), Babik Reinhardt (son of Django), and recently Jim Hurst, to name a few.

    He has produced a long and impressive body of recorded works of his own music and with many others, with two new releases, Mark Johnson & Emory Lester - Acoustic Milestones 20 Years, and Emory Lester with Special Guest Jill Jones - On Christmas Night, as well as his recently released At Dusk solo recording, all showcasing Emory's musical creativity, and skill as a mandolinist/multi-instrumentalist.

    A sought-after instructor of mandolin, banjo and guitar, Emory has a world-wide roster of online students subscribed to his one-on-one Skype lesson program.

    Teaching since 1978, his unique and thorough approach to training his students has yielded countless success stories, with many of his students being with him for periods in excess of five years. He has instructed at prestigious music camps for the past 15 years, including many years at the Steve Kaufman Acoustic Kamp, the (late) Mandolin Symposium, Swannanoa Gathering, RockyGrass Academy, with many other camps and workshops in the U.S., Canada, Europe and the U.K.

    Our interview with Emory was a long time coming, but so worth the wait!

    Scott Tichenor
    Mandolin Cafe

    On Christmas Night

    Emory Lester's newest recording made with special guest Jill Jones, On Christmas Night.

    Emory Lester and Jill Jones - On Christmas Night


    From the recording On Christmas Night, the track "Joy To The World."

    Your style is, and has always been, unique. How did it evolve?

    I love the mandolin, and I love the music and styles of my heroes... how they approached it and managed to get such great sounds from it, and for the music they were inspired to write, record and share with me and so many others. I love the clear and clean notes, and those that took the time and care to play their mandolins with careful and clean technique, so that I could hear all the details of what they really wanted me and the audience to hear. If someone plays 10 notes, then I want to hear all 10 of those notes, and not just 7 or 8 of them because their technique doesn't allow them to speak clearly with the instrument. I always tried to play clean and clear notes, and work on my technique, for my own personal satisfaction and interest, and not because I thought it would bring me fame and fortune, but because it was what I wanted to hear. My style is a product of my technique, and my extremely wide and varied interest in music, and all of its many styles.

    Does your style and techniques on each instruments cross-pollinate to other instruments?

    Absolutely! Styles evolve from ingredients. My musical journey has taught me many different techniques on all kinds of instruments, and I guess they all swirl around in my head, and sometimes come out where they don't belong, so to speak. I remember learning Tony Rice's style of rhythm on the guitar, because I wanted that sound on my recordings, and no one around my area could do it at the time. Then somehow, some of that started to come out in my mandolin playing too. Lots of crosspicked riffs, chord riffs, etc. I guess I could certainly list Tony as being one of my greatest mandolin influences! Complete pieces started to evolve as a result of these techniques and creative discoveries. Ideas and techniques learned on other instruments have always seemed to find their way into my mandolin playing, and I know that was never intended or planned, but rather like ...a funny thing happened on the way to... sort of thing. Banjo, guitar, fiddle, and singing as well, have affected my thought process, techniques, and style on the mandolin. Maybe that is considered having too much fun with it, but I love it.

    Mandolin Symposium. Emory with David Grisman and Mike Marshall
    Mandolin Symposium. Emory with David Grisman and Mike Marshall.

    Who have been your heroes in the mandolin world?

    Way too many to name. I love that there are pioneers, role models, and musicians who can touch and inspire those that are gathering an interest, and point the direction forward for continued goals and learning. I also love that many of these musicians are accessible and approachable, and can inspire someone to unimaginable heights. Doyle Lawson was one of those musicians, as was Jimmy Gaudreau. Doyle's playing excited me to no end, and I remember just going at the mandolin for hours until I could play those breaks and tunes that he had recorded. Jimmy as well. I learned so much from listening to Jimmy's every note, and little did I know that he would show up in my life and career later on, to further inspire and motivate me during some very hard times. I couldn't list all of the things that Jimmy has done for me in this interview, but someday I'll have to share those stories. Just unbelievable how generous, kind and caring that man is, not just for myself, but for many others he has been there for.

    Of course later on, David Grisman, Darol Anger, Mike Marshall, Jethro Burns, and the list goes on and on, and is still growing today.

    Mark Johnson and Emory Lester
    Mark Johnson and Emory Lester

    Who are you performing with these days?

    After 20 years, my friendship and partnership with Mark Johnson still thrives, and we still are playing shows, mainly in the southeast U.S. I wish I had a dime for every time someone has mentioned my "Clawgrass" mandolin playing... haha! Mark coined that term, and it well suits his music and style, as well as the music we play and perform, but I do have my own music and creativity, that isn't Clawgrass at all. But I do appreciate the marketing term and the branding.

    I've recently reconnected with a great friend of mine from France, a wonderful guitar player named François Vola, who is the nephew of the famous Louis Vola, the bassist for Stéphane Grappelli, Django Reinhardt and the Hot Club de France. We did a few shows this past summer in the Nice area of France, and recorded 10 songs for a new album while I was there. I met François back in late 80s while teaching students at the famous Pickers Supply music store in Fredericksburg, Virginia. During the 90s, we did many shows, including a wonderful week of shows in 1997 at Martha's Vineyard with the jazz legend Babik Reinhardt, son of the great Django Reinhardt. I also did the mandolin and violin on their CD, Reinhardt and Vola – A Night in Conover, which was released in France in the late 90s. We managed to get Babik to play the Monroe tune "Wheelhoss," and he loved it! More great stories.

    I also still perform with Wayne Taylor and Appaloosa bluegrass band, whenever Wayne wants to present the "Appaloosa" version of his music on the road.

    Wayne is a great friend and an awesome musician, and when you can work with such wonderful friends, it makes the times on the road that much better and more fun for sure.

    My wonderful lady Jill Jones and I have a part-time band of our own, and we did a recording last year called The Journey, and whereas both she and I are most times too busy to give it the full attention it deserves, we do plan to rouse it back up, and get back to it again. I've also done the occasional show with my Emory Lester Set, to feature and perform some of the music I've recorded on solo projects. Sometimes I wish I had the time and chance to push all of these things out there and make them much more accessible, but life hasn't shown me that window as of yet.

    Emory Lester Set
    Emory Lester Set: L-R Kene Hyatt, Emory Lester, Al Smith

    How did your partnership with banjoist Mark Johnson begin?

    I met Mark Johnson in 1997 while playing with the Bill Emerson & Mark Newton Band, which was also called the New Group back then, in northern Virginia.

    Bill had told me about Mark and his affiliation with the Tony, Larry, and the entire Rice family. He gave me a copy of Mark's first CD, and the music resonated with me immediately, taking me back to my childhood when I used to sit and listen to my grandfather play the clawhammer banjo when we visited him in southwest Virginia. Mark had that sound, but also had a new creative angle to it with his own written compositions. We hit it off right away, and have enjoyed a 20 year partnership that is ongoing, and hopefully we can continue for a lot longer. Mark is a wonderful friend and is as close as family to me, and I've enjoyed many years of great music, fun times, common interests and hilarious stories traveling all over the US and in Europe with him.

    Mandolin Mondays

    Emory Lester's March 27, 2017 appearance on David Benedict's "Mandolin Mondays." Emory plays "Eight More Miles to Louisville" on his Northfield Mandolin.

    Originally from Virginia, but currently living in Ontario Canada?

    Yes that's right. Born, raised and educated in northern Virginia, I lived in the Gainesville and the Front Royal areas for most of my life up to 1988, when I moved to Ontario. A Canadian singer and guitar player named Leon Morris, who was from Simcoe Ontario (which ironically is pretty close to where I'm living right now) moved down to Alexandria Virginia to be part of the bluegrass scene there and played many years with mandolin icon Buzz Busby. He would sometimes recruit local pickers to go back to Ontario with him to do shows, and it was just the biggest adventure for a young picker, and when he asked me to go I jumped at the chance. Little did I know what a life-changing decision that was going to become. I'm very grateful for all of my experiences like that. I lived in Ontario from 1988 till 1993, and returned to Virginia until 2002, when I moved back to Ontario again, and have lived here since. It's funny that many people think that I am Canadian, and I am very honored by that. But the fact remains that I was born in Washington D.C., and I am, and always will be a U.S. citizen.

    Emory at the 2016 Swannanoa Gathering with Tony Trischka on banjo, Kevin Kehrberg on bass and Mike Marshall on mandocello.

    Do you ever partake in the Canadian music scene in the Toronto area?

    Ironically, I haven't really done that much in the way of performing in Ontario, as most of my activity over the years has been in the U.S. In 1988 I was a member of a local Ontario band called Grassworks, and also had the first rendition of my Emory Lester Set with Marion Linton, Allan Gorman, and Kene Hyatt, which featured Dawg-style mandolin oriented music, and did a lot of shows in Ontario and across Canada. In the early 90s, I did a lot of shows with my Set band, and also was part of a New Age ensemble trio with guitarist William Ellwood from Hamilton, Ontario, who recorded for Narada records. What a different and challenging show that was for me. On some songs I had to play keyboard with one hand while holding a fiddle and bow with the other, with my mandolin strapped around me ready to go, pick in my teeth, and having to play each thing at the appropriate time in the song! In 1993, after recording my album Pale Rider, Tony Trischka hired me to do a tour across Canada, and that's when the seeds were planted in other parts of Canada for things that happened later on. I've taught at quite a few camps like the British Columbia Bluegrass Workshop. One year we had Bill Keith join our Set band to do some shows and festivals in western Canada. We had a great time with Bill.

    You've always had a day job career as well. What made you decide not to become a full-time musician?

    My father, Jake Lester, instilled in my brother and I not to pursue music for a living. I started playing fiddle at age 5, and my brother Dale and I would play a few local performances as a cute kid act with my Dad around the Falls Church, Virginia area. I remember being a guest on the Reno & Harrell & the Tennessee Cut-Ups Show on WDCA 20 in Washington D.C., somewhere around 1968 or 1969. I remember the Captain 20 spaceship being in the same TV studio that the music shows were taped. Exciting for us, since we loved to watch Captain 20 on TV in the morning before we went off to school! As I grew up with music being a large part of my life and interest, I certainly did have dreams of being a full-time musician in my future. My father had been playing professionally for many years, with local bands like Benny and Vallie Cain, and some shows behind Patsy Cline, but also had a full daytime working career at the Washington Post, so he knew of the ups and downs of committing to it full time. He instilled in my brother and I that we needed to plan on doing something other than music for our main career and the music would and could be a good side career to supplement it. Of course we were a bit rebellious to that idea, but I pursued education and a career in engineering and technical illustration right out of high school, and I've been doing that ever since, for 40 years now. So many days I've stared out an office window, wondering where my friends were traveling that day, but I've learned to be proactive, and to get as much out of my music business and career as I can, and balance my life between my career, my performances and travel, my teaching, and some personal time, which isn't much after this workaholic schedule.

    Emory Lester with his Heiden Mandolin
    Emory with his Heiden F mandolin

    After all these years, things are very clear to me, and I am very happy with my choices. I've traveled for extended periods with bands in my past at times, and my experiences have played a role in my decisions for sure. I'm not sure how I would have done as a full time musician. Not so much for the music, but for the other parts of that life, like the constant need to impose on folks for many different reasons. I know it really helps, and is at times essential, for full time musicians to require the assistance and help of others, in so many ways, and I know that folks are generally kind and supportive, but I've never been one of those that was very comfortable imposing on others for anything. I know that would have been a huge problem for me, had I set my life up to depend on the music business. For as wonderful as the music is, listening and participating, the business is what we all know it is, and often those who chose to develop another skill and career path as their primary, and still work a music career on the side, are passed over are not considered or viewed in the same way as those who commit entirely to it, and live the highs and lows of an arts related business. Many of these part time musicians are, in my opinion, as talented and inspired as their full time musician friends, but may never be discovered or heard, or get the attention or accolades their counterparts receive.

    How do you balance a day job career with your music career?

    Life is extremely wonderful and busy at this stage, and I've long been guilty of being a workaholic. I know that someday I won't be able to keep this up, so just trying to do as much as I can while I can. I have been so fortunate over the years to have employers who have always been supportive, generous and understanding of my music endeavors, and I owe them so many thanks for allowing me to use my vacation time up early each year traveling to play shows, and for always asking me "where are you going next?," instead of "when will you be back?"

    How did you start into jazz and new acoustic music?

    I remember as a teenager being so into bluegrass, and playing the fastest and cleanest notes that I possibly could. One day I remember hearing a local player come on stage at a local festival, and play a series of 7th chords, which was something I hadn't learned about or tried at that time. I also remember someone telling me about a guy named David Grisman, and at the time I just discounted it, thinking that it was jazz, and I wasn't going to be interested in that kind of music or playing. After hearing that local player play those chords on stage, my competitive nature kicked in, and I asked a friend, who was heading for the record store that day, to pick up every David Grisman record he could find. Once the needle touched the vinyl on my record player, my life changed profoundly. The freedom to play outside the boundaries of bluegrass was so liberating and refreshing. It totally changed my interest, direction and approach, and I started to search for what was driving me to love this new style of mandolin music. I remember following Darol Anger and Mike Marshall, learning all of the tunes and parts, which led me straight into a new world of music that was later coined New Age, and discovered another slew of artists that were influential and amazing. More life-changing moments. I love those moments, and there aren't enough of them in life.

    Emory Lester

    Why do you record with yourself mostly?

    I've always loved everything about music, and all the different sounds, which led me to want to learn how to play as many of the different instruments as I could. With that, I have acquired so many influences, inspirations, and heroes on each of these instruments, and music styles. Learning how all of these voices work together, and how they compliment each other, has always been fascinating to me. I've also been fortunate, over the years, to be able to play many of them in band settings on stage, which has taught me so much about how musicians work together, and what compliments, or impedes, other players. After playing a lot of mandolin on stage, it only took a few shows of playing guitar with one band, banjo with another, fiddle with a few more, bass, etc. to learn how these instruments are best used to be a part of a team of players, to present the music as a joint entity. Each experience has helped me become a much better and more aware musician, and a better team player.

    I remember in the late 70's and early 80's, when I was really beginning to experiment with creating music and writing tunes, how I wanted to start seriously recording them. At that time, there wasn't an abundance of players in the northern Virginia area that were into, or could play, what I was trying to create, which was very David Grisman-influenced. I guess I was on the wrong coast! So I started recording my own backgrounds for my mandolin pieces, using the archaic tools of the time, which were cassette decks and an old reel-to-reel deck, and just enjoyed building the songs from the ground up, and letting the creativity spill down into how the instruments were played together, and how that process affected the overall final sound of the song. I still love trying to paint an aural picture with my songs, and love being creative with each voice, hearing the different sounds and parts, that make up the final presentation. I'll always do that to some degree... I know I should reach out to my many friends to get their input and help on some of my music and projects, and I hope to do that more often than I have as I go forward. It is a privilege and a blessing to have my own studio to experiment in, and to do my art and bring my ideas back from where they were inspired from, and work them into finished pieces to share.

    Tell us about your interest in what is termed as New Age music and how it affects your music?

    New Age (or rather the music coined as such) really affected me the first time I listened to it. I'm an emotional person, and when music touches your emotions, it's like nothing in life that I've experienced. The feeling is fascinating, inspiring, and it is the source for some of my best compositions. I feel I came the closest to conveying that with the At Dusk album with several of my pieces on there. It took me a long time to get to the point where I could enjoy the music that I have recorded, as I've always been very critical, so it's hard to get to that point. I've gotten better with that over the years. The attempt to gather the original source of inspiration and convey it through the music and feel the same emotion when I listen back to a finished recording, that I had when I first created the idea, will be a continuing life-long pursuit and goal for me.

    I feel I've got my best music in front of me in many ways. I'm excited that life is giving me a direction and some opportunity, peace and happiness, to give that a chance to happen. That's exciting for me... how much of this I can perform live, I'm not sure, but in my studio, I can paint my portraits, and do my art, and convey my deepest musical feelings, or attempt to, for the rest of my time. When it's all said and done, I feel I will be very satisfied with that part of it.

    Mark Johnson and Emory Lester - Acoustic Milestones - 20 Years

    Released two weeks ago, Mark Johnson and Emory Lester - Acoustic Milestones - 20 Years.

    ark Johnson and Emory Lester - Acoustic Milestones - 20 Years

    Tell us more about your lesson program, and your teaching and instruction background, history and philosophy?

    I started teaching banjo and mandolin in 1978, when I was a sophomore in high school. I had never even considered teaching as an option for employment, and at the time my father was teaching at the local Music & Arts Center in Manassas, Virginia. He was working at the Washington Post newspaper all day, and then stopping by on his way home 2 nights a week to teach students there. I remember thinking about how cool it was that he was the banjo teacher at that store. At some point I know this became problematic for him, so one evening he came home, and basically told me, "you're going to teach my students from now on!" Well, haha... I really didn't think that was something I could do, and didn't know where to start. Thanks to the Earl Scruggs book, and my father attending my first few lessons, I was on my way. It's hard to believe that was almost 40 years ago. Time just flies.

    Since that time, I have learned so much about instructing, and helping people to improve the understanding of the music and the quality of their playing, given all the different pros and cons that come with each student. I've experimented over the years with many different concepts and approaches, and have a great system now that melds a student's development with their musical interests. Because of that, I really like to work with students one-on-one, and have done so for the past 39 years, at varied locations from music stores to my home to private lessons while on the road performing. I really enjoy and take much pride in seeing and hearing the progress of students and the satisfaction it brings to them. The progression of learning for a student is very interesting to me, and I do plan to put my findings, philosophies, theories and methods into a complete printed and recorded instructional work.

    I really enjoy teaching at the various camps and workshops. I've been privileged and lucky enough to have been hired by my great friend Steve Kaufman for many years, and the (late) Mandolin Symposium several times in the past. I've enjoyed working with all the students, and taking them through courses and regimens that make a difference in their playing, and make it more enjoyable whenever they can sit down with an instrument.

    How did your partnership and relationship with Northfield Mandolin company come to be?

    I remember attending the IBMA convention back in September 2010, and we had just returned from a tour of Scotland and England with Wayne Taylor and Appaloosa, and our banjo player at the time was the legendary Chris Warner, who is a well-known musician and luthier, who was a member of Jimmy Martin's Sunny Mountain Boys, and who built that famous mandolin that Marty Stuart plays. I remember sitting at our booth in the trade show area, and he says to me, "You should go over and check out those Northfield mandolins, over there at the Elderly Instruments booth. if I had the coin on me, I would pick one of those up today." Well, for Chris to say that, is saying something for sure. So I went over there and was astounded by them, and met Adrian Bagale, and the rest if history, so to say. Adrian, Peter, and everyone at Northfield are extremely talented mandolin technicians, and I'm so grateful to them for supporting me over the past six years, and I hope I can continue to be part of their plans going forward. They are very excited about the instruments and their work, and have a clear vision of their future, and I'd always love to be part of it.

    Tell us a bit more about the Northfield you play. It seems to have a few scratches and abrasions on it.

    Haha... yeah that is entirely my doing... I distressed it myself! Adrian presented me with that mandolin, (number 81), which is their standard master model. I played it for a few months, and then I had them replace the fingerboard with an arched one, and the size of frets that I prefer. From that point on, it grew into me, and I grew into it, and it is a wonderful instrument, and has certainly become much louder from all the shows I've played on it over the past years. For many years I used to keep a loose fist for a right hand, and it seems that over time, the fingers of my right hand have opened up, and whereas I never did plant my fingers on the top of the mandolin, they have been dragging across the face of the top, thus creating that pickguard-shaped wear. I've never really liked playing with traditional pickguards as they tend to keep the fingers and entire hand above the plane of the strings, and my hand wants to rotate down a little while picking the E strings. I took some small pickguard sized wood blanks, and formed a new design for a pickguard, that protects the instrument while recessing away from the string level, allowing that area and space for the right hand. From the front, it appears the same as a traditional pickguard, but it dives down past the string level and the majority of the pickguard surface is much closer to the top. I've submitted this design to Adrian at Northfield, and to my friend Michael Heiden, and they are hopefully going to take this idea further, and incorporate it in their plans going forward. The new octave mandolins Northfield is producing have the first rendition of it installed already. I've had one of my own prototypes on my mandolin recently, and has proven that it will prevent me from doing such a great job of scratching up a mandolin top again!

    Tony Rice Unit with Emory Lester

    Opinion on mandolins being produced today?

    Like the music itself, the science, techniques and knowledge of mandolin building has progressed with talented artists and luthiers over the years, and I love how the interest in the instrument, which has often been driven by the great players, has inspired the makers to look for improvements in the design, while giving respect and value to the traditional looks and appearances. Taking something we revere and consider in many ways perfect, and given the styles and techniques of the players, and looking for ways to revise the design to help players play better, sound better, and feel better while they are playing.

    What do you think of old mandolins, like Lloyd Loars?

    One has to wonder what changes might have occurred between 1922 and 1924 in the Kalamazoo factory if they could have peered into the future and been able to see Bill Monroe, David Grisman and Chris Thile play, even for a minute or so. They are amazing instruments nonetheless, produced with near perfection for their time period. To me, they are valuable museum pieces that are owned by individuals who can still play them and use them. Interesting how many of them sound somewhat different. I believe it is the player who is responsible for a large part of the sound and the instrument cannot account for the entire thing. I sat and listened to John Reischman play several Loars and other mandolins last year at one of the camps, and they all sounded great. They sounded like John. I'm glad some of the Loars are owned by great players and we can hear and enjoy the sounds they make on them.

    Emory Lester and Dale Ludewig
    L-R: Dale Ludewig and Emory Lester

    Tell us about the signature mandolin you designed and Dale Ludewig manufactured back a few years ago?

    Dale is a wonderful friend, and a talented luthier. I told him I was interested in a new design for an A model and not just the standard A style. He asked me what I had in mind, and using a computer aided design system, created a drawing of the concept I was thinking of, and after giving this drawing to him, asked him to come up with an idea down the lines of what I had drawn. Instead, he sent me back a photo of an A style top that he had cut out to my design! Of course this sent panic through me, as I didn't actually think my design was good enough or checked out technically with proper mandolin design. Dale built my drawing exactly as I had delivered it to him. He made it wonderful and I still use that mandolin and the matching mandola today on recordings. Very cool instruments and I probably won't try that design thing again, since this one turned out so well... I'll quit while I'm ahead!

    What other current mandolin luthiers do you like?

    I've always loved the luthiers that have taken the most care in producing quality instruments, but have also been willing to make adjustments to suit the player, which may cause them to deviate from the tried-and-true original designs. I've also come to know a great many of the famous name makers, and if my last name were Rockefeller, I would love to own one of each of their works, just on the strength of supporting my friends and their talent and work. Heiden, Monteleone, Gilchrist, Dudenbostel, Apitius, Weber, Kemnitzer, Henderson, Brentrup, Duff, Ludewig, Ratliff... so many others who are just great friends and awesome people as well as their obvious talent. I've got a story about each of these fine folks. I've also loved those who have stretched the boundaries of the original designs to make new and unique creations, such as Monteleone, Sorensen, Brentrup, and Macica to name a few that have taken the design and made their own works of art with obvious ties back to the original.

    Mandolin Symposium: Emory Lester with Sierra Hull on octave mandolin, David Grisman and Mike Marshall
    Emory Lester at The Mandolin Symposium with Sierra Hull, David Grisman and Mike Marshall

    What do you think of the new and upcoming talent?

    It's so interesting how music changes with the times... all the influences and inspirations, and how the techniques and approaches evolve as new generations take up the activity. I guess that happens with most artistic things, or many other things in life. I remember what I was doing and what I was listening to years ago, and how it shaped my path to where I am today, as far as my approach to mandolin and how I hear the music, and how I try and present it from the mandolin. Somehow I feel I've had the chance to advance the technique and influence others, and the younger champions will do the same, with the advantage of having everyone before them to study, and will in turn, advance everything even further. Hopefully they will stay musical, and try to present music with the mandolin that is not just technically superior, but is heavy with melody and pleasing to all who listen, and not just the players.

    Tell us about your sons, and their music?

    My two sons, Justin and Josh, are 31 and 27 years old and have grown up to be great men and wonderfully seasoned musicians. They are both in a traveling, well known country band in Canada called Cold Creek County, and I'm so proud of them in so many ways. They both played on my project Reminiscing Today, and I'm looking forward to doing an entire album in the near future with them to commemorate our family and our musical history and journey.

    What's the future looking like for Emory Lester?

    Well, I don't feel I'm too old yet to still indulge in the world of mandolin, and enjoy all of my heroes music still, and to enjoy my friends who are doing the same and delight in their successes and creations and have it all inspire me to keep creating and making music. I'm sure I'll continue to pursue performing with my friends and in new situations and with new friends. But to have that magical feeling of creativity that comes from being in beautiful places and meeting special people and turning those feelings into recorded works of art will never stop with me until I am physically unable to do it anymore. I hope I can keep it all up till I'm 100 years old. We'll see.

    * Emory Lester illustration by Graham Blair for Bluegrass North Magazine.

    Additional Information

    Comments 20 Comments
    1. Ginny Aitchison's Avatar
      Ginny Aitchison -
      Emory's lessons have changed my life. Whether through Skype or in his studio, I have learned more than the important techniques; I have learned musicality, clarity, fluidity, feel, proper fingering, position, and wanting to come back for the next lesson having practiced all he had to offer in each lesson. He surprises you at every turn by solving a problem you never thought you had but was soon obvious to you when he demonstrated the best way to address it. Above all, for me, is his patience, something I'm sure I have tested more times than not. Even if I lose patience, he does not; when I have lost confidence, he hands it back to me. I went from Bluegrass to Celtic with him and the genre is irrelevant. A mandolin is a mandolin. Emory Lester is Emory Lester.
      Thank you for this interview. It was very interesting and insightful...and yes, a long time coming. But as you say , 'worth the wait'.
    1. Luna Pick's Avatar
      Luna Pick -
      Thanks Scott for tracking down Emory and posting a brilliant interview with him. Emory is an amazing multi-instrumentalist, fabulous teacher and fine human being. He has played with so many of the other greats, and cuts his own musical trail as well.
    1. chuck3's Avatar
      chuck3 -
      "Overland" is still on the Cafe MP3 "grass" page - that's my ideal of how to play and has been since the first time I heard it. Traditional 'grass is great but I love how Emory opens it up harmonically and sonically.
    1. Jordan Ramsey's Avatar
      Jordan Ramsey -
      One of the best to ever touch pick to a mandolin. Thanks for the great interview, Scott!!
    1. William Smith's Avatar
      William Smith -
      Great interview! NICE. I first heard of Emory when he played mandolin on my Uncle Dick's first album with Mike O "The Dick Smith Mike O'Rielly Band in 1998 and it blew me away at the time as being different kind of style. Its still a great recording 20 years later.
    1. Bill McCall's Avatar
      Bill McCall -
      Very nice piece. Such a thoughtful and generous on top of being such an amazing musician. Thanks
    1. Michael Neverisky's Avatar
      Michael Neverisky -
      Wonderful interview. While not a universal truth, this bumper sticker came to mind:

      Attachment 162438
    1. john.m's Avatar
      john.m -
      I've always felt like Emory is criminally underappreciated. Super glad to see this!
    1. Luna Pick's Avatar
      Luna Pick -
      Completely agree.

      This thread made me take another look at his Mandolin Monday. Talent, innovation and fun rolled together.
    1. smokinop's Avatar
      smokinop -
      A great interview with a wonderfully talented musician. Thanks Scott for the interview, thanks Emory for the music!
    1. bigskygirl's Avatar
      bigskygirl -
      I’ve been a student of Emory’s for several years now, his approach to music and playing the mandolin is exceptional and through his teaching I have learned so much more than just playing the notes. He’s patient, kind, understanding, and a great cheerleader.

      Great interview Scott, thanks for posting!
    1. Willie Poole's Avatar
      Willie Poole -
      Funny thing is that I had talked to Emory at some picking places and never knew who I was talking to until I seen his picture on this post about the interview, He lived in this area for a while and picked with a lot of our local pickers....

      I have never heard any of his recordings but will start looking for some to listen to....

    1. Mandolin Cafe's Avatar
      Mandolin Cafe -
      Noting the one year anniversary of this interview with a long-time Cafe favorite.
    1. Rick Jones's Avatar
      Rick Jones -
      Thanks for kicking this back up to the top of the list, Scott. I went to Brian Oberlin's camp in Grand Rapids this summer, and Emory was one of the instructors. What a monster player, and all-around fantastic guy! Looking forward to reading this.
    1. Mandolin Cafe's Avatar
      Mandolin Cafe -
      One of our favorite interviews from the last few years, published this date two years ago.
    1. archerscreek's Avatar
      archerscreek -
      Quote Originally Posted by Mandolin Cafe View Post
      One of our favorite interviews from the last few years, published this date two years ago.
      Thanks for bumping this thread. If Emory Lester had a dollar for every time I watched him play a Northfield Big Mon on YouTube, he probably could buy a mandolin from all of his friends. Haha. I bet he's sold more than a handful of Northfield mandolins based on his playing. A great talent.
    1. Nashville's Avatar
      Nashville -
      I can't say enough good things about Emory Lester. I first learned of his mandolin playing from the Northfield videos and yes, I did finally buy one! And I met Emory at a mando camp in Nashville, so I was lucky enough to meet him in person. What a great guy, great teacher, great player! Two of his cd's are my favorites of all time, At Dusk and Reminiscing Today, which contain masterful mandolin compositions. No one plays it like Emory.
    1. Mandolin Cafe's Avatar
      Mandolin Cafe -
      Noting today's anniversary of this interview.
    1. Mandolin Cafe's Avatar
      Mandolin Cafe -
      Noting the anniversary of this interview.
    1. Mandolin Cafe's Avatar
      Mandolin Cafe -
      Noting the anniversary of this interview.