Bluegrass will survive and thrive only if talented young musicians carry it forward into the future. To this end, the Central Texas Bluegrass Association has established the Willa Beach-Porter CTBA Scholarship Fund, which provides scholarship awards to students who have demonstrated a serious interest in studying music.
This scholarship is named in honor of Willa Beach-Porter, a long-time supporter of bluegrass music and of the Central Texas Bluegrass Association. Willa was a wonderful fiddler and a great person. She will be missed by all who were lucky enough to know her. The CTBA gratefully acknowledges very generous contributions from Willa's father, Renfroe Ross Beach, and other family members in support of this scholarship program.
The Willa Beach-Porter CTBA Scholarship Program is managed and approved by the CTBA Scholarship Committe and Board of Directors. Each year, the program provides scholarships to music camps, CTBA-selected bluegrass camps, and/or online learning resources. Any Texas resident aged 12-18 is invited to apply for scholarship plus room and board to any bluegrass-related music camp of their choosing.
The CTBA also offers several more specific scholarship opportunities:
- The CTBA and ArtistWorks are offering a number of online scholarships. Each online scholarship recipient will receive a one-year ArtistWorks membership to the study track of their choice from the 30+ courses offered through ArtistWorks. ArtistWorks scholarships are available to any Texas resident aged 12 years or older (no age limit).
- The CTBA has partnered with Camp Bluegrass to send one aspiring bluegrass student from Cental Texas to Camp Bluegrass 2023 in Levelland, TX, to be held July 16th-21st. This scholarship is available to any Texas resident aged 12 years or older (no age limit).
For consideration towards any scholarship, please submit (1) an application and (2) two letters of recommendation.
Click here to submit an application online.
Click here to download an application to submit via mail (.pdf). Click here to submit a letter of recommendation online.
Click here to download a letter of recommendation form to submit via mail (.pdf).
Please consider donating to or joining the CTBA to help continue this great program. Click "Join the CTBA" or "Donate" above and contact us to assure your contribution goes to the scholarship fund. Our email and address for correspondance can be found here.
Harry Polly, Austin
“I am very grateful to the Central Texas Bluegrass Association for selecting me to attend Camp Bluegrass 2023. During COVID, my daughter - who plays the mandolin - gave me a resonator banjo and said 'Dad, you need to learn to play the banjo so we can play together at family gatherings.' Thus, my banjo journey began. I took a few lessons with Eddie Collins, who referred me to Jerry Hagins for clawhammer. I focused on clawhammer for about a year, but I attended several Wernick jam camps as well. My daughter kept pointing me towards Bluegrass. And slowly, practicing every day, I got better at Bluegrass! It’s so much fun to play with other musicians. I look forward to representing Central Texas Bluegrass Association at this year’s Camp Bluegrass!”
Chris Melas, Austin
Chris Melas grew up in a musical family, being taught classical guitar by his older brother. He eventually decided to persue bluegrass flatpicking and has been an active member in Austin's music scene since 2014. Chris regulary performs in town and runs his own studio of guitar students.
Scott Stegall, Austin
Scott Stegall grew up playing bluegrass and old-time banjo in the North Carolina Piedmont. Following a stint in college (and after writing a thesis on the history of American fiddlers’ conventions), he commissioned into the U.S. Army and relocated to central Texas. You can catch Scott playing guitar, banjo, fiddle, and yodeling Jimmy Martin-style at bluegrass watering holes throughout Austin.
Kyle Kline, Austin
Kyle Kline made a career playing upright bass in country bands around the Northeast, but never fully immersed himself in bluegrass until moving to Texas in 2017. Since then, he has played hundreds of bluegrass gigs and continues to develop his skills both on and off the bandstand. Thanks to an ArtistWorks scholarship, Kyle has been given the opportunity to learn directly from Missy Raines and further enhance his artistry.
Amber Milburn, 56 years old, Bryan
"I was well into adulthood before I ever picked up my first instrument - a mandolin. Since then, my mandolin and I have been inseparable thanks in part to CTBA and the learning resources provided by ArtistWorks. I feel a connection to Bluegrass by the unique way it has of telling the stories of everyday life about people, places and events. With Bluegrass’s distinctive high energy and fast tempo, what’s not to love!?"
Jim Trainer, Austin
Jim Trainer has been a musician and performer for over 30 years. He knows that rock and roll is the workingman’s way to a transformative being. Jim envisions a media unbeholden to corporate interest, and a world empowered by our service to each other, and plays that doghouse bass at jams throughout central Texas.
Bo Tyler, Austin
A longtime performing musician on guitar, Bo Tyler got bit with the bluegrass bug in 2012 switching to banjo. He now plays the mandolin as well and is loving using his ArtistWorks scholarship from CTBA to hone his skills. There's no better way to learn than expert instruction and a community of great players and grass lovers to chop it up with!
Izaak Mora is a 16 year old Banjo player from Round Rock, Texas. He has been playing Bluegrass for 3 years and has shown great interest and dedication to learning and improving his skills. He frequently attends the Pearl Bluegrass Jams as well as local Jams around Austin. He truly loves Bluegrass from the classics like Earl Srcuggs to more modern players like Russell Carson. He is excited to take his Artistworks class with Noam Pikelny.
Chris Cheek, 20 years old, Midland
"I'm from Midland, TX, and I play a bit of any instrument I can get my hands on. I've done some professional gigging this summer with Luke Stecklein who also got this scholarship in the past, and I am the upcoming president of Burnt Orange Bluegrass, which is really cool because Burnt Orange introduced me to bluegrass in the first place."
Martina Stecklein, 15 years old, Sugar Land
"Hi! I’m Martina. I’m 15 years old and from Sugar Land, Texas. I started playing mandolin when I was 13. I really enjoy bluegrass and my favorite artist is Billy Strings. I have tickets to his concert in December! My goals with this course is to expand my skills and learn more songs. I’m especially excited that Sierra Hull is teaching it because she is one of the greats and I loved her on Sturgill Simpson’s albums."
The CTBA was thrilled to honor Martina Stecklein's contribution to our 2020 Summer Sounds video competition with the gift of a Kentucky mandolin. Keep on pickin', Martina!
Evan Boatwright, 13 years old, Gatesville
Hardworking and self-taught, Evan distinguishes himself as he contributes his talents to his community and church. We are so excited to help Evan continue his studies in music! Thank you to ArtistWorks and to our membership for enriching the lives of musicians in Central Texas!
Isabella D’Alessandro, 13 years old, Round Rock
Dedicated and committed, Isabella has proven to be a truly exceptional musician. She has risen through the ranks of her school orchestra and has shown talents in singing and piano! We are so excited to help Isabella continue her studies in music! Thank you to ArtistWorks and to our membership for enriching the lives of musicians in Central Texas!
Shane Orr, 49 years old, Austin
Woven into the Austin brewery community, Shane stands out as an eager student of the mandolin. His professional world is brightened by his love for music! We are so excited to help Shane continue his studies in music! Thank you to ArtistWorks and to our membership for enriching the lives of musicians in Central Texas!
Julian Root, 32 years old, Austin
With curiosity and flare, Julian has added so much to the Austin bluegrass community and has also been a musical ambassador for the banjo in parts of Guatemala! We are so excited to help Julian continue his studies in music! Thank you to ArtistWorks and to our membership for enriching the lives of musicians in Central Texas!
Rick Skelton, 72 years old, McGregor
A multi instrumentalist and longtime teacher, Rick reminds us of the wisdom of life long learning. He inspires us all to be forever students. We are so excited to help Rick continue his studies in music! Thank you to ArtistWorks and to our membership for enriching the lives of musicians in Central Texas!
Luke Stecklein, 21 years old, Austin
A professional banjo player and newsletter editor & jam leader of Burnt Orange Bluegrass at UT Austin, Luke has been a staple of the bluegrass music scene. We are so excited to help Luke continue his studies in music! Thank you to ArtistWorks and to our membership for enriching the lives of musicians in Central Texas!
Jackson Wreden and Riley Gilbreath are the winners of the 2018 Willa Beach-Porter Scholarship.
Sam Armstrong is the winner of the 2017 Willa Beach-Porter Scholarship.
Logan, Mikaela and Derek Pauswang are the winners of the 2016 Willa Beach-Porter Scholarships.
Sean Campbell is a 15 year old fiddle and mandolin player from McKinney, Texas. He has played fiddle for 5 years and is just starting with mandolin. Sean expressed a desire to play with friends, in jam sessions and for church. Sean will attend the Gerald Jones Acoustic Music Camp in Arlington, TX.
Noah Richardson is an 18 year old guitar player. He has been playing guitar for 11 years. He also plays bass and plays in the youth praise band at his church. He expressed a desire to play in a band and to one day set up his own recording studio. He will attend the Gerald Jones Acoustic Music Camp in Arlington, TX.
Ethan and John-Samuel May of Lometa, TX are winners of 2014 Willa Beach-Porter Scholarships. Ethan is 14 years old and has played banjo for 2 ½ years. John-Samuel is a 12 years old and has been playing guitar for 2 ½ years. They play in a band together. They play at local churches, festivals, fund-raisers and at the monthly jam in Pearl, TX. Ethan expressed a desire to win the state Banjo Championship and is considering majoring in commercial music. John-Samuel expressed a desire to also learn the dobro and to eventually win the Texas State Flatpicking Championship. They attended the 2014 Camp Bluegrass in Levelland.
Ryan Chatterjee is a winner of the 2014 Willa Beach-Porter Scholarship. Ryan is 14 years old and has been playing banjo for six months. Ryan has proven himself as a serious, dedicated student of music by his experience playing saxophone. Ryan says he would like to be able to play a few songs very well on the banjo. He attended the 2014 Acoustic Music Camp in Arlington.
Ryan Sikes & Kade Helmcamp are the winners of the 2013 Willa Beach-Porter Scholarship. >Ryan is a 17-year-old guitar player from the Corpus Christi area. Ryan has been playing guitar and singing in his church for about four years and has recently discovered bluegrass music, working on flat-picking guitar and a little banjo. >Kade is a 15-year-old mandolin player from Bastrop. Kade also plays piano, fiddle, and bass. Kade has been playing with his family band since he started on the washboard at age 5. Both students expressed a desire to learn from experienced bluegrass musicians and to perform in area bluegrass bands.
Kody Lackey (fiddle & guitar), Payton Lackey (banjo), and Ethan Lackey (bass), are the winners of the 2012 Willa Beach-Porter Scholarship. These three, along with Mom and Dad, make up the Lackey Family Bluegrass Band. Kody plays the fiddle, and recently lead guitar. Payton began playing banjo at age 9 and hasn't put it down since! He has a hard driving Scruggs-style that keeps the drive in the family's music. Ethan keeps the group in time with his ability on the bass. All three add their voices to the band, singing lead and harmony parts.
Susannah Armstrong (bass) 16, Joshua Upham (guitar), 15, Aaron Upham (bass & banjo) 14, and Micah Upham (fiddle) 12 are the winners of the 2011 Willa Beach-Porter Scholarship. Susannah lives in Millican, TX, and plays for the band "Third Rail Bluegrass", where she gets plenty of playing time around Texas. Joshua, Aaron, and Micah Upham live in Austin, TX and are key players in the "Upham Family Band". They keep a busy performance schedule, including regular shows in Pearl, TX.
Adam Greer, a 16-year-old banjo player from Burton, Texas, John Peyton Shafer "JP", a 15-year-old mandolin player from Woodway, Texas, and Devin Paynkewicz, a 12 year old mandolin player from Baytown, Texas are the winners for the 2010 Willa Beach-Porter Scholarship. Adam has been playing the banjo for 8 years, and he became the youngest ever to win the Texas State Banjo Championship at the age of 14 in 2008. JP came highly recommended as a very disciplined musician who has already been involved with three bands including Blackland Prairie, Highlands Crossing, and more recently, Dueling Hearts. He is also a regular performer and jammer at the monthly bluegrass shows in Pearl, Texas. Devin, the youngest scholarship recipient, set out for camp with a mandolin in his hands, but developed a serious interest in banjo while at camp. He is currently saving his money in hopes of being able to go back to the camp next year.
Bethany Rankin and Brett Hawthorne are the winners of the 2009 Willa Beach-Porter Scholarship Award. Bethany is from Robinson, Texas (near Waco), and Brett is from Abernathy, north of Lubbock. Both players were highly recommended by their local area mentors, and each carries on a family tradition of bluegrass from previous generations.
The 2007 Willa Beach-Porter Scholarship was awarded to a group of young musicians from Clay County this year. The name of their Band is "Backstage," with member Riley Mathews, Jill Corley, Tyler Colley and Erika Richardson. Three of them were thirteen year olds and one was twelve years old. They took classes related to their instruments but also took private lessons. They sent us very nice emails thanking us for helping them participate in Camp Bluegrass this year. They were overjoyed at the fact that they were permitted to participate as a band rather than as individuals; individually they might not have all been able to attend. Janice Rogers, a friend of Willa Porter, joined the group with their certificates in the picture above.
Here's what 2006 recipient Amy Bell said about her experience:
I want to express my deepest appreciation to the Central Texas Bluegrass Association for awarding me a scholarship to Camp Bluegrass at South Plains College in Levelland. It was truly a wonderful experience! I made many new friends and brought home lots of new material with which to keep me busy learning for a long time to come.You helped make this experience possible for me and I will forever be indebted to you for your generosity. I am planning on pursuing a commercial music degree at South Plains College and I know that my week at Camp Bluegrass helped me in getting one step closer to my educational goals. Thank you again for all you did for me!
Christopher Quinters of Magnolia, Texas was the recipient of the 2005 CTBA Willa Porter Music Scholarship. Here's what Christopher said about his experience:Thank you for choosing me to be this year's scholarship recipient. My trip to Camp Bluegrass was a truly wonderful experience. It's hard to decide which part was my favorite. It was good to learn from so many banjo teachers, and to have had private lessons. It has helped me work toward picking a tune out by ear. It has also made me understand the banjo better. The concerts every night were awesome. I enjoyed hearing all the talent the instructors had to offer. While I was there, I met a lot of great people. I am trying to work towards coming back next year. This was a very valuable experience. Thank you again.
Finn Lynch, a 12-year-old banjo player, was our 2004 Scholarship recipient. Here is what Finn had to say about his experience:
Dear Board and Members of the CTBA, Thank you for the scholarship to Camp Bluegrass. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and learned quite a bit even in the relaxed atmosphere. The classes were especially helpful and gave me a view towards banjo playing that is hard to get when you have had the same teacher for three years. After classes I had no trouble finding the right organized jam for me. Even after that I had the concert to look forward to, my favorite being the all-banjo special. I appreciated being able to jam as much as I wanted afterwards in the lobby. This camp really impacted my playing and my attitude towards bluegrass. I look forward to coming back next year!
June 10, 1951 - January 29, 2005