Ashley has been involved in music all of her life. Her first musical experiences were Kindermusik and piano lessons with her mother, whom is a professional music educator. She continued to grow in her musical experiences through church, school, band and musicals. She received her first banjo from her “Papaw Nale” and began taking lessons from Stevie Barr in her local city of Galax. She has been playing the bluegrass banjo since she was 11 years old and has had a rich tradition of Bluegrass music, in her family. She and her sister Lindsey's great great grandfather Walter Mooney (Grandfather of their grandmother Frances Nale), sang with The Stoneman family “Dixie Mountaineers” in 1926.
Ashley has been a part of the band since its beginning. She brings her sweet smile and smooth banjo drive to the stage. She sings lead and harmony vocals with a strong alto blend. Ashley completed an apprenticeship with Sammy Shelor through the Virginia Folk Life Apprenticeship program. Sammy is the leader and banjoist of The Lonesome River Band. This opportunity was one of a kind and was truly amazing! Her other banjo teachers have included: Houston Caldwell, Jodi King, and Danny Stewart.
Ashley was also selected and featured in the video “ Pretty little girl from Galax” with “Russell Moore and III Tyme Out.” Ashley was also honored to have received 2nd place in Folk Song Competition at the 79th Galax Fiddlers Convention. Ashley has recently graduated from ETSU with her BSN and has accepted a position at a local hospital working in the Neonatal unit, while she continues to be a part of The Loose Strings Band.
Channing started taking guitar lessons about ten years ago. This is where she became part of the Loose Strings Band. It was at Barr's Fiddle shop downtown Galax Va. where the group first began! Her grandfather Guy Russell influenced her as a musician. He was the lead singer of two quartets in Galax VA. The first being “The Dixie Four” in 1956, during his high school years and in 1968, he sang with the Songmasters. She loves playing music with her “Pa” at Locust Grove Church of Christ in Galax, VA whenever possible. Other encouragement for Channing has been from local musicians, Josh Pickett and Scott Freeman who taught her the guitar.
Channing brings a sweet spirit to the stage where she sings lead vocals and plays her NEW Edmonds guitar for the band. She has just completed her Associates degree in Business Administration and is currently enrolled at the University of Phoenix where she plans to complete a degree in business and become a Certified Public Accountant. Being a part of the band has brought many enjoyable times to her and has given Channing many new “music” friends.
Grace has been going full speed since day one. Grace has been around bluegrass music since she was born. Her dad Terry Wilson plays the mandolin, guitar and bass and has strongly influenced her love of bluegrass music. She began clogging at the age of five and her feet haven’t stopped moving since! Grace took lessons from Scott Freeman and began playing the fiddle around the age of seven, but soon the bass became her true love. She also enjoys playing the guitar and claw hammer banjo in her spare time.
The first band Grace was a member of was called “The Galax Little Leaves” which was a youth band well known in the area. She was in this band with Houston Caldwell, which many knew as a fine banjoist. We honor his memory and love of bluegrass at a festival in our hometown called “Houstonfest.” The Loose Strings band girls loved Houston very much and have performed at this festival every year and always enjoy helping at the youth stage. Grace has been a strong advocate for the bluegrass youth and has been apart of IBMA Kids on bluegrass earlier in her career. Her mother Sandra is the head of the Junior Appalachian Musicians (JAM) program in our area. The girls’ band continues to support JAM programs and youth bluegrass musicians whenever they can!
About nine years ago Grace began playing with “The Loose Strings Band”…. who also happened to be her best friends! Grace sings lead/ and high tenor vocals to add to the nice harmony blend. She also plays the bass for the group, which is bigger than she is, but don't let her size fool you, this girl has a lot of spunk and keeps the band on their toes with that grounded bass beat! She was also honored to win the Barbara Poole memorial award for 1st place Bass at the Galax Fiddlers Convention. Grace is currently attending ETSU and is a business major with a minor in Bluegrass.
Lindsey is the youngest of the group and is just beginning her college career. Her new interest is song writing, but she also loves to sing and participate in theater productions. She has been an active member of Hillcrest Baptist church all her life, and has enjoyed developing her singing voice and love of God through the years in church musicals, and helping lead the bible school and praise music! Music has always been a big part of Lindsey's life beginning with Kindermusik and later piano lessons with her mother. She and her sister Ashley, both showed an interest in bluegrass instruments, when they found a banjo and fiddle at the home of their grandparents. This musical journey has been a blessing of memories that they can share for the rest of their lives. Lindsey received her first “tiny” fiddle from her “papaw” Bill Nale, when she was seven years old! She has had lessons from Stevie Barr and Scott Freeman. She has played fiddle for the band for nine years and loves to sing lead and harmony vocals. She was recently asked to provide lead/harmony vocals on a CD with many other talented youth musicians. The project is called: Close Kin CD “Our roots run deep”. Lindsey was honored to receive 5th place in the folk song competition at the 80th Galax Fiddlers Convention. Lindsey has been known to bring loads of energy and laughter to the band and those around her. She is looking forward to beginning a new chapter in her life, as she attends ETSU.
Mary-Claire Hooper is the newest member of The Loose Strings Band. Though she is only 15, Mary-Claire is no stranger to the bluegrass family. She has competed in many competitions and events both in North Carolina and Virginia since the age of 9, and continues to take fiddle lessons from her teacher, Scott Freeman, in Woodlawn, VA. She is honored to have been the recipient of several scholarships such as The Wayne Henderson Scholarship, The Houston Caldwell Memorial Scholarship, and a scholarship to attend the Swannanoa Gathering at Warren Wilson College. Mary-Claire is a member of Poplar Springs Baptist Church where she helps with the children’s programs and is active with her youth group. When she is not playing her fiddle or at church, she can also be found on the range with Elkin High School Shooting Team, or swimming with the school swim team. Mary-Claire is a an energetic and sweet young woman who loves to laugh and put smiles on other people’s faces. She is excited and is looking forward to many adventures to come as part of The Loose Strings Band!