13-Year-Old Musician Liam Purcell Wins The Bascom Lamar Lunsford Trophy

Published Monday, November 9, 2015 at 2:58 pm

By Troy Brooks

A rising mountain music star in Watauga County is making waves in the North Carolina music scene and was recently awarded the most prestigious recognition at the state fair’s annual Folk Festival.

Liam Purcell, a 13-year-old musician from Deep Gap, traveled to Raleigh to participate in the festival in late October, bringing to the state capital his take on old-time mountain music. He took home first place in the under 16 instrumental solo category with a performance that also earned him the coveted Bascom Lamar Lunsford Trophy. As the folk festival’s highest honor, the trophy is “awarded to the individual or group that best exemplifies North Carolina’s musical heritage,” the state fairs’ website explains.

Photos provided by William Purcell.

Photos provided by William Purcell.

“I’m still kind of taking it in,” said Purcell. “I had no thought that I’d be able to win the highest honor. Music is my life and I just like to get myself out there and have a good time.”

Purcell started his musical career when he was 6 years old in the Junior Appalachian Musicians program, also known as the “JAM” program, at the Jones House Community Center in downtown Boone, where he startedwith lessons on guitar. During the next few years, he took on weekly lessons and eventually picked up the fiddle, banjo and bass. Today he continues working with JAM as an assistant teacher.

“My interest in music started when I was young. I had heard bluegrass growing up as my teacher would often put onCDs.  So, when my dad asked if I wanted to take lessons I said yes, and I’ve loved it since day one,” Purcell said. “I practice one to twohours a day and then play at JAM during the evening, so I probably play about five hours a day.I feel at home on stage. It gives me a chance to bring my music to the crowd and make a connection with people.”

Liam has accomplished a lot for his age. This past summer he played with Cane Mill Road, a youth bluegrass band from Boone, which performed in Argentina at the World’s music festival as the U.S music representatives. He has played at Merlefest in Wilkesboro twice and has won the Brian Friesen Award.

“I’m thankful for all the people who have helped me reach this point over the years, including Pete Wernick, Steve Lewis,Jens and Uwe Kruger, Cecil Gurganus, Matthew Weaver (who has won the Lunsford trophy in the past), Clay Lunsford, Marsha Harris (who won the Annette Pulley trophy in 2014)and especially my family, without whom I could do none of this.”

Liam is also involved in theatre. He spent three years running in Horn in the West and has participated in various one-year productions.

The future looks bright for Purcell and, when asked how he felt about his achievement, Purcell had this to say:

“I personally want to carry the legacy that people have laid down before me and hope that people will take the torch after me.”

Photos provided by William Purcell.

Photos provided by William Purcell.

Photos provided by William Purcell.

Photos provided by William Purcell.

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