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Regional Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, May 10, 2007

Blossoming music career brings McCartan back to his roots

By Rachel Dutil

For Jon McCartan, music is life.

The 21-year-old Guilderland native and University of Vermont student has spent the last two years playing bass with the Gordon Stone Band.

Stone is well-known as Vermont’s Emmy-Award winning banjo and pedal steel guitar instrumentalist. He has been playing for 30 years.

The Gordon Stone Band – Stone, McCartan, and Caleb Bronz on drums – will come to the Capital Region and play at the 59th Annual Tulip Festival on Saturday. They will play at the Ampitheatre Stage at 4:45 p.m.

"I’m really excited about this gig," McCartan said of returning to his home turf. "I’m looking forward to a great show and a great day," he said.

McCartan began playing bass 14 years ago, he recalled. When he was in about third or fourth grade, he was brought into the school music room, along with his classmates, and shown all of the instruments.

McCartan was wowed.

"I was always short, so I wanted to play the biggest instrument I could find," McCartan said with a chuckle. He settled on the upright bass.

About 10 years ago, McCartan began playing electric bass, and played in the Guilderland band, Pick, with Matt Pickering and "a bunch of other Guilderland folks," he said. He was in the band from 2001 until he graduated in 2003.

McCartan says the original music he plays with the Gordon Stone Band is hard to describe, and can’t easily be classified as any one genre. "It draws elements from bluegrass," he said. "It has a swing funk to it."

The music is really "a whole combination of styles" – bluegrass, jazz, Latin, world beat, and funk, McCartan said.

New note

While studying studio art at UVM, McCartan took bass lessons with Aram Bedrosian, who played bass with Stone.

When Bedrosian injured his wrist in the summer of 2005, Stone asked him if he knew anyone who could fill in for him so the band could still play its scheduled shows.

Bedrosian suggested McCartan. After 24 hours of getting to know Stone, Bronz, and their music, McCartan played four shows with the band, and, he "didn’t think anything of it," he said.

Later in the summer, McCartan received a call from Stone asking him if he wanted to play in the band full-time, he said. "It was an automatic reaction," McCartan said of his positive response.

"It is difficult," McCartan said of juggling his time between school and music. "They’ve been really good at accommodating my school schedule," he said of the band. "It’s kept me from procrastinating," he added.

McCartan will graduate from UVM next weekend, and then his "main concentration" will be "playing with the band," he said.

His passion

Growing up in Guilderland, McCartan’s passion was gymnastics. "I was a gymnast for a long time," he said.

A shoulder injury that required surgery was difficult to recover from, he said. "After the second shoulder surgery, it just became really difficult to come back," McCartan said.

"Life changes when you move on to different things," McCartan said. "Leaving something I’d been a part of for so long" there was a lot of questioning," he said.

" Music has always been a passion for me," said McCartan. "I shifted all my focus to it, and really gave it my all to try and make it work."

McCartan says his life would be completely different had his gymnastics career not ended. "I probably would have ended up at a bigger school with a totally different cross-section of people" I could have been completely on the other side of the map," he said.

When he arrived at UVM, McCartan said, he was looking for people to play music with, and he "lucked out with Gordon" Gordon is an incredible composer and player."

Being a part of the band has been an incredible experience, McCartan said, adding that the best part is "the music and making a living doing what I love."

World view

One such incredible experience, McCartan said, was the Hat Yai Midnight Songkran and World Musiq Festival last April in Thailand.

The festival was the second of its size ever held in Thailand, and corresponded with the Thai solar new year, McCartan said. "It was a humungous countrywide celebration," he said.

The promoter for the Thai music festival was originally from Scranton, Pa. A friend of the promoter received a call from a friend who had heard the Gordon Stone Band play at a Lake Placid festival put on by the alternative band, Moe, McCartan explained.

The promoter flew the band to Thailand, where the trio stayed for four days, McCartan said.

"It was incredible," he said of the event. "We played with musicians from all over the world" We definitely felt like we were part of something really special."

The Gordon Stone Band was the only band from the United States at the festival that hosted about 100 acts, he said.

McCartan has been "soaking up everything’ he possibly can from Stone, he said. "They both push me to be a better player," McCartan said of Stone and Bronz. "We all learn together" It’s fun making the three of us into a single unit," he said.

One "crazy aspect of this gig," McCartan said of playing with the Gordon Stone Band, is the ability "to interact with my idols."

Among his major musical influences, McCartan lists Stanley

Clarke, Jaco Pastorius, Victor Wooten, and Mike Gordon. Gordon, the former bassist for Phish – another well-known band formed in Vermont – is a good friend of Stone, McCartan said. "Gordon taught Mike Gordon how to play banjo in the ‘80s," he added.

"Going to see live music is another important part of being a musician," said McCartan. "I definitely make time to see music," he said, adding that he likes to hang out with, talk to, and jam with other musicians.

"Music kind of is my life" When I’m not playing it, I’m listening to it," McCartan concluded.

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