Arts & Humanities

Guitar Performance Major Finds His Own Rhythm

By Shelby Black |

Grayson Boatwright, guitar performance major, is making his dreams a reality one guitar lesson at a time.

Boatwright is from Charlotte, North Carolina. He visited Utah State University in high school when he began exploring his college options and fell in love with it.

“I came out here and had a lesson with Professor Christiansen. He is just such an amazing person,” Boatwright said. “I’ve loved USU ever since then. Now that I’ve ended up here, I know I am in the right spot.”

While many students go to university to pursue degrees in science or English, Boatwright is taking a different path: he is a guitar performance major.

Boatwright picked up his first guitar when he was eight years old. Ever since then, he has been hooked.

“I started playing guitar because of Richie Sambora in Bon Jovi. I had a cheap Squire guitar and I wanted to play like Richie Sambora,” Boatwright said. “As early as I can remember I was fascinated with music. It is like a mistake because it is not something you can touch or taste, but it is something you can feel. It gives me an image in my head. For different styles I see different things in my mind.”

This curiosity about music helped Boatwright decide to keep pursuing guitar further. He had help along the way from his family, friends and other musical influences.

Rose Boatwright, Grayson’s mother, saw her son dedicate himself to his art.

“Once he decided that was what he wanted to do, his focus changed,” Rose Boatwright said. “His level of commitment and dedication was something that was innate within him. He just really tackled it and threw his whole self into it.”

Grayson Boatwright’s musical style is heavily influenced by jazz. Boatwright plays in the jazz orchestra at Utah State. In Charlotte, he played many jazz gigs as well. He said for him it has become a lifestyle.

“What inspires me about jazz is what it symbolizes,” Boatwright said. “It is black American music, born in New Orleans and founded off of African roots in music. The amount of struggle that jazz artists went through—jazz symbolizes their struggle. When they weren’t able to have a voice, they spoke with their instruments and music. So I try to stay informed and learn a lot about the music and what it stands for.”

As a performance major, many of Boatwright’s classes are music classes or one-on-one lessons with professors.

Corey Christiansen, program coordinator for guitar, teaches private guitar lessons to the students as well as a fingerboard theory class. He also runs a jazz combo and the guitar ensemble program at USU. As a prominent musician himself, he has enjoyed helping Boatwright grow into his role as a musician at Utah State.

“Grayson has a great sense of humor, but he knows how to be serious about the music. That is the most important thing for me,” Christiansen said. “He comes prepared for every one of his classes and lessons. He asks questions that are thoughtful. He reacts to the answers that he gets. He takes it serious and loves it so much that he does what he is asked to do. As a result, he is growing like a weed.”

After all the classes and practices, Boatwright still spends many hours during the day practicing. For him, playing is still something he has to work hard at.

“It does not come naturally for me. I haven’t even scratched the surface,” Boatwright said. “It hasn’t gotten any easier. I don’t have a gift for guitar, but I do have a gift for perseverance. If you love something, you are willing to do anything to satisfy yourself.”

When he’s not playing the guitar, Boatwright enjoys exercising, hiking, hanging out, and visiting his family and German shepherd, Floyd, in North Carolina. But Boatwright’s mind always comes back to the music. It is number one on his to-do list always.

“I like to make everything I do a fun time, but people should know that I have very set priorities,” Boatwright said. “Music is the top priority. I have priorities for myself; I don’t just do whatever or do things that are bad for me. I have a path that I want to take.”

Boatwright hopes to continue working hard and following his own musical path. He hopes in the future that he can move to a bigger city and pursue a freelance musician career before eventually becoming a guitar teacher so he can share his love of music with others. His teachers, family and friends will be cheering him along the whole way.

“He has just worked so hard to grow and learn and be his best advocate. He is really just making his own way by putting everything he has into what he does,” Rose Boatwright said. “I hope that he continues to have the passion and drive to take himself where he wants to go and that he is content in his journey.”

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