Young fiddler offers peppy music on CD

Bethany "Peppy" Kelley and her brother, Timothy, play music together at their Appling home. The Kelleys are featured on a new CD.

Wearing a flowered dress and cowboy hat autographed by famous banjo player Earl Scruggs, Bethany "Peppy" Kelley, of Appling, smiles while she plays an upbeat bluegrass tune on her fiddle, her arm going a mile a minute.


The 11-year-old home-schooled student has been playing the violin since she was 4 years old. She recently released her first CD, Me and My Fiddle, which features her playing classic bluegrass and gospel tunes.

"I play for Jesus. I play because it's fun," Peppy said. "When I grow up, I want to be a fiddle player in Nashville and make people everywhere smile and be happy through my fiddle music."

Until then, she hopes her CD will help raise the money she needs to buy a full-size violin. She received her current violin from the Ashley Willwerth Memorial Scholarship Foundation, which provides financial assistance to students of bowed-string instruments.

The young fiddle player's talent is already being noticed. In 2010, Peppy won first place and $500 in the Georgia-Carolina State Fair Talent Show for playing Orange Blossom Special . Over the past few years, she has joined several bluegrass greats on stage in the local area, including Scruggs, who is known for playing the theme song to the television shows The Beverly Hillbillies and Little Roy and Lizzy Long .

On Saturday, she played alongside the band Peachtree Station at Papa Joe's Banjo-B-Que Bluegrass Festival in North Augusta. The band saw her play in a YouTube video and invited her to join them, said Peppy's mother, Donna Kelley.

The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Both of Peppy's parents are musicians, and her older siblings, Timothy and Brittany, are both studying music education at Augusta State University and operating their own music school, Kelley Music Studio.

While many kids are watching television or playing video games, Peppy enjoys playing her fiddle during jam sessions with her parents and four siblings in the family's living room.

The Kelley family also travels together and plays at restaurants, festivals, churches, parties and events.

Peppy also plays the piano and is beginning to learn the guitar and mandolin. Skilled in both classical and bluegrass music, she explained the violin and fiddle are actually the same instrument, but they're given different names based on the type of music being played.

"When you play the fiddle, you play bluegrass music. When you play the violin, you play classical," Peppy said.

She prefers bluegrass because it gives her more freedom, she said.

When people hear Peppy play, they'll find her nickname to be fitting, her mother said. Peppy likes to play her fiddle very fast.

Timothy, 19, Peppy's music teacher, accompanies his sister on guitar during performances and said that she's almost left him and their father behind onstage several times because she plays so quickly.

Peppy's CD includes Orange Blossom Special, Sweet By and By, Mockingbird and Black Mountain Rag. Timothy plays all of the background music on the album.

"You don't find too many 11-year-olds who can play that well," he said.

Peppy says she hopes someday to be able to play her fiddle with musicians Ricky Scaggs, Nickel Creek and Rhonda Vincent.

Also a musician, Timothy teaches classical, bluegrass, gospel bluegrass, jazz violin, mandolin, beginning guitar and viola. He has played with the Augusta State Orchestra, The Sand Hills String Band, an ASU ensemble and The Kelley Family Band.

He has also been a guest soloist with the Columbia County Civic Orchestra and won a teen talent competition at Fort Gordon last year.