Academic studies, whether facilitated by parents in the homeschool environment or in a more public forum, are time consuming, often leaving little room for more artistic endeavors. Yet passion combined with dedication can overcome even the tightest of schedules.
Born to a musical family, Parker McGuinn Gondella, now 15, has matured into an amazing guitarist, mandolinist and luthier.
Although Parker’s first instrument was the piano, he was taking guitar lessons with a concentration in country and rock by the time he was 7. Parker’s homeschooling schedule provides him with the versatility to practice for the hours necessary to reach the level of mastery he currently enjoys. Thankfully, his mom, Pamela, who is an accomplished pianist, and his guitarist father, Rick, encourage and embrace time spent on musical accomplishments as important as traditional academic studies.
By the time he turned 11, Parker was able to purchase his first “good” guitar, a Seafoam Green Fender Squire Telecaster, with the money he had earned from chores and saved from gifts. For many children, interests in the arts or sports fade as they mature, but Parker’s continued to develop, driven from within.
He and his father started to attend monthly “jam” sessions which solidified an interest in bluegrass and included playing non-amplified instruments typical in songs of Appalachian America. Soon, he was taking lessons from well renowned Loudoun County instrumentalist, musicologist, mandolinist, recording artist and teacher Tara Lindhardt. His continued love of music and a challenge soon led to adding mandolin playing to his already long list of accomplishments.
It was during the Third Annual Loudoun Bluegrass Festival that Parker, then 13, met Buddy Dunlap, vocalist, guitartist, songwriter and rising Bluegrass star. Dunlap records and tours extensively with his bands Bud’s Collective and Lonesome Highway. Although Dunlap lives in West Virginia, the chance to study with him was an opportunity that Parker was not going to pass up. So once a week, his dad drives the 2 ½ hour round-trip to accommodate the private lessons he knows are necessary to reach his dreams.
In 2013, Parker added a new dimension to his musical skill by starting to build his first guitar with the help of local luthier, Scott Schooling. Named PMG 1, it was completed just before he turned 15 and it is now his primary performing guitar. An acoustic guitar is significantly more difficult to build than an electric one, and PMG 1 has been praised by professional guitarists for its tone and playability. Not surprisingly, Parker has already started constructing his second guitar, thereby further cementing his skills as a luthier.
Parker’s passion, dedication and skill have combined to help him become a “go-to” soloist in jam sessions featuring professional and award-winning Bluegrass artists such as Linda Lay, Marshall Wilborn and Gaven Largent. He has started composing original songs and performed his “Cabin Fever” at the most recent VaHomeschoolers conference to rave reviews.
Parker’s musical pursuits and skills have just begun. Not yet a high school graduate, he currently participates in instrumentalist competitions in guitar and mandolin. He has competed in the nationally-known Galax Old Fiddler’s Convention, which is the world’s oldest and largest convention featuring country and mountain music, the Watermelon Park Fest Bluegrass Festival, the Loudoun Bluegrass Festival and the Maury River Bluegrass Festival.
Remember the name Parker Gondella, because in the world of traditional and Bluegrass music, his star has not yet reached its peak.