BROWNWOOD – November 5, 2015 – Musicians of many genres, including bluegrass/jazz crossover guitarist Garrett Ratliff, a sophomore from Cherokee, find success through Howard Payne University’s Department of Music. Ratliff recently competed in the National Flat Pick Guitar Championship in Winfield, Kan., after placing second at a statewide competition in June.
Though bluegrass isn’t taught in HPU’s classrooms and studios, Ratliff has found ways to incorporate the things he’s learned into the genre he loves.
“At Howard Payne, I’ve grown to appreciate jazz music,” he said. “It’s a very complex genre. I’m learning to use a lot of chords and chord progressions that you typically wouldn’t see in bluegrass or any style like it.”
When he was nine or 10 years old, Ratliff’s father taught him a few basic chords.
“He actually introduced me to rock music starting out,” Ratliff said. “So I played rock for a while before I was introduced to bluegrass.”
Ratliff was homeschooled and, after learning those few chords, taught himself to play scales, work with modes and, eventually, read music.
“My mother got me a book on guitar that taught me the proper technique,” he said. “I started playing competitively when I was 16.”
The rules of flat pick guitar competitions require musicians to perform on an acoustic instrument and prohibit the use of finger picking.
Ratliff said bluegrass is an intricate form of music and he plays several instruments in the style.
“I play the mandolin and banjo,” he said. “I’m also learning to play the piano and I have a set of harmonicas.”
At HPU, Ratliff plays guitar in HPU’s Jazz Ensemble. He’s also a member of the Concert Choir and has been involved with University Singers. He counts Dr. Gregory Church, associate professor of music, and Stephen Goacher, professor of music, among his most influential teachers.
In his free time, Ratliff performs at a host of area venues. He recently opened for Grand Ole Opry star Jeannie Seely in Llano.
Dr. Richard Fiese, dean of HPU’s School of Music and Fine Arts, said Ratliff is a great student and a gifted musician.
“Garrett brings a very special musical sensitivity to all that he does that transcends style or genre,” said Dr. Fiese. “We are proud of his accomplishments.”
To learn more about earning a degree in music from HPU, contact the School of Music and Fine Arts at (325) 649-8500.
Photo cutline: Garrett Ratliff, a sophomore at Howard Payne University, recently competed at the National Flat Pick Guitar Championship in Kansas. He is pictured on the HPU campus.