ArtistWorks Blog

Elton John, Miley Cyrus, and a Banjo

 

In case you missed the memo, or even the televised broadcast, ArtistWorks banjo instructor Tony Trischka got the opportunity of a lifetime when he played on-stage with Miley Cyrus at the Elton John Tribute Concert on April 10th, 2018.  

As Tony stated, it was “not what I was expecting when I got a call to cover a gig”. Tony’s friend, and talented musician, Larry Campbell was originally called to play for the concert but couldn’t make it due to a trip to England. Since Tony happened to be free at the time, he graciously accepted the request and received the schedule.

The event was to take place at the Madison Square Garden Theater in New York City with two rehearsals, one day off, and then the televised show. A whirlwind for any musician!

Luckily -- this wasn’t Tony’s first time participating in a huge musical event. A few years ago, Tony had the opportunity to play with the Allman Brothers, and even gave the bassist a short lesson on the banjo.

During the rehearsals, everyone practiced in a space behind the main stage. After a few hours hanging out in the practice space, the one-and-only Miley Cyrus walked in casually dressed in black with a cap on (far more casual than her past fashion choices) and the run-throughs began.

Up until the rehearsals started, Tony didn’t know all the details. All he did know was that the concert was a tribute to Elton John, one of the most well-known musicians in the world. Miley Cyrus was just one performer in a star-studded night including: John Legend, Kesha, Miranda Lambert, Ed Sheeran, Alicia Cara, and Lady Gaga (to name a few).

Luckily -- Miley Cyrus turned out to be a banjo fan. She even decided to add a banjo solo to the song “Bitch is Back” in her Elton John tribute album! Tony was the banjo player for the night, the opportunity fell right into his strumming hands.

The first few run-throughs went smoothly; Tony played along with the band and all was well. The hours of practicing drug on, all without Tony having the opportunity to meet the star of the piece: Miley Cyrus.

His anonymity quickly disappeared when it was time for his banjo solo. As Tony started plucking out an epic solo, Miley began to grind towards him. It was as if for a moment, Tony was the star.

After that rehearsal, Miley turned to Tony and said: “you’re awesome”.

Tony was then officially introduced to Miley, and she told Tony “you shred” on the banjo.

That one small exchange meant the world; there aren’t many musicians who get the honor of being commended for their skill, or should I say “shredding”, by stars such as Miley Cyrus.

The following night, the show was great and Miley dazzled with her voice, while the band (including Tony) made sure to wear all black so Miley stood out like the star she is. As Tony recounted the experience, “it was so cool” he said, especially when Miley went down the aisle to her friend Elton John and placed her hand on his shoulder.

Then, it was time for Tony’s moment to shred it onstage with his banjo solo and wow the audience with his skill. Tony played with his soul and the audience couldn’t help but draw all their attention for just a moment on this bright, new, star on stage. Then, just like that, his solo was over and the song ended. Tony’s moment came and passed.

“It was great, kind of like a Cinderella thing, one minute you’re just a banjo player and suddenly you’re on stage playing with Elton John and Miley Cyrus” recalled Tony in our interview after the show, but it “doesn’t get a whole lot bigger than that”. Everyone was so talented and “none of it was auto-tuned” like some jealous skeptics say.

Yet, just like the classic Cinderella story, his clock struck midnight and Tony was back to his normal life. The cycle was complete: from banjo player, to star Tony Trischka, and then back to a banjo player. (A tremendously talented banjo player, we should add).

Sadly, CBS decided to cut Tony’s solo (booo!) from the taping, leaving Tony a little heartbroken but he decided to focus on the good things and be thankful for the experience that happened to fall his way.

Tony Trischka offers Banjo lessons on ArtistWorks. Click here to learn more.

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