Queen of Bluegrass giving back
Rhonda Vincent is clearly on a roll. After 50 years as a bluegrass singer — she started at age 5 — she has come into her own.
Not only did she and her bluegrass band win a Grammy this year, but she recently got inducted into the Missouri Music Hall of Fame, and she's working with Dolly Parton on music for a movie soundtrack.
"It's an amazing time right now," said Vincent, who will appear with her band the Rage at 7:30 p.m. March 9 at the Sheldon Theatre. She and the band are rightfully billed as the "Most Award-Winning Band in Bluegrass Music History," with well over 100 awards.
On top of all that, Vincent is also seeing positive results from a lifetime of bucking the stereotype of bluegrass music as a male-dominated industry.
She grew up in Missouri in a musical family. "I had no boundaries growing up," Vincent said. Her father taught her, "Don't let anyone tell you you can't do something."
So she always dressed up, and was never afraid to step forward and sing even if all the others were males.
"I realized later," she said, "it was really a man's world." Vincent started breaking down barriers, using her talent and a tireless work ethic to find success.
More than one festival sponsor told her, "You're the first woman headliner" at their event.
"Music should not have a gender," Vincent believes. And she has loved bluegrass since she was a little girl. Today she's considered the top vocalist in the genre, plus she performs on mandolin and can play multiple other instruments.
Vincent takes the stage wearing designer gowns, stiletto heels and a "take-charge manner," according to her website — "far from the typeset that Hollywood has portrayed as the image of acoustic music."
She explained, "We're changing the landscape of our music in many aspects; to show we are sophisticated, educated, and hold a deep respect for the tradition of our music, keeping the roots embedded within the perimeter of our songs, to create a balance of tradition mixed with contemporary flair, and present our own unique brand of music."
When she got married, got pregnant, became a mother, Vincent said, people suggested she should probably stop performing and not go on the road.
That's when her father's advice encouraged her: Just because you're a woman, don't let that stop you from doing what you love.
So Vincent continued to perform, with "a great, encouraging husband" and a supportive family.
She knows other women have been inspired by her because they have told her so. They appreciate her her courage and her style. "A lot of moms say, 'Thanks for being a good role model for our children,'" Vincent said.
Today she and the Rage travel the world, touring for 11 months of the year at venues large and small.
"I wake up each day with 100 things to do," Vincent said. "It keeps life interesting" to greet the day with "something new." And when she needs to find balance, there's always her home in Missouri.
It helps that family members travel with her, including daughter Sally Berry who has started writing songs. Her music will debut at the Inspirational Country Music Awards in April at the Grand Ole Opry.
Vincent, known as "Queen of Bluegrass," headlines major festivals, but she also likes to visit nursing homes and talk with people one-on-one. "How blessed we are," she explained. "If you love to play music, there's a place for you. Always give back."
For the Red Wing concert, the group will perform several songs from their Grammy-winning album, "Rhonda Vincent and the Rage, All the Rage: Volume One." (Yes, Volume Two will be coming out in 2019.)
People at the event will have an opportunity to buy CDs and meet her and the band members after the concert: Hunter Berry, fiddle; Brent Burke, dobro; Mickey Harris, upright bass and vocals; Aaron McDaris, banjo; and Josh Williams, guitar and vocals.
Vincent asks just one thing of audiences: "Listen with your heart. Sometimes we can think too much. Listen, and let your heart lead you."