Photo by Chris Rogers
Aric Sampson (left) defies expectations for a 17-year-old musician — he's won music contests and played shows around the region, including at the Mid West Music Fest. He says he loves the feeling of creating new music with his father, Rick Sampson (right).
Galesville teen wows crowds, judges
The cheering crowds at local venues wowed by Aric Sampson's rhythmic strummings and lyrical musings might fall speechless to know he is just a high school junior. Success in the music business is a crapshoot, but Sampson is off to an impressive start. The Galesville youth picked up his first instrument (a toy banjo) at age four, wrote his first song in first grade, and has been a prolific performer and creator of music ever since.
Sampson beat out college-age performers to take first place in a La Crosse singing contest. He competed in the World Choir Games with Galesville-Ettrick Trempealeau High School's Vocal Point a cappella group, was featured on Wisconsin Public Radio's Big River Radio Wave, performed at the Kickapoo, Wis., Larryfest singer-songwriter competition, and was featured in this year's Mid West Music Fest. He plays regular gigs at coffee shops, outdoor events, and wineries in the region—even though he is years away from having his first legal glass of wine.
Sampson's sweet and powerful voice soars over percussive guitar riffs and his original lyrics are more sophisticated than those of artists many years his senior.
"Aric is by far the most talented singer, songwriter, and overall young musician I have ever met," commented Sampson's choir teacher, Ryan Stuempges. "He is doing things some veteran musicians are unable to do."
Aric said he loves the experience of creating new music out of thin air. "It's amazing to be able to just sit and create music. It's a very empowering feeling," he said. Aric is a prolific songwriter, too. So much so that when Aric missed a chemistry lab, his teacher joked that he should write a song about it. Aric knew the teacher was not serious, but he couldn't help himself. He did write a song about it.
"It's not even work anymore," Aric said of his spontaneous songwriting. "I don't even have to force myself to write anything, it just happens."
Songwriting can help him work through tough times as well, he said. Music taps into a core element of humanity for Aric. "Life is full of music and rhythm," he explained. Aric related the story of his trip to the World Choir Games, where he met singers from all over the globe. "I really experienced music being the universal language there," he said. Hundreds of attendees from all different countries joined together in singing the World Choir Games theme. "It gave me goosebumps. Even if you don't know the words other people are singing, you can feel the emotion in the music," Aric said. "That's what I love about music: feeling the emotions of people."
Asked if he gets nervous when performing for a crowd, Aric said, "I'm very fortunate, I love getting up in front of people. I build off the energy of the crowd."
Aric is not banking on making music for a living; that is not the point, he said. "If I make it big, that would be great. But whether or not I make money at it, I'm just going to enjoy making music."
Rick admits that having a son who is also such a talented musician to play with is really fun. When Rick joins his son on banjo—and he often does—the result is magical. Rick is a professional musician and maker of coveted, custom banjo bridges and wooden flutes. The banjo is a golden harp in his hands. Rick's journeys up and down the banjo neck make the perfect musical counterpoint to Aric's vocal phrases.
Rick said he started making custom wooden flutes and wooden banjo bridges to supplement his income as a banjo player, but the process of creating instruments by hand became "a new way to expand…artistic creativity." Sampson files the banjo bridges—tiny pieces that suspend the strings over the banjo's snare drum body—by hand. At one point, he said he was making 200 bridges a month. "We didn't have a kitchen table for a while," Aric laughed.
Information on Rick Sampson's wood flutes is available at www.woodlandflutes.com and his custom banjo bridges are available through Elderly Instruments.