Published Sunday, September 30, 2012

Young musician takes new guitar instead of a car


Here’s all you need to know about Lance Mapp’s priorities.

When the Newnan High junior turned 16 recently, his parents offered him a choice between a gently used car and a spanking new guitar.

Lance chose the guitar.

He figures he can earn enough playing the guitar to buy a car. With any luck, he might even catch the eye of a young lady and have enough cash left over to buy her a burger.

His musical talent has already caught the attention of musicians and listeners who swear Lance is on his way to stardom. In fact, his playing just earned him an endorsement deal from CMG Guitars.

Lance modestly says, “I just really like to play.”

One thing is certain. After taking top honors at Newnan’s Kiwanis Music Showcase this year and walking off with the People’s Choice award at the 2012 West Georgia Idol competition, Lance is a talent to be reckoned with. He and his parents, David and Teresa Mapp, are still amazed that it’s all happening, and so soon.

Lance’s musical journey began when he was a sixth-grader at Smokey Road Middle School and his mother signed him up for the school’s string program, taught by Dr. Lyn Schenbeck, who now teaches talented students at the Central Educational Center.

Lance wasn’t overjoyed.

“Originally, I didn’t want to do it,” he says. “I was pretty stubborn about it.”

His mother persisted and said he had to enter the string program or join the junior high band.

“He had tried sports and done real well,” Teresa Mapp says. “But I didn’t think he was passionate about it. I wanted him to try something else.”

Lance chose the string program and signed up as a guitar student. He admits his relationship with the old instrument he had at home was a bit thin.

“All I knew how to do was tune it a little bit.”

But he went to work and, to his amazement, he liked it. A lot.

“I really learned fast,” Lance says. “Before long I was coming home and practicing three or four hours a day.”

He learned chord after chord, improved his music reading and found a gift for picking out tunes by ear.

Lance soon became a regular visitor at Newnan Music, where he met other players, learned new tips and found lots of encouragement.

Near the end of that first year, he had shredded his beginner guitar and was begging his parents for a new one. An electric one, guaranteed to drive his younger brother Lucas crazy when he practices. Lance’s sister, Ashley Mapp Mastrangelo, lives far enough away not to notice.

His parents said if he made all A’s he’d get the electric guitar. He did.

As soon as he got plugged in, Lance started working up the iconic guitar riff on “Sweet Home, Alabama.”

“I figured it out myself,” he says. “It took a little while, but I learned it.”

He soon began taking private lessons at Musicology in downtown Newnan. His teacher was Jody Butler, a former music educator and accomplished picker who taught Lance new styles and techniques and eventually invited him to sit in on one of the regular gigs she played with Newnan’s Ken Spake, an accomplished guitarist and singer with a wealth of talent and a large local following.

Lance soon found himself onstage at the County Line Cafe in Luthersville. Before the performance was over, he soloed on Eric Clapton’s “Wonderful Tonight.”

“I was nervous,” he says. “But the people were nice. It was pretty cool.”

When Lance started eighth grade at Smokey Road, Dr. Schenbeck moved to the CEC, but Smokey Road band director Josh Boyd was aware of Lance’s talent and convinced him to give band a try. Lance became a percussionist and caught on so quickly he earned a slot on Smokey Road’s first indoor percussion ensemble.

When Lance entered Newnan High two years ago, he joined the NHS Marching Cats, taught by John Erdogan and Josh Roberts. He also continued to perform at local venues.

Jody Butler passed Lance on to Doug Kees, a gifted guitarist who owns Musicology and teaches music at The Heritage School.

Kees soon taught Lance there was more to playing than just hitting the notes.

“He pushed me not to play so monotonous,” Lance says. “He taught me how to play so every song sounded different every time I played it. He really pushes me to do better.”

Lance also worked hard to develop his vocal skills, convinced he could learn to sing as well as he strummed.

The harder he worked, the more he got noticed. During his NHS freshman year, Lance was urged to enter the Talent Showcase event sponsored by the Newnan Kiwanis club.

When he saw his fellow competitors, he had second thoughts.

“All those other musicians there blew me away,” he says. “I was worried.”

A performance of Brad Paisley’s arrangement of “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” was all the judges needed to hear.

“I won, so I guess I did OK,” Lance says. “It raised my confidence a little.”

Lance just repeated that honor, taking first place in the 2012 Talent Showcase. Those aren’t the only awards he has won.

Two years ago, while playing with Spake in Hogansville, Lance was approached by one of the organizers of the West Georgia Idol competition. She was impressed enough to urge him to give it a shot.

That first year, he took third place honors. This year he won the West Georgia Idol “People’s Choice” award, which is voted on by fans, not judges.

“That meant a lot,” Lance says.

This summer, on a recommendation by Dr. Schenbeck, Lance was awarded a scholarship to the Swannanoa Gathering, a week-long workshop in Asheville, N.C., where students learn from some of the best guitar instructors in the world.

“It’s like going to high school,” Lance says. “You have classes all day, but all you do is music. Then we’d get together at seven at night and play until three in the morning and we all learned a lot from each other. It was great.”

Lance’s NHS band directors, Erdogan and Roberts, have nominated him for the Georgia Governor’s Honors Program in jazz guitar and recommended him to people seeking guitarists for hire.

“They have helped me so much and I’m really thankful,” he says. “I enjoy the band.”

With the help of voice coach Erin Walton, Lance’s singing continues to improve. “She’s just great,” he says. “She makes you work hard and really pushes me, but it’s helped me a lot.”

Lance also plays in a praise and worship band and appears occasionally on Thursday nights at The Half Shell on Highway 34 east.

In his limited spare time, Lance works on different styles, aiming to master everything from rock to bluegrass to blues. His country and rock guitar heroes include John Mayer, Keith Urban and Brad Paisley. Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Clapton and B.B. King are his blues guitar favorites.

“I stay busy,” he says. “But it’s fun.”

Lance hopes to attend Belmont College in Nashville as the next step up the musical ladder toward a performing career.

“They have an amazing guitar program at Belmont, and I really want to go there,” he says. “That’s my main focus right now.”

Until college comes along Lance will keep practicing. He knows it’s the only way to get better. And it’s the reason for his main piece of advice to anyone who dreams of guitar stardom.

“Practice a lot,” he says. “And when you’re fingers are hurting, don’t give up.”

Don’t give up. That’s sound advice for any endeavor.

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