Longmont resident wins RockyGrass mandolin competition


By Isa Jones

Tyler Rennix got a mandolin as a birthday present when he was 6 years old. It took him until he was 8 to be interested in it, but after 14 years of playing, Rennix became good enough to win the 2015 RockyGrass Mandolin competition, which took place July 24-26 in Lyons.

The 22-year-old Longmont resident and musician has always been a fan of RockyGrass, and dreamed of playing on the main stage.

“It was a dream of mine to do well in that competition,” said Rennix, a landscaper by trade.

He entered the competition once a few years ago, just to “get over nerves” he had about the contest, but didn’t do very well. This year, he wasn’t planning on attending RockyGrass because of a busy work schedule, but in the end thought it would be silly not to go.

“I decided to go and do the competition, so Wednesday and Thursday night (before the competition) I played for a while and got ready for it,” Rennix said. “I thought I was going to have a pretty good shot at it, but I didn’t want to count my chickens before they hatched.”

Brian Eyster, Director of Communications for Planet Bluegrass, which puts on RockyGrass, said winning the competition is a prestigious achievement.

“RockyGrass one of the top three mandolin competitions (in the county),” Eyster said. “The big one that attract players from all over the country.”

Longmont resident Tyler Rennix plays the Sam Bush signature Gibson mandolin he won at this year's RockyGrass bluegrass festival. (Lewis Geyer / Staff Photographer)
Longmont resident Tyler Rennix plays the Sam Bush signature Gibson mandolin he won at this year’s RockyGrass bluegrass festival. (Lewis Geyer / Staff Photographer)
The competition, which is part of the overall band and instrument competition that accompanies the traditional bluegrass festival, has been ongoing since the event was created back in 1973.

The festival starts taking entrees in December, and picks the first 12. For the preliminary round, the player performs two songs, and then the three finalists (chosen by a panel of judges) play the two tunes again on the main stage.

Rennix made the final three, and then was chosen as the winner of the entire competition, earning him a Gibson Sam Bush Signature Model F-5 mandolin, worth $10,000.

RockyGrass is the only competition Rennix has ever entered. He spends most of his time playing with various bands. He had a stint with Fox Feather and is currently playing with a childhood friend, Jared Janzen, in the band Breakfast For Dinner.

“We realized we kind of have an uncanny ability to communicate with each other with body language and our instruments,” Rennix said of playing with Janzen. “The ultimate goal is to play with him and make something of it.”

The new mandolin and the bragging rights that comes with winning the competition will certainly help Rennix in his future endeavors. “I have some contacts that had heard the news and want to book us. It is an extra push.”

Eyster has known Rennix and his family for years, and said that he deserved the prize, especially since he has attended and taken mandolin classes at RockyGrass Academy when he was younger– small classes that occur for kids and adults the week leading up to RockyGrass.

“He’s been working really hard and playing for years and years,” Eyster said. “It’s good to see a homegrown musician win.”

Isa Jones: 303-684-5274, jonesi@timescall.com or twitter.com/theisajones

Comments are closed.