East Tennessee State University student Gary Hultman comes from a musical family in Birchdale, Minn. He started playing music after his aunt decided to take fiddle lessons. Then her husband, their daughter and son, Hultman’s parents, brother and grandmother all chose musical instruments, too. That was the beginning of their family band, Sloughgrass.
At age 10, Hultman became a dobro player in the group, and he loved the instrument immediately.
Hultman says, “We mostly played in nursing homes and churches, but over the years we have been able to play more and more venues. A few years ago we were even fortunate enough to play at the Minnesota State Fair.”
When it came time for college, Hultman learned about ETSU and its Bluegrass, Old Time and Country Music Studies from a friend. He explains, “I wasn’t sure about much of anything until I visited the university, and when I did, I knew this was exactly where I wanted to be. Everyone I met was welcoming—and the program is incredible.
“My best experience here is getting to play with the ETSU Bluegrass Pride Band. So many opportunities and experiences have stemmed from that. I feel incredibly lucky to be able to travel with those amazing musicians and to call them my friends.”
Hultman is especially proud to have played onstage with greats like Doyle Lawson, Tim Stafford and Hunter Berry.
A sophomore, Hultman has a Benny Sims Memorial Scholarship helping him along his career path. He is majoring in bluegrass and minoring in marketing because, he says, “I believe it is important to learn skills in more than one area. I also believe that this combination of major and minor will work well together as a skill set.”
As for the future, Hultman is definite about his plans. “I would like to work in music,” he says, “whether that means touring and playing professionally, doing session work, or even being employed in the business end of it all. My preference would be to go on the road with a group and perform. That is when I enjoy music the most.”
Music doesn’t absorb all of his time, however. A volunteer fireman in Minnesota, Hultman is now part of the Reformed University Fellowship on campus and traveled on a spring break trip with the group to assist with Hurricane Sandy relief work in New Jersey.
Hultman explains, “That was an incredibly eye-opening experience. I hope there will be more opportunities like that in my future.”