Rachelweb1
     Rachel didn’t really come from a musical family. Her grandfather played guitar and a few other instruments, and her dad played a little bit of guitar as a teenager. At the age of nine, Rachel started playing the piano by ear and eventually started playing in church. At fourteen, she started piano lessons and began learning how to read music. Although having played piano since nine years old, Rachel never had much experience or interest in playing a stringed instrument. Eventually, she purchased a cheap “violin”, as she then called it, and began playing simple melodies, and especially hymns. It wasn’t until after hearing the first sounds of Nickel Creek’s song “When You Come Back Down”, that Rachel took interest in playing the mandolin, at the age of fifteen.  Having learned to play the piano, initially by ear, it didn’t take her long to start picking up techniques on the mandolin. She also took mandolin lessons every other week for about six months after beginning to play. Her mandolin teacher, Janey Waugh, helped influence the love for bluegrass by teaching fiddle tunes and taking Rachel along with her to a few jam sessions in the area. In 2003, Rachel won first place in the state mandolin competition at the Vandalia Gathering in Charleston, West Virginia, titling her a West Virginia State Mandolin Champion. She is also the only female to have won this title thus far.

     In high school Rachel joined a local bluegrass band called “Whitewater”. She played her very first shows and a few festivals with this band. Since she knew music would become her career path, Rachel chose to attend Glenville State College where she was able to participate in one of the only Bluegrass music certificate programs in the nation. Here she was able to major in Music Education and obtain a certificate in bluegrass music. While in this program, Rachel was a member of the GSC Bluegrass Band. Buddy Griffin was the director at the time Rachel was in school, and he allowed the band many opportunities. The band played in many fairs and festivals around WV and a few in the surrounding states. Through Buddy being close friends with and past fiddle player for Jesse McReynolds, Rachel was able to play on stage at the GSC bluegrass festival with Jesse and his band in 2003. Through Buddy’s friendships with so many other musicians like Mac Wiseman, Ronnie Reno, The Dillards and many others, Rachel had great opportunities to play on stage with these well-known traditional bluegrass musicians and artists. One night the GSC band was to play the Earnest Tubb Record Shop in Nashville, TN. They visited the Ryman to watch the Grand Ole Opry. Buddy was playing fiddle with Jesse McReynolds that evening and Brad Paisley was there performing also. Buddy knew Brad (both from WV) and asked him to mention the Glenville State College bluegrass band and he gave them a “shout out” that night at the Ryman. The GSC bluegrass band and Buddy obviously helped in preparing Rachel for this bluegrass lifestyle and gave her many experiences and opportunities she’ll never forget.

     With the friends she met in the GSC band, came the formation of "Mountain Fury", an all girl bluegrass band in which Rachel was a part of once out of college. The original members were Lizzy Long, Rebekah Long, Eileen Marsh and obviously, Rachel. Being all girls, the repertoire of music was centered on several cover songs by women bluegrass artists ,some traditional tunes, a few originals, and many bluegrass gospel songs and hymns. This band performed for around three years, recorded three albums and received lots of recognition in their home state of WV.

    Because of the friendships and familiar harmony styles, Eileen and Rachel joined Lizzy Long on a few of her very own shows. When Lizzy was part of an album called “Lewis, Scruggs and Long: Lifetimes”, Rachel was able to play mandolin and sing harmony at a few shows with Little Roy Lewis, Earl Scruggs and of course, Lizzy. Rachel played a few shows in Georgia and Tennessee with Little Roy, Earl, Lizzy and the rest of the band and was even on stage during the CD release party at the Station Inn in Nashville. To Rachel, it was an honor to be on stage with such a legend as Earl Scruggs. On the days of the performances Rachel took part of they would all join together and talk and laugh. She even remembers going to Earl’s house to “pick” and visit one day during this experience.

     In 2008, Mountain Fury only contained two of the original band members, Rachel being one of them, and felt it best that she leave the band to join “No One You Know”. The instruments in this group included the guitar, banjo, dobro, bass and mandolin and all members besides Rachel, were men (quite the difference from Mountain Fury). This band’s repertoire was made up mostly of original material. This really opened up Rachel’s song writing abilities and led her to writing many songs. She had written her first song at the age of sixteen, but hadn’t really thought much about becoming a songwriter. She soon grew a collection of original material that inspired her to record her own project. The CD was released in 2012 titled, “Don’t You Worry About Me” and contained eight of Rachel’s original tunes. She was honored when Amanda Smith and Buddy Melton both agreed to sing a song Rachel had written for the project. Kenny Smith sung harmony on “Amanda’s song” and also played guitar on a couple of tracks. Ron Stewart was also featured on the fiddle on an instrumental. This project was a major learning experience for Rachel. It was also very rewarding.

       Although No One You Know had been a part of the Mountain Fever Record label for a year or two, in November of 2012, N1UK disbanded. This gave Rachel a small break from the “bluegrass band” life, but all the while, she was searching for the right members to form her own band. Having always been a member of a group/band through the last thirteen years, Rachel knew she would one day want to be a bandleader and now was the time to take the opportunity to pursue this. After looking for several months for the right banjo player, the initially four-member (as a start) band grew to a five-member band when Radford Vance and his wife Michele Birkby-Vance were discovered. Michele played fiddle and she too, was looking to join a bluegrass band once again. So, upon having the searching process complete, Lance Gainer (a former N1UK band mate of Rachel’s), Rick Westerman, Radford Vance and Michele Birkby-Vance make up what Rachel titled “Rachel Burge and Blue Dawning”.

       Like the lyrical line in Rachel’s solo project title track says “I’m (still) right where I want to be”, Rachel knows that this is now the place in her musical career that she has hoped for for many years, but she also knows that everything has led her to where she is now. She wouldn’t be the same musician, singer, songwriter, and bandleader without the experiences, examples or opportunities she’s been given throughout her life.