Terry Strange: The man, the music, the teacher

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By Robert Villanueva

For more than four decades, Terry Strange has been strumming along to the music of life, beginning with an interest in guitar and mandolin.


“It’ll be 45 years in July,” Strange said. “I started when I was 5 years old.”

Over the years, music has become a driving force in Strange’s life, particularly Bluegrass music.

Today, as the owner of a music studio where he teaches banjo and guitar, among other instruments, Strange is hoping to preserve what he loves.

“My main goal is to keep old time music alive,” he said.

Having taught out of music stores throughout Hardin County for about 25 years, Strange opened his own Elizabethtown studio — The Music Studio of Terry Strange, 428 W. Dixie Ave., Suite #6 — about a year ago. He wants to pass down the music skills he has honed over his lifetime that began when he noticed a guitar and mandolin his dad had “laying around the house” and tried playing them.

Strange was encouraged and supported by his family to play the instruments, and he found himself drawn to music.

“I was an only child growing up, so music was my playmate,” he said.

At the age of about 10-1/2, Strange saw a banjo for the first time, a 1904 model his great-uncle, a noted Hardin County musician, gave to his uncle, who in turn let Strange’s father borrow it. Not knowing he was supposed to use three finger-picks to play the instrument, Strange used a guitar pick.

After showing an interest in the banjo, his mother secretly started saving dimes in a fruit jar to be able to pay for a new banjo for her son. Within “a short period of time,” Strange said, she had saved $300.

He got his first banjo when he was 11.

“All of my family was a big support,” Strange said.

During high school, Strange played at local venues. He recalled playing at Helmwood Shopping Center parking lot on a hay wagon for a square dance.

By the time he was about 16 or 17, he began teaching part time.

When he was 20, Strange had taken time away from music to raise a family but was contacted by Wayne Reynolds, part of the The Reynolds Family band out of LaRue County. The band had just lost its banjo player and wanted Strange to consider trying out as a replacement, which Strange eventually did.

“That started a 13-and-a-half-year friendship,” Strange said.

As part of the band, Strange played with many noted Bluegrass musicians, including J.D. Crowe.

The studio is the culmination of his life of music. Strange’s students range in age from 5 to 85, he said.

Students of all skill levels in all genres of music — from Southern rock to Christian — take lessons at the studio, Strange said. The 30-minute lesson blocks draw students for lessons Strange offers in banjo, guitar, mandolin, electric bass guitar and stand-up bass.

“Terry is one heck of a teacher,” Allan Daugherty said.

Daugherty’s 24-year-old daughter, Amber, took banjo lessons for the past “two or three” years but had to quit for the holiday season due to her job. She will start up again at the beginning of the year.

Like many of the parents of students, Daugherty enjoyed being able to stay in the waiting room area while his daughter took her lessons. He described Strange as friendly and a good “one-on-one” teacher.

“He’d call my daughter ‘Little Earl,’” Daugherty said, referring to noted Bluegrass banjo player Earl Scruggs.

During his career, Strange also has managed to find time to write original music. The banjo songs are titled “Hardin County Blues” and “The Five-String Hop.” The musician also plays during local Bluegrass jams whenever possible.

“A teacher has to continue to improve,” he said.

As part of that process, Strange finds himself learning songs repeatedly.

“If I learn a song on one instrument, I learn it on all of them,” he said.

While Strange has a fiddle hanging on a wall, it is the one instrument he would like to learn to play that he hasn’t.

“I can’t seem to master the bow,” he said. “I think God intended me to be a picker, not a bower.”

Strange called music “a gift that comes from God,” which, when properly cultivated, will “be with you the rest of your life.”

“Music was always the love of my life,” Strange said. “I just never knew it would be a career.”

MORE: For more information about music lessons at The Music Studio of Terry Strange call (270) 735-7649.  The studio is at 428 W. Dixie Ave., Suite 6, Elizabethtown,