Video Interview by Ken Koons
quote from article:
Diane Baudrau booked Hill to perform in July at her church in Salisbury for an audience that ranged in age from 14 to 90.
“Everyone really enjoyed his performance,” Baudrau wrote in an email interview. “He has an amazing range of music — from original songs, folk songs and old-time standards. He allowed some of the people to try [playing] the hammered dulcimer and even the teens enjoyed the evening. We would love to have him come again.”
Like many boys, Rick Hill picked up a guitar at age 10. Unlike most, he never let go.
More than 45 years later, the professional musician continues to hone his craft surrounded by such instruments as the hammered dulcimer, upright bass, harp, banjo and nyckelharpa, a sort of keyed fiddle.
"So many instruments, so little time," Hill, 57, joked as he sat between his handmade dulcimer and four guitar cases. The six- or 12-string instrument is still his favorite.
"They're my children," he said of the acoustic guitars.
The self-taught performer took guitar lessons for a year when he began, but has since learned all of his other instruments by simply watching others play them, and lots of practice.
A New York transplant, Hill and his wife moved last winter to Thurmont, just down the road from St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church, where Hill was recently hired as the song leader for the 8 a.m. Sunday contemporary worship service.
He also works part time at the church to help organize the youth program. Hill said he uses music to build kids' leadership qualities.
Part of his youth plan includes a lyrical interpretation of author Ron Clark's book "The Excellent 11," which reveals qualities teachers and parents can use to inspire and educate children.
"Why reserve (the tips) just for the classroom?" Hill said. "We ought to be using them in everyday life."
Hill has begun writing songs about each characteristic; he has two fundamentals left to cover.
He hopes to release his "Excellent 11"-inspired album later this year.
In upstate New York, Hill served as a pastor at a Presbyterian church, incorporating music into his teachings. But that wasn't quite enough for the longtime instrumentalist.
"I felt increasingly like, if I want to be a full-time musician, (I should) do it," Hill said. So when his wife got a job in Thurmont, he decided it was time to concentrate on his passion for music.
It wasn't exactly a smooth transition, though.
At first, Hill participated in open mic events around the county, meeting other musicians.
Through his new connections, Hill began getting some jobs, slowly expanding his r?sum?.
"You can't make a living playing music in Frederick," he said. "I think you ought to be able to. My goal was to make a reasonable living within 100 miles of home," he said.
Hill didn't want to spend his life on the road, traveling from venue to venue.
"I'm choosing the easy path," he said with a laugh. "I like to be able to come home at night."
Hill's newfound work with St. Paul's allows him that luxury, and includes the perks of an ensured weekly performance of his personal work.
The folk singer spends almost every weekend performing around the county and in neighboring areas, playing a combination of original tunes and cover songs.
Hill's own pieces are often deep, meaningful songs, he said. He often writes church music based on Scripture, saying that if he can't find the right song for the situation, he writes his own.
Through a quick search of his computer hard drive's stash of writing, Hill found his version of the Grateful Dead's "Truckin'," a song he reworked to depict the disciples traveling to ancient Jerusalem. The band's music has a tremendous amount of theology and spirituality involved in it, Hill said.
The musician keeps his repertoire of everything he writes -- a couple of hundred songs, he said -- on his computer.
In times of relaxation, Hill doesn't turn to his music, what most would consider a hobby. Instead, he cooks, a pastime he said his wife appreciates.
"I love playing music. I have a hard time seeing it as a job," he said.
"Clark's idea was that teachers should be doing more than just putting facts into kids' brains; they should be helping them to grow in life," recalls Hill. "I thought, ‘this is really good stuff.' But I felt this was something that shouldn't just be reserved for the classroom. This was good stuff for everybody. These were elements that not only should we be attempting to incorporate into our own lives, but also trying to instill in other people."
In an effort to reach the broadest audience possible, Hill turned to his passion for music. In 2010, he began to pen songs corresponding to each of Clark's titular characteristics.
"Rick takes music to a different level," Rev. Elza Hurst said. It may be because he looks at it from a "perspective of bringing the community together," she added.
"Wherever he goes with his music he lifts people's spirits" and garners enthusiasm, she said. That was exemplified by the $2,700 the church raised on the night of Hill's concert, she added. "It was just amazing."
The sound of a hammered dulcimer echoed throughout a small, white stairwell in the home of Rick Hill. He stood in the attic, a studio space of sorts, surrounded by instruments.