By Tanner Kent
---- — Ian Kimmel had his first banjo before he could walk.
By age 4, he was mimicking other musicians on a cello outfitted like a stand-up bass. By age 8, he had appeared on stage for the first time. And by the time he was a teenager, he was hosting workshops and teaching classes for musicians twice his age.
But perhaps that's not surprising when your father happens to be Dick Kimmel, an internationally recognized bluegrass artist with more than two dozen recordings to his name.
"It's been nice always having him around for advice," said Ian, himself a 17-year old student at New Ulm High School. "It's not too often you get to have a three-time hall-of-famer at your house."
Now, father and son have both been nominated for 2014 Midwest Bluegrass Awards by the Society for the Preservation of the Bluegrass Music of America. Dick is nominated for Entertainer of the Year while Ian is nominated for Mandolin Performer of the Year.
And it's not hard to see why. Between their various bands and side projects, the two cut an impressive swath through the bluegrass landscape.
In addition to the five-piece Dick Kimmel & Co. ensemble (which includes Ian on mandolin), Dick performs in two duo ensembles and records frequently with collaborators. After releasing the critically acclaimed "Dreamin'" with Dick Kimmel & Co. in 2011, the veteran musician who has been inducted into three music halls of fame (the most recent, the Mid-America Music Hall of Fame, in 2012) said he is now working on a solo mandolin recording.
For his part, Ian also plays full-time with two other bands — Addison Avenue and his own Barton's Hollow. Like his father, he is a multi-instrumentalist (guitar, dobro, banjo, bass and mandolin, mainly) and he plans on attending East Tennessee State in the fall of 2014 to continue studying bluegrass music.
"I'd rather be a streetcorner musician than work a desk job," Ian said.
Though Dick said he's honored to be be nominated for Entertainer of the Year and said the news came as a "complete surprise," he also said the real thrill has come from watching his son's progression as a musician.
Dick said he began putting small banjos in his son's crib when he was still a baby. He still remembers the first time they played together on stage and said he was able to track his son's musical interests as he grew based on which instruments were missing from his collection.
"Ian's just a really neat performer," said Dick, adding that it's not uncommon for Ian to receive a standing ovation — mid-set — when he sings with Dick Kimmel & Co. "People tend to get cynical with age, and he has such a fresh attitude and so much energy. I feel lucky to have such a great son."
The SPBGMA is a Missouri-based organization that holds more than a dozen bluegrass festivals annually throughout the Midwest. Dick and Ian will perform as Dick Kimmel & Co. at the SPBGMA awards convention on Jan. 31.
Upcoming: Kimmel, Granger in concert the Grand NEW ULM -- Dick Kimmel & Adam Granger will be host a concert at 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 11 at the Grand Kabaret in New Ulm. Kimmel and former "A Prairie Home Compaion" studio musician Adam Granger will play some traditional bluegrass and old-time music along with a variety of original songs and instrumentals, in addition to some "off-the-wall" numbers written by Granger. For tickets and details, visit www.thegrandnewulm.com.