Pettit to teach advanced level mandolin class

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Pettit to teach advanced level mandolin class

Pettit, a distinguished member of the Palmetto Mandolin Society, instructs students on a basic 12 finger plucking technique.
Photos: Melia Covington

Bob Jones University’s president, Steve Pettit, has recently agreed to teach a master class on the mandolin at the University this fall to expand students’ appreciation of southern culture.

Michael Moore, chair of the Division of Music, asked Pettit to teach the class. Moore said that from time to time, the music department hosts visiting artists, but this past semester he realized he had been missing out on the chance of utilizing Pettit, BJU’s very own artist.

“All this time he’s been right here,” Moore said. “I just can’t believe I’ve been missing out on the perfect masterclass host.”

Moore realized the extent of Pettit’s talent during the Annual National Mandolinear Competition (ANMC) this past semester. The head judge of the ANMC, Balthazar Doohickey, said he had never seen such skill, and promptly after Pettit’s performance of “Old Man River” he gave him the first, second, and third place awards in the competition.

Moore, a recognized expert on symphonic mandolin theory, researches the historic origins of Mandolin choirs, which he believes to have begun in ancient Mesopotamia.
Photo: Melia Covington

“He deserved them all,” Doohickey said. “I’ve never seen a better mandolin player in all my years as judge.”

Pettit said he thinks Moore chose the right man for the job. “It was an obvious choice,” he said. “Who else on campus is going to be able to teach this?”

Teaching has always been one of Pettit’s dreams, and he has always wanted to be able to share his considerable mandolin knowledge with others. Pettit said he is looking forward to the joy students will experience as they learn how to play bluegrass in his mandolin master class. “I’m [also] looking forward to expanding the understanding of our students in the style of bluegrass, which is true Americana,” he said.

Pettit also plans on using the class to introduce students to a new form of culture they may not be familiar with. “We’re making a master class, so we’re introducing high southern culture to Bob Jones University,” he said.

Pettit obtained his incredible mandolin skills in the Pre-Technology era, and said he primarily learned how to play through books and an ancient sound holder known as a cassette tape. His longterm goal with teaching the mandolin master class is to bring back mandolin choirs, which were quite popular at the beginning of the twentieth century in the United States.

If student interest in the mandolin master class is strong, BJU may even start a mandolin choir this year, fulfilling Pettit’s life-long ambition of bringing these unique choirs back into popularity. “It would be a fantastic addition to the accordion choir we’re starting in the fall,” Moore said. Pettit said he would be honored to lead the mandolin choir, should it come to fruition.

Bee Flatter, a senior music education major, said she would love to join the mandolin choir. “I’m in two symphonies, I take lessons in four different instruments, I teach in my spare time and I was in the Samson et Dalilah opera, which was amazing even if it wiped me out, but I would absolutely love to take Pettit’s masterclass and join his mandolin choir as well,” Flatter said.

Moore is also planning on adding Pettit to the upcoming BJUSO concert as a featured soloist. “Since violin and mandolin share the similar left hand finger technique, he’s a natural fit for performing a mandolin transcription of the Schoenberg concerto for violin and orchestra,” Moore said. “Lots of great tunes in that one I might add.”

Pettit looks forward to sharing his love of bluegrass and insane mandolin skills with the students who take his master class. He invites all the mandolin players of BJU to try out for the mandolin choir he will be leading in the fall.