Feature on popular bluegrass musician Rhonda Vincent.

Rhonda Vincent has combined musical talent, hard work and a lifelong history of performing on stage in her effort to become one of the most popular acts in bluegrass. The Rounder Records recording artist has won the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) Female Vocalist of the Year award seven times, won the coveted IBMA Entertainer of the Year award, won the IBMA Song of the Year award with co-songwriter Terry Herd and is a three-time Grammy nominee.


The road to success started early for Vincent. Growing up in a musical family, she made her first appearance on a recording at the age of 5 years old.


“It was a way of life,” Vincent said. “It wasn’t a choice of careers. It’s just what my family did.”


These days, Vincent is a bandleader, lead vocalist, and also plays the mandolin and fiddle in her group, Rhonda Vincent and the Rage. But as a kid, her first instrument had little to do with bluegrass.


“My first instrument was a snare drum at age 6,” she said. “When I was 8, my mom and dad and grandpa were performing at a country and western show in Marceline, Missouri -- which is the home of Walt Disney, by the way -- and every week we would go play. Well, the guy that ran that decided that whoever did not play an instrument did not get paid. My dad gave me a mandolin the next week and showed me G, C, and D (chords) and said, ‘You are going to be playing this for two and a half hours every Saturday night now.’ That’s how I got started on it.”


As Vincent became an adult, she tried her hand in the mainstream country music business, releasing two albums. It was a time in her life that she views as a learning experience.


“I look at that as my going away to college,” Vincent said. “I learned so much, from producing, to the studios, to agents, managers, publishing, and to be thrown into that and putting together my first band, that prepared me for where I am now, at the level in which I am now. It was after the country music albums that I put together my first bluegrass band.


“That’s how I ended up doing what I am doing today because I was at a crossroads. ‘Well, do I continue to pursue the country music? What am I going to do with my life?’ I put together a band with some friends and we did a couple of festivals and the response was just so overwhelming. Everyone was saying, ‘This is what you should be doing.’ And I’m like, wow, this is so natural, and I’ve never been happier.”