For Mayfield High School senior Jake Patty, bluegrass is not just a favorite type of music or hobby, but a direct link to his Kentucky heritage.
When he was in the fourth grade, Patty got his start with bluegrass music at the Kentucky Opry taking guitar lessons, but didn't take it seriously for a long time.
"I didn't think music was anything that was going to actually be a serious interest for me," Patty said. "I took guitar lessons at the Opry and in Lone Oak until about seventh grade."
But it was in the seventh grade that Patty's guitar teachers finally convinced him to enter into The Kentucky Opry's talent show, where he found his passion.
"I saw three teenagers play a mandolin, a banjo and a fiddle," Patty said. "It was all downhill from there. I started going to festivals and conventions. It was a slippery slope into bluegrass music for me."
Patty, the son of Gene and Teena Patty, is the Paducah Bank Teen of the Week.
Each Monday in the online edition and Tuesday in the print edition, The Sun features a teen selected from nominees submitted by guidance counselors throughout the region.
Near the end of the school year, one of the students profiled will be named Teen of the Year and will receive a $5,000 scholarship. An additional student will be chosen for an Inspiration Award and a $1,000 scholarship.
After his interest in bluegrass music was piqued, Patty said one of the first things he did was go to the National Convention for the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music in America (SPBGMA). There, he met other kids his age who shared a similar interest, and found that many of them were a part of an organization called Tomorrow's Bluegrass Stars.
"Before long, I joined that organization, which has since opened many doors for me and helped me to meet even more kids with a common interest in bluegrass music," Patty said. "I gained exposure through appearances at music festivals -- particularly 'Bluegrass On the Plains' in Auburn, Alabama, and 'A Bluegrass Christmas' in Raleigh, North Carolina."
While he has grown and developed both mentally and emotionally in his musical abilities, Patty said his favorite aspect of being a member of the organization has been the opportunity he has been afforded to mentor other kids.
"I can set an example not only for how to play bluegrass, but also how to exhibit good sportsmanship and how to conduct yourself appropriately on and off the stage," Patty said.
Patty is also involved with an organization called the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA); he currently serves as chair.
It's not always all work and no play for Patty, though. He is a member of a bluegrass band, Southern Flavor, with four others his age.
"We play 1940s bluegrass in the style of Bill Monroe and his Bluegrass boys," he said. "We try to play all of the oldest stuff and keep the traditions of the early parts of the music alive," he said.
Even though Patty plays mandolin, banjo and upright bass, he focuses most of his time and energy on playing guitar and singing. He has learned and grown in his musical abilities, but he said his favorite aspect of bluegrass is still the community he has the opportunity to build.
"The main thing about bluegrass music is that there's really not that many people who play it," Patty said. "When you go to festivals, you see a lot of the same people, over and over again. You end up becoming good friends with people due to a shared love of the music. It's a community more than anything."
Maybe the greatest lesson that Patty said being involved in bluegrass music has taught him is that everyone you meet will not always think like you do, a lesson that he feels has prepared him for college and beyond.
"I feel like, more than anything, just being around a lot of people who may have different world views than I do has prepared me," Patty said.
"I have been able to really see that there are lot of people and they are not all exactly like me. I've learned that you're not going to agree with everybody, and that's all right."
While he's not entirely sure which career path he would like to take quite yet, Patty said he would like to attend either Lipscomb University or the University of Kentucky. He said he is considering a major in biochemistry or biomedical engineering.