Cocalico’s Kerschner shines with football and banjo

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DENVER, Pa. (WHTM) – It’s 8 o’clock on a Wednesday night at Kupp-Tone Music Studios. Keith Kupp is in his bluegrass room with one of his oldest students, Cocalico Junior Conlan Kerschner.

They run through a medley of bluegrass and original songs written by Conlan. From “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” to “Dear old Dixie”, they’re songs from a bygone era, but Conlan is connected to them through his passion for the banjo.

“I remember being in second grade,” Conlan says at his house in Adamstown in between football practice and his nightly lessons, “And my grandpa says to me, ‘How would you like to learn the banjo?’ He says he’ll pay for the lesson and I think to myself, I’m a pretty smart guy, why not.”

This is Conlan at 8; Mr. Personality and a will to tackle anything that comes his way. The same goes for football, where he’s a wide receiver and defensive back for the Eagles.

Conlan’s skills on the banjo have since passed his grandfather’s time. He passed away in 2011 from lung cancer. But he carries the memory of what his grandfather saw in him: the potential to be special. His talents have taken him all over the country performing at music festivals, including at this year’s Merlefest in North Carolina where he opened for John Oates.

“Playing in front of 80,000 fans like that was special.”

This football season, he’ll play in front of less. As far as any future musical ambitions he has, “We always joke that if Taylor Swift calls and says she needs a banjo player, I think I’ll take it.”

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