Not just fiddling around: NC teen balances school, music

By Jessica Williams - Times-News of Burlington

GRAHAM (AP) — Nathan Aldridge has a hidden life: Southern Alamance High School senior on weekdays and famed bluegrass musician on the weekends.

Aldridge, 17, is the fiddle player for the band Sideline, which just finished a two-week, 11-show tour in California.

For many, balancing a successful music career with being a high school student is the stuff of dreams, or Disney Channel shows, but for Aldridge, it’s life as usual — and a life he’s been preparing for since he was younger than 3.

Aldridge was born and raised in Graham and comes from a musical family — more specifically, a bluegrass family.

His father, Mike “Precious” Aldridge, played mandolin for Al Batten & the Bluegrass Reunion, and he has two brothers, one who plays the mandolin and one who plays the banjo.

His love for the fiddle began when he was just a toddler, evolving through the years as he learned to play bluegrass music by ear, listening to CDs. Despite not being able to read a single line of music, it was that dedication that landed him a spot in Sideline when his brother Daniel couldn’t find the time to keep playing.

“Daniel, my brother, he couldn’t get off at the Sheriff’s Office, and Brian knew that I could play the fiddle and knew that I knew their CDs because that’s how I learn — I play by CDs in the house, but Brian knew I knew the material and the fiddle player parts, so they asked me to go with them, and they were wowed that I knew the stuff that good,” he said.

But there was the small matter of school. Aldridge says it took convincing, but eventually he proved that he could keep his grades up while traveling. Southern Alamance Principal Teresa Faucette was, fortunately, supportive.

“I had to do some bickering with my parents and everything because they were like, ‘You can’t miss school, and the school ain’t going to let you.’ . We had a meeting with me, my mom and the principal, Ms. Faucette, and she said as long as I keep my grades up, I can do my career,” he said.

The work isn’t easy, but Aldridge takes it seriously.

“A typical month is, I leave Thursday during the day and come back Sunday night or Sunday morning, and that’s every weekend. . I come back the following Monday of every weekend and just ask the teachers what I missed, and they usually give me a week to get the work in, and I go ahead and do it. I don’t waste my time ‘cause I don’t want to get booked up, fully, and I want to stay true to my word — what I told Ms. Faucette,” he said.

While touring comes with challenges, Aldridge admits there are a lot of benefits to traveling and performing with a band.

“Money,” he joked. “No, getting to see different things. I talked to my friends today about getting to see the Golden Gate Bridge. . A lot of these kids, they probably don’t get out of the county, much less the state, but it’s educational.”

He maintains a close group of friends, most likely because (though his lifestyle is certainly exceptional) he hasn’t let it all go to his head. Aldridge says he has a lot to learn before he can be considered one of the greats.

“After 12 years, I’m still learning today, so I’m not the best,” he said.

But he has plenty of time to keep practicing. With a music career on the horizon and carpentry as a backup plan, Aldridge says he can’t imagine pursing anything else after he graduates this spring.

“After high school, I’m going to do this as much as I can, and maybe teach a little bit. I’m already teaching now. I can do Skype online lessons. . I’ll probably play music until something don’t work out or marriage or something,” he said.

To find out more about Sideline, including tour dates, or to purchase music from the group, visit . They will perform March 3 at Southern Alamance High School’s annual FFA Bluegrass Show.

By Jessica Williams

Times-News of Burlington

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