Grammy winner returns to Muir with gift of 200 guitars

Ionia County

MUIR, Mich. (WOOD) — Bluegrass music star Billy Strings is paying it forward one cord at a time.

“The guitar was always a good friend of mine all throughout my life and it’s led me to a lot of amazing places and it’s always been a good friend,” said Strings, who was raised in Muir, about 7 miles east of Ionia.

A good friendship is worth sharing with others. That’s why Billy Strings and his band on Monday brought over 200 new guitars to give to students at Twin Rivers Elementary School in Muir.

“This is the coolest thing I’ve ever done. Winning a Grammy is cool, but giving back to your community, especially to children, it a lot cooler,” Strings said.

Billy Strings was William Apostol when he attended Twin Rivers some two decades ago. Childhood wasn’t easy for him.

“The guitar was always sort of my best friends and distracted me from a lot of the stuff that was going on around me and was my coping mechanism and survival strategy,” he said.

The rising bluegrass star — who won best bluegrass album at the 2021 Grammy Awards — thought the kids back home could use a little of that inspiration.

“Maybe there’s a troubled kid here that could be saved through music like I was,” Strings said.

It was also a chance to reunite Strings with the music teacher who inspired him so many years ago. He was 7 when became Sari Mercer’s student.

“The minute he walked in my classroom, I knew he had a special gift,” Mercer said.

Strings credits the now-retired elementary music teacher as being among those who nurtured his talent.

“She would give me little solos and really encouraged it, so when I got this idea I just called Ms. Mercer right away,” Strings said.

The inspiration has been a two-way street.

“He said to me once, ‘There are just certain people who came into my life at the right time.’ I hope that maybe I was one of those people,” Mercer said. “He sure came into my life at the right time.”

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