Story: TBY Chronicle: Musical Memories: Alex Mehner (10/15/22)
Alex Mehner (far left) on tour with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, touring in 2022. Mehner does sound work for the band.
Submitted by Steve Schaffner
Alex Mehner stars in this month’s episode of “Music Memories.” At 27, it doesn’t qualify to be a typical “The Best Years” feature. However, for the past three years he has been an integral part of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band on their tour of the United States. which will soon celebrate its 50th anniversary. Mehner will be part of the 50th Celebration Show, taking place at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee, this fall.
Alex Mehner and his twin brother, Aaron, were born in Cape Girardeau on August 3, 1995.
Alex attended Clippard Elementary, Cape Central Junior High and Cape Central High School. He started playing guitar at age 12. In seventh grade, he joined the orchestra at Cape Central Junior High and played the violin. While a self-taught guitarist, he studied violin privately with Mel Gilhaus in middle school and high school.
He has been active with the Cape Central Orchestra, Jazz Band, Baseball Team, Track and Field Team, National Honor Society, and Future Business Leaders of America. In high school, he was a member of the Southeast Missouri Symphony and performed with the SEMO Symphony on their Washington DC and New York City tour in 2013.
Throughout high school, Alex performed frequently as a member of Forgotten Past. The band, made up of Alex on guitar, his brother Aaron on bass, his friend Jordan Stone on drums and his father John on guitar and vocals, was present at SEMO and Cape Central Tailgates, as well than at various events and concerts. in the zone.
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As a member of Cape La Croix United Methodist Church, he was active with the worship team as a guitarist and as a member of the technical team. Alex cites Bill Shivelbine, who is a front-house sound engineer at La Croix, as a major influence in “learning the ropes” of audio engineering.
Shivelbine remembers Alex as an enthusiastic and curious child. Shivelbine says he knew Alex was immediately “a cut above,” saying when Alex asked, “What’s that?” he didn’t advance to the next flashing light or gadget; instead, he would ask, “How do you apply that in a musical situation?”
Shivelbine hired Alex to put on an Eddie Money concert at the old Isle Casino. According to Alex, “It was my first experience behind the scenes, at work,
real application sound experience. I then decided that this would be my career path.
After graduating from Cape Central in 2014, Alex attended Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, where he majored in audio engineering technology. He continued his violin studies and was a member of the Belmont Symphony for two years. While in college, he immersed himself in the music industry, networking and making connections at shows.
One of his best relationships was Nashville’s famous 3rd & Lindsley Bar & Grill nightclub. The venue features up-and-coming musical artists from Nashville, as well as seasoned veterans. Alex started his second year of college “cold” and asked if he could observe and learn from the ordinary building engineer. He was soon hired as an assistant and, after five years, became chief sound engineer for the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday night shows, when he is usually home and off the road. A typical Monday night features The Time Jumpers, which is a 10-piece western swing band made up of some of Nashville’s most respected studio and touring musicians, including Vince Gill on guitar. According to Alex, he learned more from his connections in the city than sitting in the “Belmont bubble” or limiting his efforts to the Belmont campus. He graduated in 2017.
Since graduating he has toured with Gary Allan, Guy Penrod, Shenandoah, Gin Blossoms and Lone Bellow, but mostly with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.
The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band released the three-disc masterpiece “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” in 1972. With the help of country music icons Earl Scruggs, Roy Acuff, Doc Watson, Mother Maybelle Carter, Jimmy Martin and a host of others, the album went triple platinum and landed in the Grammy Hall of Fame.
“As someone who grew up exclusively on classic rock and blues from the 60s to the 70s thanks to my dad, I was pretty uneducated in country music of that era until touring with Nitty Gritty,” says Alex about the album. “Hearing first-hand stories on the bus of how ‘Circle I’ came to be was an eye-opener. It not only catapulted the band’s career, but also revolutionized what a country/bluegrass album could sound like. I can’t even say how special it is. 2022 marks the 50th anniversary of this historic album, and to celebrate we’re throwing two nights this fall at the famed Ryman Auditorium, where a host of special guests will perform. will sit and accompany many of the album’s most memorable songs.
Alex will be on the sidelines of the Ryman stage, making sure everyone on stage has a back mix to ensure an exceptional performance.
Since beginning his audio career, Alex has traveled to all 50 states and four countries, including Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Canada and Mexico. He often has the opportunity to mix business with pleasure and has hiked and camped in 42 of the 63 US national parks.
Steve Schaffner is director of the Academy of Music at Southeast Missouri State University. Previously, he was orchestra director for Cape Girardeau Public Schools and the Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School in Augusta, Georgia. He has performed and/or directed in 48 states and 11 countries.