Geoffrey Gentry: ‘He does our town proud’

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Geoffrey Gentry of Linton was born during a time of uncertainty in the world. The new millennium was upon us, and no one was quite sure what would happen. Rumors flew around the world, saying computer systems would crash, among other doomsday predictions.

What did happen, on May 30, 2000, was the birth of one of Greene County’s most dedicated and diverse left-handed musicians and all-around interesting guy.

Geoffrey Gentry was born that day, to Michael and Rosa Gentry in Terre Haute.

Fast forward to age seven, and the young Gentry discovered the piano. He took some lessons, he said, and became enchanted with music.

“I used to sing in the church choir, stuff like that,” he said of his first musical endeavors.

At age 10, Gentry picked up a guitar that was laying around the house, and his hands have seldom been without one ever since.

“I was about 10 or so,” he said, “It was a cheap guitar, and I had no idea what I was doing with it. Later I got a proper one. My parents kind of waited to see if I was going to be serious about it first. I used to be pretty notorious for not wanting to practice.”

Gentry plays many styles, and says he is a big fan of blues and rock and roll. He took lessons for some time from music teacher RaeAnne Tyra, and at one point, according to Gentry’s friend and mentor Dusty Miller, Tyra felt she had taught Gentry as much as she was able, and asked Miller to take him as a student.

“He was a student of mine for three or four years,” Miller said. “We worked on guitar and performance. When he first started, he played so hard, like trying to tear the strings off. We worked on touch and how to harness his abilities.”

Taking lessons, he said, encouraged him to practice more, as he learned more about his chosen instrument.

“My teachers encouraged me, and my dad was a big part of it, too. He was always giving me little incentives to practice. Practicing just got more and more into my subconscious.”

He said listening to records and finding the tablature for songs he liked helped to instill the habit to practice as well.

Gentry listed several area musicians as mentors, including Miller, Tim Shonk, John Danner, Tim Latimer, Denny White and Brian Rumple.

“I met Geoff at church when he was younger,” said Shonk. “I don’t think he was playing guitar yet. I first got to see him play at Studio A and later at the farmers market.”

Over the last few years, Shonk said, the two have played together at charity events and happenings such as the Dugger Coal Festival.

“I think that Geoffrey sees me as a mentor because I have a quirky personality that makes me easy to understand if you have a little quirk in your own,” Shonk said.

“Geoffrey is talented beyond his years,” Shonk added. “He has a deep love for music, knows the importance of friends and one of his talents is he has found something that he can truly enjoy and share with others. He is my favorite left-handed guitar player.”

As others have inspired Gentry, he inspires others.

“He taught me that there is hope for a new generation of guitarists and musicians,” said Miller. “He plans to go to my alma mater, Ball State School of Music. In 10 years, I see him very involved with music recording. I see myself in him, as a hungry kid that wants to go out and play guitar for people.”

Brian Rumple, currently with a band called “Red Eye Rose,” made up of Dickie Phillips on guitar/vocals, Derek Ellerbe on guitar/vocals, Perry VanHentenryck on bass guitar/vocals and Rumple on drums, says he only met Gentry last fall.

“My son, Johnathan, goes to school with Geoffrey. He told me how talented Geoff is, and so I checked his Facebook page,” said Rumple.

“I was blown away. I mean, he was playing Led Zeppelin, The Who, Joe Walsh, The Rolling Stones and the list goes on and on. With his dad’s permission, I asked if he would like to get together and jam some old blues. I called (guitar player) Ryan Irish up, and we three had a jam session.”

Rumple recalled another jam session soon after, with guitar player Denny White.

“That jam turned into a ‘70s rock jam. It was very cool,” Rumple remembered. “Then we played at my house with bass player Richie White. Geoffrey and Denny traded off on vocals and guitar solos. I suggested we play some shows, and he immediately said yes. We played the American Legion and he was the star of the show. People would ask, ‘How old is he?’ and I said he’s 16 and he’s awesome,” Rumple said with a grin.

Gentry said he first played professionally at age 13, and recorded his first demo at 14.

In 2014, Gentry won first place at the Linton-Stockton High School talent show, playing guitar and singing. He has played at events in Bloomington, Bowling Green, Ky. and Memphis, Tenn.

For several years running, Gentry’s birthday has been similar to a gathering of Greene County’s finest musicians, all there to do what they love most and to honor a young musician they all seem to adore.

His birthday party jams have been attended by local musicians Denny White, Tim Latimer, Tim Shonk, Tim Tucker and John Danner, who looks forward to the event every year.

“I go to every one, for the joy of playing with someone else who deeply enjoys music,” Danner said.

“I first met Geoffrey at one of Fred Markle’s jam sessions. That kid soaks up music like a sponge. He’s a real quick learner, and totally loves what he is doing.

“Lots of others like to play with Geoffrey on his birthday. My favorite memory is probably the songs he surprises me with, like ‘19th Nervous Breakdown.’

Gentry looks forward to his future, and wants to pursue an education in music recording, hoping to attend Miller’s alma mater, Ball State School of Music.

“I look up to people like John (Danner) because he is a very good leader, very much in control,” Gentry said.

He hopes to emulate the talented Greene County players he admires so much.

“Like Dusty Miller, he was the one who taught me more advanced stuff,” said Gentry.

With several well-done performance videos on his YouTube channel and more on his own website, www.geoffreygentry.com, the young virtuoso has every chance to succeed.

“I hope he continues to blossom into a great guitarist, and he has my support,” said Rumple.

“In 10 years time, he will still be playing and singing. He will have learned a heck of a lot in 10 years,” said Danner.

“I always love playing with Geoffrey, and I really enjoy his Facebook posts, since we are both so deeply interested in music of all sorts,” Danner added. “The guy is just really good on guitar, he’s a very good singer and a super quick learner. He does our town proud.”

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