Born with natural musical talent, 17-year-old Gregg Vineyard, of Madras, has an enthusiasm for music that hasn't been curbed by his challenges of the past two years.
"As far as my students, Gregg's the top, and the first from Madras High School (I believe) to be accepted to perform at the All-Northwest Music Conference in Seattle," says MHS band and choir director Jared McFarlin.
Gregg said he took up music in the fourth grade by accident. "I'm colorblind, so I got kicked out of art class and put into general music," he laughed. The son of Don and Katherine Vineyard, he was attending school in Gilbert, Arizona, at the time.
The music teacher noticed he had good rhythm and pitch for a fourth-grader, so she put him in the choir. The class also had a show and tell time, where the kids taking lessons could play a song.
"I just said I was taking lessons, so I could play for the class. My dad had bought me a keyboard and I'd make up things," he said of his first performances.
When he was 10, he had piano lessons for two months, but then his teacher quit teaching, so he was back to teaching himself. He played drums in middle school band, and jazz piano for the Jazz Band.
Gregg focused on drums and percussion when he entered high school, and also played saxophone. He joined the choir, and as a freshman, took fifth place in a state solo and ensemble competition.
Sports is another interest. He wrestled and did track in middle school, and at MHS participates on the swim and water polo and tennis teams.
"When I was a sophomore, I realized music was what I wanted to do. Before, I was considering physical therapy or sports medicine," Gregg said.
Then in 2015, Gregg's family was hit with a series of crises. In March, his 1-year-old niece died, two months later, his father was killed in a car wreck, and then his only brother, Garry, was sent to prison for violating his probation following a controversial case that was in the newspaper for months.
"My brother's in Deer Ridge (Correctional Facility) and we go visit and write him. That's been tough, but I try to stay positive," he said.
Even while dealing with issues that would have sidelined a lot of young people, Gregg's enthusiasm for music couldn't be suppressed, and he started sharing his talents with the community.
He joined the Community Library Band, which plays for local parades, played piano at the Chinook Place retirement community, entertained at the Madras Saturday Market, and performed on piano in the Community Christmas Gala. At school, he was chosen to be part of the statewide Music in May honors ensemble as a junior.
Gregg's work attracted the attention of retired MHS music teacher George Klos, who has become a mentor to him.
"He contacted me after my dad's death and said he'd do free lessons. We've worked on basic theory, lyrical work, composition, some recording, and I did a demo CD," Gregg said.
"Before, I thought I wanted to be a performance major, but my senior year, I started thinking more about music education and becoming a teacher instead," he said.
Gregg's senior year has been filled with trips to honor band and choir events including Band Leadership Camp at the University of Oregon, playing percussion in the Central Oregon Honor Band and at the Western International Band Clinic in Seattle, winning a first place at the District Solo Contest, and singing tenor in the All-State Men's Choir.
His biggest honor so far, was being selected by audition to perform in February with the All-Northwest Mixed Choir in Bellevue, Wash., which accepts only the best high school musicians from Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and Alaska.
"It was incredible. There was so much talent and everyone was so nice and ready to learn," he said, adding, "I brought music back and we try to do it here."
Recently, he traveled to Oregon State University to audition for a music scholarship. "I did voice and piano and they gave us 10 minutes at the audition. I've gotten a letter of admittance, so now it's just a matter of paying for it," Gregg said, noting OSU gave him a $2,500 music scholarship.
This spring has been busy, with Gregg singing at the State Solo Contest in April, playing saxophone at Music in May, and appearing as the "Artful Dodger" in the MHS production of the musical "Oliver."
Asked if that's a lot to take on as a senior, Gregg responded, "I like being busy; I'm not overwhelmed."