LITHIA — As they grew up in East Hillsborough, you rarely found silent moments in the home of Cory, Jarrod and Tyler Walker.
The sons of David and Stacey Walker typically left guitars, banjos and mandolins lying on chairs and couches. Even with the television on, the house filled with the sounds of music.
"Somebody was always picking something," Stacey Walker said.
Now the Walker Brothers have gone from living room lyrics to ascending national careers. They'll hold their fourth annual Bluegrass Concert at 6 p.m. Jan. 8 at New Hope United Methodist Church in Brandon. The concert will undoubtedly trace back to their local roots.
Fans remember the brothers, Durant High graduates, from their numerous Florida Strawberry Festival appearances. As youngsters, they honed their skills at Tampa's Bluegrass Parlor, owned by the late Tom Henderson, who had the longest running Tampa-based syndicated radio bluegrass show in the nation.
"The boys used to enjoy every Thursday night going to jam sessions there, where they were able to play with a lot of different people," said their dad, a well-known local dentist.
Cory and Jarrod went on to earn business degrees at Middle Tennessee State University and currently live in Nashville. Tyler is a junior at Florida State University in Tallahassee, where he's majoring in information communication technology.
In their younger years, the brothers also played at numerous in-state festivals and well beyond, including in France, where they performed in the Young American Mandolin Ensemble. That same year, Corey and Jarrod were asked to play a bluegrass festival near Tokyo.
Cory and Jarrod also performed together at the Grand Ole Opry and the CMA Music Festival in Nashville. They've also played on national TV with the likes of country music star Keith Urban and bluegrass icons Ricky Skaggs and Earl Scruggs.
Cory, in fact, was named one of International Bluegrass Music Association's 2014 Momentum Instrumentalists of the Year. He plays banjo, guitar, mandolin, dobro and bass, and currently performs with the Dillards, known for their appearance as the Darlings on the Andy Griffith Show; and Chris Henry and the HardCore Grass band, said to be one of Nashville's most popular bluegrass groups.
Cory considers performing with two music icons among his greatest accomplishments. He played with the late Earl Scruggs, whose signature three-finger banjo-picking style is now a common characteristic of bluegrass, as well as Béla Fleck, a banjo player who's earned 14 Grammy awards and 36 nominations.
"I knew early on this is what I wanted to do," Cory said. "When people ask me how I got to be good, I tell them you've got to be neurotically obsessed."
He also noted the most rewarding aspect of his career is being a vessel for music.
"But the source of it doesn't come from me, Cory Walker," he said. "I see God as the source."
Jarrod is a mandolinist in the Claire Lynch Band, recently nominated for a 2017 Grammy award, and has spent the last two years touring the world with them.
"We were on the road last year for 190 days going across the U.S., Canada, Germany, Ireland and Switzerland," Jarrod said.
Tyler, who plays the guitar and bass and plans to forge a career in the online music business, jokes that he was "kind of forced into playing" around the age of 7.
"My dad bought a guitar for me and I've been going ever since," he said. "I don't play as much as my brothers but when we do play together it pretty much falls into place — we kind of have similar ideas."
Joining the Walkers will be Grammy award-winning mandolinist and vocalist Mike Compton, who was featured in O Brother, Where Art Thou, and noted banjo player and songwriter Joe Newberry, an International Bluegrass Music Association award winner.
The program, which will consist of both old-time gospel and secular music, is free but donations are welcomed.
Contact Joyce McKenzie at [email protected]