From an early age, Trippy Teno knew he wanted to play trombone. His mother drove him to his lessons and he soon progressed into playing with local rock bands. His love of music led him to the University of Tennessee where he graduated with a degree in music performance in bass trombone. He then attended the University of Southern California where he did graduate studies. While in Los Angeles, he played with some of his musical heroes in sessions work, symphonies, and other venues. He was selected to perform with a group at Disneyland and that took him to Orlando, Florida. Future World Brass was the premiere band that opened the EPCOT Center park. He played with that group for many years.
This was the place where he met Karyn (Reichert) Teno. She came from a musical family and always enjoyed hearing her mother play piano and listening to her dad sing in a gospel quartet at church. Through high school she played piano for the high school jazz band and sang in musicals. Her musical journey continued into college where she earned an opera/musical theatre/piano performance and teaching degree at the University of Northern Colorado with graduate studies in opera. She also sang jazz with the UNC Vocal Jazz I group and recorded an album with them that was nominated for a GRAMMY in 1984. After moving to Orlando, Florida, she began performing in a musical show at Sea World and singing with the Voices of Liberty at Disney World.
Several years after their marriage, Trippy decided to change directions in his life. He and Karyn moved to Clinton, Tennessee where he attended the University of Tennessee Law School. While he practiced property law and she homeschooled their four children, a perfect storm was brewing!
Even though mom was focused on teaching academics, her children were bound for something more than that.
Christmas 2009, eight year old Andy Teno received a banjo. That beginner banjo sat in the corner for a year until he decided he wanted to take lessons. After a few lessons with a local bluegrass star, John Alvis, it was certain he would fall in love with playing the banjo. To help him learn, Karyn began learning rhythm guitar. Andy got a Deering banjo (that happened to have an engraving of a raccoon on the back) and took off with his picking like a dog to a bone. Donning a coonskin cap and his signature towel vest, Andy ventured to local bluegrass jam sessions to play with the “big boys!” His first “gig” was playing in a bluegrass band at a New Year’s Eve party. He would play for anyone he could find that would listen: the mailman, the plumber, even the fellas that moved the furniture. He also won first place in the banjo division of the Young Pickers Contest in Townsend, TN, his very first year of playing banjo! Between playing banjo, guitar, Dobro, and fiddle, Andy now enjoys blacksmithing, welding, woodworking, and creating anything he has a mind to.
Now, there were more family members to be inspired to play. Trippy bought a bass and started learning some tunes, and the mom and son duo became a trio. Midnight jam sessions in the bedroom occured regularly whenever Andy would announce that he learned a new song. There were also a few gigs played around town.
The bluegrass bug hit! William Teno asked if he could play around with Andy’s banjo to see if he could manage the rolls. It wasn’t soon after that time that Will bought his own banjo: a Gibson RB4. Although Will was an excellent pianist, he wasn’t as interested in the keyboard as he was his five string. He quickly picked up how to play and was soon labeled by everyone in the family as “The Freight Train” because he was so solid with his rhythm and rolls! He just pushed the songs on down the line to the very end never missing a beat! Right now his favorite banjo is his Recording King. Before Will got busy picking banjo, he was learning how to fly airplanes making his first solo flight in 2013 when he was just 18. In his spare time he enjoys building computers, playing video games, and restoring and setting up banjos. Earl Scruggs, JD Crowe, and Jim Mills are Will’s favorite banjo players.
Youngest, Sam Teno was quietly taking it all in. A neighborhood boy had a mandolin and would show him a few licks. Next Christmas, Sam got a mandolin! He and the neighborhood boy could be found walking around with their mandolins picking bluegrass tunes and shootin’ the breeze. Wearing his signature garrison cap, Sam began playing along with the rest of the group. Doyle Sowers was his first teacher and gave him a great beginning with many different tunes and styles. He recently got a beautiful new Pava mandolin. Sam currently takes lessons from Adam Steffey. For fun and enjoyment, Sam enjoys learning about historical battles and the guns used, as well as learning how to tune pianos.
Now officially a five piece bluegrass band with two banjos, mandolin, guitar and bass, all that was missing was…the fiddle. Voila, there happened to be a fiddle stuck in the back of a closet that was in need of some love.
Everyone in the family asked Leah Teno if she would be willing to learn to play fiddle. She didn’t even balk! At 16, she started taking lessons and in just a few months she was playing with the rest of the family. After years of taking dance lessons and becoming accomplished in tap, ballet, jazz and modern, she hung up her dance shoes and took up the fiddle. She has done so well, that she won first place at the Union County Roy Acuff Fiddle Competition in 2018. Leah plays a Gene Horner fiddle that she tried out in his fiddle shop in Rockwood, Tennessee. She has taken lessons from John Alvis, Becky Buller and currently from Jason Carter. In her spare time, she enjoys baking some of the most fantastic cakes and desserts.
Now that everyone in the family has been bitten by the “bluegrass bug”, they have enjoyed playing and singing together for going on seven years, even recording a CD. The family cat, Chessie, enjoys the music, as well. When they practice, she can be seen on many occasions plopped down smack dab in the middle of the group!
You can take the father out of the music, but you can’t take the music out of the kids. Wait… hmm.
Well, it was bound to happen. The perfect storm in God’s perfect time. Hopefully, they will continue making music together for many years to come whether in the family band or any place the music takes them.