ELKINS -About nine years ago an Elkins man received a birthday present that would change his life and help him discover his natural talent, a gift for music.
Michael Bonnett will perform solo at the Inter-Mountain's Community Expo on Saturday. The Expo begins at 9 a.m. and lasts until 5 p.m. at Elkins High School.
An array of local vendors will be present as well as multiple types of entertainment. More information concerning the Expo can be obtained by calling 304-636-2127.
Elkins resident Michael Bonnett will perform at The Inter-Mountain’s Community Expo Saturday at Elkins High School. Bonnett will compete in the Texaco Country Showdown in Parkersburg on Aug. 15. (Submitted photo)
Bonnett grew up knowing his grandfather and other relatives had played guitar in the past, but never had the chance to hear them play. Now Bonnett is giving his children the chance to hear him and watch him perform across the state.
Around the time he turned 25, Bonnett told his wife he was interested in learning how to play the guitar.
"She bought me one for my birthday. I haven't put it down since," said Bonnett.
He then began practicing, mostly teaching himself and picking up advice from his wife's stepfather, Rob Sturdivant. After hours of concentration, with bleeding and callused fingers, Bonnett finally felt everything click.
"It's addicting. Once you start playing, you can't stop," he said.
Since then he has recorded an EP, has opened up for musicians like Wyatt Turner, has helped with senior projects, and has performed at various contests, weddings and birthday parties.
He is now on his way to compete against seven other finalists in the Texaco Country Showdown in Parkersburg on Aug. 15 in the State Finals.
"I've had fun. I'm glad that I worked hard enough to make it to the state competition," said Bonnett.
A lover of all types of music, Bonnett used to sing and play just around his family, but what began as a simple hobby has slowly grown more serious.
With the support of his entire family and all of his friends, he was encouraged to try performing at a talent show. Bonnett said people told him to just test it out and see what would happen.
At the Mountain State Forest Festival in Elkins in 2011, Bonnett won the Talent Show with Sturdivant. On his own, Bonnett won two of the evenings at the Talent Show in 2013, and placed second another night.
By winning the local finals in Beverly last weekend, Bonnett put himself on the road to Parkersburg.
"I made it there just like everyone else made it there," he said.
Beginning on a whim with a present and starting out at his first competitions with butterflies, Bonnett says the most important thing about these contests is the journey he takes to get there and the opportunities that are always waiting.
Although he plans on playing his best and hopes to win, Bonnett says money isn't everything.
"No matter what happens with the music career, one day I can turn around and give my kids a CD or play and show them what I've accomplished," he said.
Bonnett says when playing he feels like he's in a different world and music is nothing unless you play from the heart.
"You go out and you have fun but you always play from your heart," Bonnett said as he put his hand on his chest.
Bonnett, who has written more than 15 original songs, will perform one of his own pieces as well as a cover song when he competes in Parkersburg.
He also wasn't kidding when he said his music comes from his heart. Writing songs takes time and can be frustrating, but one of his favorite memories is of a song he wrote with Sturdivant.
"Do you think you could put it to music?" said Sturdivant one evening after he presented song lyrics he had written to Bonnett.
They then sat down together and completed the song in just two hours.
Bonnett is grateful for all the support he has received from Sturdivant, his wife and two children, who both like to sing with him. He also is thankful for his parents, friends, family and new bandmates.
"Since all of this...I've now got a full band with me," Bonnett said.
His band, known as Michael Bonnett and Rivers Edge, include Steve Shrader, Seth Marstiller and Tommy Croston. The band has been with him for a year now, and although they will not perform with Bonnett during his solo competition, they'll be playing together as a group again on Aug. 23 in Grafton.