Classical Instruments Take on Contemporary Twist
The sound of classical instruments drift through the air along King Street as a crowd gathers around three musicians performing outside of a storefront.
It takes a second to place, but it’s clear they’re not playing standard classical music. Instead, they play a set with songs from the likes of Queen and Led Zeppelin.
Closer in; people are whispering, “How old do you think they are?”
The boys, who are entering 10th grade this year, get this question a lot.
After all, when one pictures teenage boys playing music, it’s usually guitars and drums that come to mind, not classical instruments.
The trio is comprised of Gage Andrews on the viola, Aidan Billings on the violin and Sam Carson on the cello.
The three began playing in fifth grade and have been playing together since sixth grade at Laing Middle School. They became good friends and began their journey into music through the school’s orchestra program directed by Ms. Selby.
Their music instructor, Michael Williams of East Cooper music, instructed each privately and then, as a trio.
The guys decided to launch Three Pegs Trio and they credit Carson with choosing the clever name; three pegs versus the standard four on a violin. Each played a different instrument before forming the trio.
Carson heard his teacher play the “Jaws” theme song on the cello and he was hooked. Andrews initially wanted to play cello, but realized it was the most expensive instrument so he chose the viola. For Billings, the violin was the instrument he always wanted to play.
The trio’s first performance was January 2016 at the opening reception for Sweetwater Arts Festival at North Charleston City Hall.
From there, the gigs fell into place. They were seen on the street performing by restaurant Tommy Condon’s manager, who then offered them the stage inside. They played a recurring gig there each Sunday for five months.
They’ve performed at various fundraisers and were hired to provide the ambiance for a surprise proposal in Waterfront Park. The boys also landed their first wedding gig, which will take place this fall.
Beyond age, the boys differentiate themselves from other string trios by playing contemporary and classic rock in addition to classical. Fans listen to them play Pachelbel’s “Canon in D,” and the next set could be Guns N’ Roses’ “Sweet Child O’ Mine” (Billings’ favorite). A 1928 folk song, “Follow the Drinking Gourd,” is Andrews’ and Carson’s favorite.
Billings attends the Charleston School of the Arts and looks to the Three Pegs as his creative outlet for contemporary music.
“I play classical every day at school, so with these guys I get to play more of the fun stuff,” he says.
For Carson and Andrews, who attend Academic Magnet High School, they rely on Three Pegs to keep music in their lives since there is no orchestra at their school.
Andrews notes that it’s really a win-win, “I still have a place to play my viola, but I also get to hang out with my best friends.”
Carson agrees, “I love being able to perform in front of people and without playing at school anymore, this gives me a place to do that.”
The boys practice once a week with an instructor as a group, have private lessons and get together at one another’s houses.
Each is an honor student and they refer to themselves as nerdy-loving science and math guys. Though they plan to follow career paths focusing on engineering and architecture, they all quickly nod in agreement that music will always be a part of their lives in some form.
For now, keep an ear out downtown along King Street and other venues. Listen for the Three Pegs’ unique renditions of contemporary and classic rock and enjoy the beautiful string sounds of timeless classics