By Kim Lyle
Freshly 14, James Linden Hogg has mastered a violin 216 years his elder. He plays it effortlessly, nestled between his chin and a shoulder donned in a Union army uniform from the 1800s. Hogg has become a refreshing exception to teenage angst and rebellion, instead he’s fully immersed in a hybrid of his two greatest loves – music and history.
His own past is teeming with early signs of musical interest.
“When I was two years old I went to a mother’s day program and during lunch I used my carrots as drum sticks,” said Hogg. “The lady running the program got mad and told my mom I was playing with my food.”
In second grade, his budding talents were again met with opposition. His teacher wanted to evaluate all students in the class for attention disorders and then follow up with medication.
“My parents didn’t want to do any of that. They believed there were other ways to get my attention. Instead of medication, I got a banjo and a bagpipe. You want to get someone’s attention, play the bagpipes. They’re so loud, you can’t think about anything else,” he said with a grin.
Hogg’s remarkable talent is not pure coincidence. His family roots run deep in both music and its sibling, poetry.
“My dad has a band and plays bluegrass and country. I’ve always been around it,” he said. “My grandpa is almost 94 and I really ought to give him credit also, he’s a poet.”
Aside from family, Hogg’s musical influences reflect the complex depths of his own practice.
“A lot of traditional folk music inspires me. From the founding of America all the way to the turn of the 19th century,” he said.
“Also Stephen C. Foster, he was the first American pop artist,” said Hogg.
The most recognizable of his tunes being “Oh! Susanna,” a bold song delivered during a time when music from traditional English and Irish descent was the norm. Both Hogg and Foster share a similar spirit in finding success by diverging from the beaten path.
Hogg generously shares his myriad of talents through public performances. Some of his venues include war reenactments, local veteran’s homes, private historical dinners, and even a stage at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival as the youngest musician ever invited to perform.
Most recently, he flexed his acting muscles in the upcoming Civil War era movie The Free State of Jones, playing the drummer boy alongside star Matthew McConaughey.
Hogg emits a quiet, humble confidence in the spotlight.
“I don’t really get nervous, in fact I do better onstage than I do normally. I really enjoy making people have a good time with music,” he said. “If I freeze up, I’ll just pick up another instrument.”
And he has many to choose from. Hogg has mastered the violin, banjo, bagpipes, fife, penny whistle, piano, and grenadier drum from the colonial period.
His vast repertoire of song and instruments come with an impressive level of dedication.
“I practice a lot, usually three to four hours every day. But it’s not like a chore. It’s what I love doing,” he said.
With such an inspiring sense of purpose, Hogg has no intention of slowing down anytime soon. When asked about where he hopes to be in the distant future his answer pointed to his passion for the past.
“I love God, I love country, I love my family, I love music, and I love history. These are the things I love. I never see myself not pursuing any of them.”