LYONS - In the mountains near Lyons, there is something unusual going on at a four day event called the Song School. Alongside experienced musicians working to improve their craft is a little girl named Bella Betts.
"I do music because I love music," Betts said. "I love the very thing."
The home school student attends camps like this to push her musical talents. She is a gifted mandolin player whose work is being recognized across the country.
"Some people throw around the word prodigy and things like that," Mona Esposito, Betts' mother, said. "I'm not so comfortable with those types of terms."
Esposito takes her daughter to camps like Song School to learn the intricacies of making music sitting next to 40 something, professional artists working on the same song writing and performing skills.
"Part of our home-schooling philosophy is this idea of experiential learning," Esposito said.
Betts says the biggest thing is that they don't treat her like a kid.
"I love when they treat me as an equal," Betts said.
After all, she already made her first album of mostly original songs - when she was 11.
"She turned 12 as we were making the record," Steve Syzmanski, co-producer, said. "I kept scratching my head. It's not a 20-year-old. It's a 12-year-old that we're working with here."
Syzmanski helped her coordinate this bluegrass album called "Lights around a Curve" which takes on deep meanings and emotions especially for a child.
"Making her first record was really one of the highlights of my life," Syzmanski said.
He is also the director of the Song School. He says Betts fits right in.
"For a 12-year-old, one of the most focused and articulate little girls, I've ever met," Syzmanski said.
Betts plays multiple instruments, including the guitar. But, she says the mandolin is where she feels the most natural.
"I feel more at home playing the mandolin," Betts said. "I have to struggle less."
Still, she goes to Song School and other learning opportunities to learn the science and academics of music.
"It's just sort of the next step in her musical life," Esposito said. "[She is] super interested in the mechanics and the technical side of making music," Esposito said.
Betts started playing the piano and guitar at age five. But, Esposito says when she picked up a mandolin a couple years later she fell in love with it. At age 10, Esposito says that's when Betts decided to pursue music full-time leading to her first album, concert invitations, and potential stardom.
"When wonderful opportunities come along, we embrace them," Esposito said. "But, you know, she's still a kid and that's really important."
Betts says she is a kid with the time and ambition to be the best.
"Mostly, I just want to really have fun," Betts said. "I think adults should do that more, too."
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