2009: Ronnie '85 and Rob McCoury '89 - Distinguished Alumni Award for 2009

  • The Susquehannock High School Distinguished Alumni for 2009 were recording artists Ronnie, ‘85 and Rob McCoury, ‘89.

    As members of the Del McCoury Band and in their own right, Ronnie and Rob are regarded as among the elite bluegrass musicians in the country, the band having been nominated for the prestigious Grammy Award in 2004 and winning that honor in 2006 for the album, The Company We Keep.

    Ronnie, the older of the brothers, was active in sports throughout his high school career, most significantly baseball and basketball. Surprisingly, Ronnie was not a “typical” high school student musician, having taken up violin at age 9, but quitting after two years because it interfered with his busy sports schedule. But music was always a part of young Ronnie’s life. His father, Del had a popular local band, The Dixie Pals, and the brothers would often accompany them to shows. At age 13, Ronnie became fascinated with the mandolin, an instrument that he quickly mastered to the point where he was playing with his father’s band a year later.

    Younger brother by four years, Rob, had a similar introduction to music. He began to play banjo at age eight, inspired by the music he heard around the house, and at shows and concerts with which his father was performing. Of that time, he says “picking’ was the first thing I did in the morning and the last thing I did at night.” His first professional playing engagement came at age 16 when he substituted in his father’s band on the bass fiddle, an instrument he knew very little. He performed so well that he became the band’s regular bass player until a banjo position opened a year later.

    The Dixie Pals were now The Del McCoury Band, a family affair, and had become so successful that a family move to Nashville was in order by 1992. The group’s popularity has grown steadily ever since.

    In 1995, The McCoury Brothers – Ronnie and Rob – teamed up to record their own self-titled CD. In 1998, Rob joined some of Nashville’s greatest mandolin players to record Mandolin Extravaganza, which was nominated for a Grammy Award and won the International Blue Grass Music Association’s award for best instrumental album of 2000, along with best recorded event honors.