Snapshot: Roger Sprung
Occupation: I teach music lessons, buy and sell instruments, and play different instruments. I started playing piano at 5 years old, and that grew to me playing guitar for a short time. Then I began playing bluegrass on the five-string banjo, and that stuck with me. Today, that’s what I mostly teach. But since I don’t read music, I teach by ear.
Music is my world. I’m from New York City, where I would play in Washington Square and be on the radio there. I was part of growing folk music in the north east. I’ve toured a lot of places with many famous people, including with singer Kay Starr, and I’ve been on TV with Willie Nelson.
Family: My first wife and I had a daughter, Robin, who passed away. I’m married now to Nancy, and we have two daughters, Emily and Jennie.
Pets: We have a dachshund named Nellie, who is almost 12 years old; three cats, Daisy, Violet, and Luna; two donkeys, Rosie and Isabelle; seven geese — one is 27 years old and named Honk; three birds — parrots, Olive and Pickle, and a cockatiel, Percy; and a 14-year-old red-footed tortoise named Uma Thurman.
How long have you lived in Newtown? When I was married to my first wife, we put a pin in a map that landed on Bethel. A friend of mine, Bob Chamberlain, lived in Newtown and said he could build us a house here for the same price as in Bethel. When we found the property in Newtown, it was tremendous — six acres. We built a house, and I’ve lived here ever since.
What do you like to do in your free time? We have a jam once a month in town at the Newtown United Methodist Church. We’ve been doing that for 24 years. Also, I used to sketch in my free time. I was a pen and ink man.
What is your favorite travel destination? Galax, Virginia. It has a bluegrass festival that I performed at for about 52 years. I performed every year, even when I was in the Army I got two weeks off to go.
What is the best part about Newtown? It’s a beautiful, pleasant country town.
Who has been the greatest influence in your life? Banjo players, such as Earl Scruggs and Pete Seeger. Also, mandolin player Bill Monroe.
If you could spend the day with one person, who would you choose? My wife, Nancy.
What is your favorite musical genre? Traditional folk and bluegrass music. I like to play folk songs, like “She’ll Be Comin ‘Round the Mountain,” in bluegrass, because bluegrass is an instrumental style. You can play anything in bluegrass.
What is your favorite food? I like Chinese food and Italian food a lot.
What is the greatest piece of advice you have ever been given? If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.
What is something you cannot live without? Music.
What is your proudest accomplishment? First is my wife and family. Second is being named World Champion Five-String Banjo Player at North Carolina’s Union Grove Festival and Virginia’s Galaz festival. Also, getting to make a living out of playing banjo.