I met Chris Thile when he was a boy. Seven, maybe. Our parents were friends, through La Leche League, I think, and maybe southern California homeschooling events, and through both having family bands. He was already amazing at mandolin and asked to try my electric guitar. He said he’d never played one before, which was difficult to believe as I watched his little-boy fingers fly on the fretboard. He was clearly and instantly miles beyond me on my own instrument.

I don’t write off his success to talent, though. I believe he is an outlier in many respects. He has worked like crazy, practicing, performing, touring, composing. He’s also one of the nicest and most charismatic people I’ve met. Most of the many times I’ve seen him perform over the years, he’s noticed and said hi to me from the stage or after the set, treating me like an old friend even though we really barely knew each other. So charming!

Here’s a video about Chris being named a 2012 MacArthur Fellow:

And here he is at about the age I met him, on acoustic guitar: