Hoover resident- Winner of the Official Alabama State Fiddling Championship Adult Division (17-59) at Panoply 2009 in Huntsville. Placed 5th in 2008 Tennessee Valley Old Time Fiddlers Convention in Athens, Alabama. Completed in 19th Annual Fiddlin' and Bluegrass Contest at McFarland Mall in Tuscaloosa at 11 years old.



Dallas Key isn't old enough to vote, but he may already qualify as a "Renaissance man."

Key, a senior at Hoover High School, has a black belt in tae kwon do and a pilot's license. He's a staff sergeant in the Civil Air Patrol, a certified Master Thespian who has performed in school plays since el ementary school and an award-win ning bagpiper -- you can catch him some evenings at sunset at the Re naissance Ross Bridge Golf Resort & Spa, where he is in the regular rota tion of pipers.

Key spent three years as the Hoo ver High Buccaneer mascot, plays the tenor sax and volunteers with his dad at the Southern Museum of Flight. He has managed to maintain a 3.85 grade-point average and earn a place in the National Honor So ciety.

His resume already is two pages long.

Recently, Key added another feather to his heavily laden cap: Ala bama state fiddle champion. Key squeaked into the adult division, turning 17 only days before the competition last April. The adult di vision runs from ages 17-59.

"He's not the average Joe," said Shane Martin, cheerleading coordi nator for Hoover High. "And he doesn't go the average way . . . what teenager can even play the bag pipes?"

Dallas took his cue in fiddling from his big sister, Kyra, who began playing as a young girl and had started a country rock band by the time she was in the ninth grade. De spite Dallas' success with the fiddle, he said bagpiping is his first love. He discovered his passion during a family trip to North Carolina, where he said he came across a bagpipe shop and wanted to give it a try.

John Key, Dallas' dad, said he and his wife, Susan Hoxie-Key, deliber ately encouraged their kids' interest in music when they were little be cause kids learn so much easier than adults. If the kids didn't like music, they could always quit later, they reasoned.

"From the time they were old enough to hold a fiddle, they got into fiddles," he said.

For years, the family drove after school as far away as Cullman and Tuscaloosa for music lessons. "If hey'd wanted to get in trou ble, they would've had to schedule it," John Key said.

Dallas said he decided to try flying during a bagpiping gig at an air show. He earned his pilot's license last summer and is now working toward his instru ment rating. It's a hobby he shares with his dad. Together, they volunteer at the Southern Museum of Flight. Tae kwon do, too, was a family affair. John Key is the only mem ber of the Key quartet who does not have a black belt.

Although music is a pas sion for both Key kids, John Key said they approach it differently. "Kyra likes the music," he said. "Dallas likes the show."

In that sense, a bagpipe may be the ideal instru ment. "When you crank up a bagpipe, it gets everybo dy's attention," John Key said.

Martin said Dallas em braced his role as Buccaneer mascot, working the sta dium as he engaged with cheerleaders, the band and the crowd. "He understood what it takes to be a mascot -- over-the-top enthusiasm and spirit and movement."

John Key said the worlds of fiddling, bagpiping and tae kwon do have been good for both his kids: They all have provided nurturing en vironments in which kids interact with adults as peers. "I just found that to really contribute to their maturity and their ability to interact with adults," he said.

Martin said Key can cut up and socialize like a typ ical teenager, but he is equally comfortable and en gaged among adults.

"I've never met in my life anyone quite like Dallas," Martin said. "I look forward to see what he's like as an adult."

Dallas plans to study en gineering in college, just like his parents and his sister. He's already been accepted to the Georgia Institute of Technology and Auburn University. But he also has plans that are all his own: to become a naval aviator.

Source: Hoover's Dallas Key has plenty of pluck: He's not just fiddling around | al.com



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