Share America Foundation chooses bluegrass mandolinist/harmonica player for scholarship

The Share America Foundation, Inc. announced its second 2012 scholarship winner recently at its Sacred Sounds Fridays concert featuring the Watkins Family and Mountain Cove Bluegrass Band at the Ringgold Depot in Ringgold, Ga.

The events help fund the organization’s Pearl and Floyd Franks Scholarship. Pearl and Floyd Franks are the late parents and former entertainment managers of actor/entertainer Randall Franks, “Officer Randy Goode” from TV’s “In the Heat of the Night.” The scholarships honor students excelling in the Appalachian musical arts.

“There is no question that my mom and dad would have loved the enthusiasm and spirit that Tyler shares when he performs,” Franks said. “I am sure his musical talents will encourage many in his lifetime.”

Tyler Martelli, 18, of Hixson, Tenn. graduated from Hixson High School and plans to attend University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

“Until I was a freshman, I played electric guitar listening to Rock and Roll,” he said. “Then a friend of mine invited me one night to the Mountain Opry on Signal Mountain. This was my first encounter with bluegrass music.

“I began to regularly sing and perform there and fell in love with the Appalachian style music,” he said.

He eventually joined Mountain Cove Bluegrass Band, a group of Signal Mountain youth. He initially played guitar but soon took up the mandolin and later the harmonica adding both to the band’s stage show. He also sings with the group. For more information, visit

“Bluegrass has no doubt affected my life in a huge way,” he said. “ Playing and singing in front of so many people has helped me to be more comfortable speaking in crowds, and I can be more open when performing.

Tyler said he plans to use the  $1,000 scholarship towards his educational needs to get a degree in music with a focus in music therapy.

“The most rewarding thing about playing bluegrass is the fans,” he said. “It has given me the opportunity to perform at places I would’ve never dreamed.

He won the harmonica contest at Smithville Fiddler’s Jamboree in Tennessee. While in high school, he played clarinet and drum and was part of the Hixson High School Marching Band. He also plays guitar at Battlefield Baptist Church in Fort Oglethorpe.

Tyler is the son of Mary Martelli and Anthony Goodner, both of Chattanooga, Tenn. 

Share America Foundation Board members include Franks, president; Joe Turner, chairman; Gene Lowery, vice chairman; James Pelt, secretary and Jerry Robinson, Sr., vice president and Adam Cathey.

Their next fundraising concert featuring Sonlife Quartet and Calvary’s Blend is August 10 at 7:30 p.m. at the Ringgold Depot in Ringgold, Ga. There is a $5 donation at the door.

For more information about the organization and its programs, contact Share America, P.O. Box 42, Tunnel Hill, Ga. 30755 or visit