Music and people flood the streets of downtown Greenville. The city simply wouldn’t be the same without the street performers to whom we’ve grown accustomed. From jazz and blues to pop and metal, Greenville’s local talent provides a variety of music to every passerby’s ears.
Name: Ronnie Elliott
Instrument: Guitar | Genre: Jazz
Ronnie Elliott carries an old soul in his 9-year-old body. The young musician, whose favorite song is “Donna Lee,” loves all things jazz.
“I like the opportunity that you get to improvise and make up your own stuff like scales and arpeggios,” he says.
Playing guitar since he was 7 and piano since he was 5, Elliott is now bringing his talent to the streets of downtown Greenville.
“I want to give people the opportunity to listen to music so they can enjoy it,” he says. “And, I want to save up for a jazz guitar.” For now, streetgoers can hear Elliott play soulful tunes on his Fender Telecaster.
He’s no stranger to performing for an audience. Though only in fifth grade, Elliott plays alongside high schoolers in the Greenville Jazz Collective’s Youth Jazz Ensemble.
Elliott has performed at monthly jazz jams at Chicora Alley for over a year. Also, he recently played a gig with local jazz guitarist Jorge Garcia.
“It’s fun just getting to interact with people because usually when I practice at home, I practice with backing tracks online,” Elliott says.
Local music teachers and mentors in Elliott’s life include Matt Dingledine, Kevin Korschgen, Dale Burke, and Garcia. Needless to say, he’s accustomed to being the youngest musician around.
“When he was around 6, we realized he had perfect pitch and then synesthesia as well, which is associating colors with notes,” says his mother, Jessica. “All of that worked together with the jazz, especially with improvising and hearing chord changes.”
Name: Cole Dockter
Instrument: Drums | Genre: Contemporary metal
Known in Greenville as “The Hello Kitty Guy,” drummer Cole Dockter marches to his own beat — a pink drum-set beat to be exact.
Three years after buying the Hello Kitty kit on eBay and playing it downtown, he’s still bringing music and smiles to the streets. For Dockter, managing his YouTube channel and street-performing are full-time jobs.
“I think it’s a way that I can give back and also build a small little business where I can be my own boss and do my own thing, and that’s what I enjoy the most about it,” he says.
Dockter indulges in the simplicity of street-performing as opposed to being in a band. “It’s really nice to be able to come downtown, set up in five minutes, play for two hours, and then go home,” he says.
Although he played percussion in sixth grade band, he really got his first drumming experience with the 2008 video game Rock Band 2. And while he didn’t study music, he did play in the University of Wisconsin’s jazz program.
“Then I came down here and just tried to make something out of the solo music career,” he says. “It’s very lucrative, but it’s just so tough.”
For Dockter, the positive impact he feels music brings downtown is worth it. “It’s a lot of fun just to get out, play more, practice, and have that influence on Greenville,” he says. “And then also it keeps me fed.”
Name: Kristen Miller
Instrument: Violin | Genre: Pop
Despite being classically trained at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music and working with the Greenville Symphony Orchestra, violinist Kristen Miller finds joy in playing hit songs on the streets.
“I realized I really do enjoy not just the classical side, but I really enjoy performing pop music — music for people that hear stuff on the radio,” she says.
Miller takes easily recognizable songs and makes her own arrangements for listeners to enjoy.
As one of Greenville’s earliest street performers, she continues playing solo and in a group called BellaNova Electric Strings. “I think it’s a huge benefit for us to do that because we’re getting exposure to people traveling in town,” she says.
The group decided about seven years ago to switch from acoustic to electric instruments to add a different sound within their pop arrangements.
“We get to see people experience what we do on a whole different level,” she says. “People don’t all the time see electric string instruments playing.”
Although BellaNova performs at events, Miller says the street performing provides a unique and simply fun experience.
“It’s really just awesome that Greenville allows it,” she says. “It’s a chance for people to come out and play in the community where they might not get a chance to otherwise and then let people hear what talent is here.”
Miller began playing violin around age 10, attended the Fine Arts Center, and participated in Greenville County Youth Orchestras before studying music in Cincinnati.