7 years ago Adam Moyer was literally playing for his dinner. The finger style guitarist would set up in restaurants and play for three hours in exchange for food to eat. He had learned to use his guitar as a way to cope with pain from multiple surgeries and as a way of survival.
Kiara Williams picked up a fiddle in the fifth grade after seeing Charlie Daniels play Devil Went Down To Georgia. For her, music was a way to deal with bullying she had endured as a child. She was in a violin program at her middle school but she wanted to be a fiddler. Williams took the initiative to go home and watch videos and to transition those skills into fiddle. In 2015 she won the West Virginia youth division championship in fiddling as well as multiple other awards.
At Do Re Mi, a coffee shop near the campus of West Virginia Wesleyan, Adam was playing his finger style guitar at an open mic that attracted all kinds of musicians. A mutual friend of the duo had encouraged Kiara to come for a while but she hesitated. The way the open mic worked is that Adam would play simple chord progressions that would allow the participants to play with him using him as the basis for their instrumental expression. One afternoon Kiara finally came along and grabbed her fiddle and began to play along.
Moyer describes what happened next as being like a scene from a movie. Everyone would normally be talking while the music played in the background. But when Kiara played, everyone just stopped what they were doing. You could hear a pin drop. When the two finished their very first time playing together, they were immediately approached by a gentleman doing a documentary about the rivers of Buckhannon. He said he would record them because what they had just played would fit perfectly as a soundtrack. The two, who didn’t even know each other yet, said they were just jamming and didn’t know if they could recreate what they had just done.
That prompted them to practice non-stop eight hours the next day. Neither of them had met someone else who could play for that extended period of time. Adam was not used to playing music with other people on a regular basis, but the two very quickly realized they had something unique and began to practice every day for six hours over the course of six months. These practice sessions began to be a combined form of the individual therapy the two had been experiencing through their instruments.
Their first gig was at an open house for a funeral home in Ireland, West Virginia. Their pay? Applebees gift cards. They began calling restaurants to try and book gigs to no avail. No one would call back or they would say they weren’t interested. Kiara was playing an event in Augusta near Elkins. Adam went and picked her up and with their gear in hand they approached a restaurant named “Smoke On The Water”. He went to them telling them that they play music and would like to play there, right now, saying “We can set up, start playing and if you don’t like it at any time, you can tell us and we will leave and if you do like it you can maybe book us for another time” They loved it and it worked. They were booked consecutively for two years.
From being paid in Applebees cards, fast forward seven years, and Key to Adam has become the most sought after instrumental duo in the state and surrounding areas. Their summers are full of playing weddings and now they have become a staple in multiple venues at Christmas time throughout the state including a new holiday residency at The Greenbrier that started in 2022. They played at an event in October of last year that they parlayed into a reoccurring gig every weekend in December at the famous resort.
The duo had an unexpected, but much deserved boost during the lockdowns due to Covid. What initially started as a way to connect with their audiences at retirement homes that they had played at pre-pandemic, was used to their advantage to be seen and heard by a much bigger audience. When you’re an instrumental duo you don’t have the chance to be seen in places like a rock act would. But for them, the pandemic leveled the playing field. Whereas some rock groups didn’t translate well via streaming, it was the perfect place for Key to Adam to be seen and heard. Many viewers anticipated their calming music and engaging dialogue through broadcasts each week. These shows were seen by thousands upon thousands of people throughout the country. This primed them for massive success when the lockdowns began to let up and they could take their show back on the road.
The two have been able to show the beauty of instrumental music to so many across the state with a style that is outside of the norm for what people are used to. The music of Key to Adam has a healing attribute to it that many have experienced from schools to nursing homes. From high schoolers telling them that their skills changed the way they viewed music to retirees at nursing homes showing improvement in blood pressure, the music of Key to Adam has gone from healing themselves to healing others.
All photos by Shayla Rae Photography