Dan Gellert and Ma Crow

Local musician Dan Gellert and Cincinnati-based Ma Crow perform in the film "The Mountain Minor." Gellert moved to Aiken about a year ago, and he gives online lessons in string instruments.

Dan Gellert can find his way around just about any string instrument. He’s played and taught fiddle, banjo, guitar, mandolin and ukelele. But he didn’t expect that his music would land him a starring role in a feature-length film.

Gellert joined the Aiken community about a year ago when he and his wife, an Aiken native, moved in. He was born in New York City and grew up in New Jersey, but he spent most of his life in the Midwest after going to school in Indiana.

Writer and director Dale Farmer chose Gellert for his film, “The Mountain Minor,” because of Gellert’s interest in the history of Appalachian music and his skills in the eastern Kentucky style of fiddling, Gellert said.

“The Mountain Minor” follows an old fiddle through five generations of an Appalachian family, from Eastern Kentucky in 1932 to a modern-day Cincinnati music stage, according to the film’s website. Gellert plays the role of Charlie Abner, a character who moved away from the mountains at a young age.

The film, which aired nationally on The Heartland Network earlier this summer, is now available on Amazon Video.

Outside of high school plays, acting was a brand new experience for Gellert. Most of the cast was in the same boat, with plenty of music chops and no acting experience.

The acting gig was hard work. Gellert said they worked long hours on the set, and it required intense focus. Still, he enjoyed trying something new and hanging out with the cast and crew members.

“I got to take a little vacation on a different planet than I’m used to,” Gellert said.

For Gellert, music and acting felt very similar. He compared playing a piece of classical music to delivering the lines in a script – the idea is to make them sound like they’re coming naturally from within.

“When I’m playing my best, I feel as though I’m not the one playing. I’m a channel for the source. And that’s acting,” Gellert said.

Due to COVID-19, Gellert has not been performing or giving in-person lessons. He does, however, have a few students on the internet, including one in Germany, one in the Netherlands and two in the Midwest.