By Gianna Holiday
Opening for the 2019 Backstreet Concert Series in downtown West Jefferson is Wayne Henderson, Helen White and Herb Key. The band will perform at the Backstreet Park on Friday, May 31, starting at 5:30 p.m. and ending at 7 p.m.
The event is entirely free as it will be sponsored by the West Jefferson Community Partnership as well as individually sponsored by the Ashe County Chamber of Commerce.
In the event of inclement weather, the concert will be moved to the Ashe Arts Center which is three blocks east of the Backstreet Park.
Henderson and White have been touring together for several years and are well-known both in this region as well as across the world. Henderson has gone on to play Carnegie Hall in New York City, in three national tours of Master of the Steel-String guitar, as well as seven nations in Europe and Asia.
However, he makes sure that he still finds time to play for his neighbors in Ashe County, which is a short drive from his hometown in Grayson County. He is also a respected luthier, a maker of guitars and mandolins, with a waiting list of years to get his handmade instruments as he makes only about 20 instruments a year.
He is also a recipient of a 1995 National Heritage Award presented by the National Endowment of the Arts.
White, who frequently has toured with Henderson, is the founder of Junior Appalachian Musicians. This is a mountain-based program that introduces “mountain” music, such as varying string instruments, to young people to keep the traditional sounds alive as well as to educate them of their heritage.
She is also an avid writer of children’s music. She has a Booklist honored recording of original songs for children and has worked with young people at the local and regional level for over 15 years, with the program inception in February of 2000.
Key grew up in a musical family in Wilkes County; his father, mother, and uncle all played the guitar. He has played music for most of his life as he grew up listening to old Carter Family recordings. Today, he has spent more than 30 years making, repairing and restoring old instruments.
Aside from Henderson, Key also performs with the Elkville String Band alongside Bill Williams, Jim Lloyd, and Trevor McKenzie, and sometimes Jeff Micha. They play traditional regional old-time and bluegrass music. The group has been the house band for the Tom Dooley productions in Wilkes County.
The West Jefferson Community Partnership is an organization made up of businesses, nonprofits and individuals interested in promoting the town of West Jefferson. It meets at City Hall at 8:30 a.m. on the last Friday of every month. People interested in getting involved in the town are invited to attend.
Organizations participating in this event will include Ashe County Arts Council, Ashe County Chamber of Commerce, Ashe County Public Library, Keep Ashe Beautiful, Christmas in July, St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, The Hotel Tavern, West Jefferson Tourism Development Authority, Town of West Jefferson and West Jefferson Business Association.
Ten concerts will take place on the Backstreet from May 31 to August 30. For a complete calendar of events and other concerts taking place in West Jefferson, visit https://ashechamber.com/event.php?id=771.