The fall session of Boone JAMS (Junior Appalachian Musicians) resumes on August 30 at the Jones House, featuring group music lessons in fiddle, banjo, guitar, mandolin, ukulele, and harmony singing taught by local musicians steeped in regional old-time and bluegrass styles.
Lessons are open to students ages seven through adults, from beginning through intermediate levels. The Boone JAMS program, formerly Watauga JAM, started in fall 2004, with a TAPS (Traditional Arts Programming for Students) grant from the North Carolina Arts Council. Boone JAM is one of several other JAM programs in the region, including Alleghany JAM, which was the first program in the 1990s. Today, there are dozens of programs across four states with a regional organization that affiliates the satellite programs, like Boone JAMS.
Over the years, the Jones House program has grown and expanded to include multiple days of instruction, private lesson options, masterclass workshops, and performance opportunities for students. Hundreds of students have participated in the program over the years, filling the community center for several hours of lessons before the weekly Thursday night old-time jam session. Numerous students from the program have gone on to form bands, win ribbons and prizes at the regional fiddlers conventions, and even return to teach in the Boone JAMS program.
“We are very proud of the students that have participated in the program,” says director Mark Freed. “Bands like Strictly Strings, The Sheets Family, Cane Mill Road, the Tater Hill Mashers, and the Winger Family Band have students and instructors from the program, and they are representing some of the best traditional music our area has to offer.”
Instructors for the upcoming fall session will include Deborah Jean Sheets, a retired school teacher, who plays in the old-time family string band, The Sheets Family; Trevor McKenzie, an archivist, historian, and songwriter, who also plays fiddle with Elkville String Band; Brandon Holder, a multi-instrumentalist known as one of the most working sidemen in the High Country music scene; Jeff Moretz, a local multi-instrumentalist who has played in numerous local bluegrass, gospel, and rock bands; and Julie Chiles, an accomplished fiddler and instructor, who also teaches in Wilkes County and helped found The Buck Stops Here.
Classes are taught in groups on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons at the Jones House. Each class lasts 45 minutes and starts at 4:30, 5:30, or 6:30, depending on the instrument and playing level. Typically, beginner classes and younger students are assigned earlier time slots, while older and intermediate players are assigned the later slots.
The fall group session begins on August 30 and lasts for 15 weeks, with a recital taking place on December 13. Enrollment costs $75 for kids and $125 for adults. Instruments are available for rent for the entirety of the session for $25.
Private lessons are taught on Tuesday afternoons, and they are offered in groups of five 30-minute lessons for $125.
The Boone JAMS program is supported by a grant from the North Carolina Arts Council with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts.
For more information about the program, including enrolling for the fall session or private instruction, please contact Mark Freed at the Jones House Cultural and Community Center at [email protected] or 828.268.6282 or visit www.joneshouse.org for more on the community center’s activities.