Boone JAMS (Junior Appalachian Musicians) resumes on August 25 at the Jones House, featuring group music lessons in fiddle, banjo, guitar, mandolin, and ukulele taught by local musicians steeped in regional music roots.
The Boone JAMS program, formerly Watauga JAM, started in fall 2004, when a grant from the North Carolina Arts Council helped fund the start-up of a new program. Several other JAM programs existed in the region, and the first one started in nearby Alleghany County in the 1990s. Today, there are dozens of programs across four states with a regional organization that affiliates the satellite programs, like Boone JAMS.
The Jones House program has continued over the years, expanding to offer classes to adults and filling the community center for several hours of lessons before the weekly Thursday night old-time jam session. Several students of the program have gone on to form bands and win ribbons and prizes at the regional fiddlers conventions.
“We are very proud of the students that have participated in the program,” says director Mark Freed. “In fact, we have two groups in the upcoming weeks performing in our outdoor Concerts at the Jones House series – Cane Mill Road and Strictly Strings.”
Cane Mill Road includes three former students – Liam Purcell, Kinsey Greene, and Eliot Smith; and Strictly Strings is made up of current students Anissa Burnett, Kathleen Burnett, Caleb Coatney, Willow Dillon and instructor, Cecil Gurganus.
“The Strictly Strings gang still participate as students, but they are also excellent teachers, and they serve as assistant instructors for the beginning and intermediate classes,” Freed adds.
Other instructors of the program 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; and Brandon Holder, a multi-instrumentalist known as one of the most working sidemen in the High Country music scene.
The lessons are open to students ages 7-years old and up. Classes are taught in groups on 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 the later slots.
The session begins on August 25 and lasts for 15 weeks, with a recital taking place on December 8 at the Jones House. Enrollment costs $75 for kids and $125 for adults. Instruments are available for rent for the entirety of the session for $25.
The Boone JAMS program is supported by a grant from the North Carolina Arts Council with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts. Student lessons could not be made so affordable without this important grant funding.
For more information about the program, including enrolling for the fall session, please contact Mark Freed at the Jones House Cultural and Community Center at [email protected] or 828.268.6282 or visitwww.joneshouse.org for more on the community center’s activities.
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