Strolling through downtown Boone on a Thursday afternoon or evening, passersby will notice the Jones House remains lit well into the evening, and as they walk up the steps towards the house, sounds of fiddles, banjos and guitars fill the air. The Town of Boone will be hosting a series of hands-on musical activities at the Jones House throughout the summer, including “slow jams,” the regular weekly old-time jam, and a five-week session of group lessons.
For nearly 10 years, the weekly Jones House old-time jam session has provided a venue for local, regional and visiting old-time musicians to gather and share the tunes and songs that make up the southern string band tradition. The jam session takes place every Thursday from 7:30-11 p.m., and it is open to players and listeners alike. Some of the best local and regional old-time musicians are regular attendees, and this summer everyone who would like to participate will have an opportunity.
Each Thursday in June from 5:30-7:30 p.m., the Jones House will feature “slow jams.” Cultural Resources Coordinator Mark Freed explains, “Slow jams are intended for people who are comfortable playing some tunes, but are unsure about playing in a group setting.”
The slow jams will have expert musicians as song or tune leaders, who will play through the tunes (instrumental numbers) and songs (those with words) at a very moderate pace and for a long time.
“It is an excellent way to learn new tunes and songs to expand your repertoire, and it is a great way to meet some like-minded musicians that you can jam with,” Freed says. “Sometimes people are intimidated to jump right into the full-blown Thursday night jam session, and the slow jam gives them a way to gradually wade into the water… or jam.”
Some of the expert local and regional musicians that will be on hand to lead rooms through fiddle tunes and folk songs include John Cockman, Trevor McKenzie, Deborah Jean Sheets, Cecil Gurganus, Erika and Chris Testerman, Julie Chiles and William Ritter.
“These are all people steeped in the traditional music of the region and just really good players,” Freed says.
The regular old-time jam session will follow the slow jams each Thursday in June, so those ready to graduate to an up-to-speed session will have the opportunity. For those who still need more instruction before they are ready to jam, there are more options in July.
During the month of July, players from rank beginner through intermediate levels can enroll in a five-week group lesson course. Instruments taught will include fiddle, banjo, guitar, ukulele, mandolin and dulcimer, in addition to flat-foot dancing. Enrollment is currently open for seats in these small-group classes. Classes meet for 45 minutes each Thursday at 4:30, 5:30 or 6:30 p.m., depending on the instrument and playing level. The classes are taught by some of the same musicians that are leading the slow jam sessions. The cost to sign up for the five-week session is $35 for children under 18-years-old and $50 for adults.
“The five-week summer session is a great way to try out a new instrument or learn a few new skills on one that you have already started learning to play,” says Freed. “Learning in a small group is a great, affordable way to dive into these instruments.”
For those who do not already have an instrument, rental instruments are available through the Jones House at very affordable rates.
For more information about the slow jams, weekly old-time jams or July summer session of music lessons, please visit www.joneshouse.org or call 828-268-6280.
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