The fall session of the Town of Boone’s JAM (Junior Appalachian Musicians) program resumes on Aug. 29 at the Jones House, featuring group music lessons in fiddle, banjo, guitar, mandolin, ukulele, harmony singing and string band 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.
Classes are taught in small groups on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons at the Jones House. Each class lasts 45 minutes and starts at 3:30 p.m., 4:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m. or 6:30 p.m., depending on the instrument and playing level. Typically beginner classes and younger students are assigned earlier time slots, while older and intermediate players take the later slots.
The fall group session begins on Aug. 29 (for Thursday classes) or Sept. 3 (for Tuesday classes). The session lasts for 15 weeks, concluding with a recital taking place on December 19. 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 JAM 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 dozens of other JAM programs in the region, including Alleghany JAM, which was the first program in the 1990s. Today, there are programs across four states with a regional organization that affiliates the satellite programs, like Boone JAM.
During 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 Cultural Resources Director, Mark Freed. “And it is especially exciting to have program alumni, like Liam Purcell, coming back to the program to teach — bringing it all full circle.”
Instructors for the upcoming fall session will include local players, such as Purcell, who are versed in old-time, bluegrass and folk styles. Some of the other instructors 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; and Jeff Moretz, a local multi-instrumentalist who has played in numerous local bluegrass, gospel and rock bands.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or (828) 268-6282 or visit www.joneshouse.org for more on the community center’s activities.