VALLE CRUCIS — The New River JAM band and the Winger Family, two bands that have their origins in the Junior Appalachian Musicians program (JAM), are playing at the Valle Country Fair on Oct. 19.

Many organizations set out to preserve Appalachian music as a way to preserve mountain culture, but the JAM program is all about the benefits that accrue to youngsters who participate in traditional music and dance. JAM was founded on the idea that playing old-time music together helps children connect and prepares them to strengthen their communities for future generations.

The Valle Country Fair is also dedicated to building community while enjoying the Appalachian ways and is excited to welcome youngsters from the Junior Appalachian Musicians program to perform at the 41st annual Valle Country Fair.

JAM is an after-school program for children in grades 4-12 that introduces music through small group instruction in singing, dancing, songwriting or playing Appalachian instruments like fiddle, banjo and guitar. At present there are 50 JAM programs throughout North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia that involve thousands of kids with traditional music each school year. You can find more information at jamkids.org.

The Winger family of Boone is an excellent example of JAM succeeding in its mission. “Olivia started through a school program in kindergarten in Lenoir. I would meet her after school with the boys and sit in her class to observe,” recalled her dad, John Winger. “After a year of the usual ‘Twinkle, Twinkle’ songs, she started to learn a traditional song called ‘Angeline The Baker.’ I had never played before, but I went out and bought a cheap guitar to learn a few chords and play along to support her. Soon after, we were playing music together, and it has grown into a family journey.”

All of the Winger children (Olivia, 12; Louie, 10; and Lyle, 7) have been involved in JAM since they began playing, mostly through classes at the Jones House in Boone. They have performed at Merlefest, Woodlands and the Shooting Stars talent show at the Schaefer Center. Their biggest accomplishment is their tenure at Appalachian Brian Estates where for 2.5 years they have been playing to a packed house every other Tuesday after school.

The award-winning New River JAM Band is made up of teens from the New River Valley region along the North Carolina-Virginia border. They have played at Merlefest, the Blue Ridge Music Center and at HoustonFest. Current members include Sophia Puckett from the Galax JAM on mandolin, banjo and vocals; Gavin Woodruff from the Alleghany JAM on upright bass; Karlee Hamm from the Ashe JAM on guitar and vocals; Cheyenne Grantham on fiddle from the Franklin County JAM; Nicholas Wingo on banjo from Wythe County JAM; and from the Henderson JAM, Colin Sprinkle on six-string banjo and Ashlyn Montgomery on guitar.

The mission of the Valle Country Fair is to raise funds for charitable organizations and church outreach in Avery and Watauga Counties. In its first 40 years, the fair raised over $1 million dollars to help people in need.

The 41st annual Valle Country Fair will be held on the grounds of the Valle Crucis Conference Center on N.C. 194 in Valle Crucis on Saturday, Oct. 19. Admission is free and ample parking is available in the adjoining field for $10 per car. The fair is sponsored by Holy Cross Church and the Valle Crucis Conference Center. All proceeds go to help people in need. For more information, contact Holy Cross Church at (828) 963-4609 or visit the fair on the web at http://www.vallecountryfair.org.

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