Music traditions trickle down
Old-time music has always trickled through the mountains, settling in puddles of song in valleys, foothills and on front porches.
It’s the goal of the Junior Appalachian Musicians program to keep the music going in communities heavily touched by those songs, including Caldwell County. Each summer, the program provides low-cost music lessons for kids in third through eighth grades.
In Caldwell, kids can take lessons in guitar, fiddle, mandolin and banjo. The program also includes enrichment visits from all kinds of artists, including storytellers, songwriters and dancers.
And this year, for the first time, kids who participate will also get the opportunity to bring their talent to the big-time at the Happy Valley Fiddlers Convention, an annual music festival dedicated to preserving the songs and culture of the Yadkin River Valley. Music festivals and conventions have previously reserved a stage specifically for JAM kids, but this year participants will get a chance to perform a song on the main stage at the Fiddlers Convention.
It’s all a way to keep kids connected with the traditions of the area, said Adrienne Dula, who coordinates Caldwell JAM through the Caldwell Arts Council.
“Traditions are important because they make us who we are,” Dula said. “Having this opportunity, it really empowers them and it opens doors and opportunities for them.”
The program’s costs are kept low, based on what kids pay for their school lunches. Kids pay $3 per lesson if they qualify for free lunch, $5 if they qualify for reduced-price lunch, and $10 if they don’t qualify for either.
For that cost, kids who sometimes “start at zero” in terms of musical knowledge leave with the ability to play an instrument, Dula said.
And they’re not just learning about music, they’re learning about their heritage – something that, if you ask Dula, is just as important.
“It gives us roots,” she said. “It gives us a beginning. It gives us something to grow from.”