Posted on Tuesday, August 13, 2019

A week-long festival at Mountain Empire Community College in late July gave 121 students aged 10 to 80 a chance to brush up their melodic skills and share their love of Appalachian music and culture. And appreciative audiences got the chance to bask in the joys of old time music.

The 15th Annual Mountain Music School drew participants from Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee, transforming classrooms and labs at MECC into temporary rehearsal halls.
Free concerts drew crowds of family and fans to MECC’s Goodloe Center.

And despite a water main break that forced a temporary re-location of classes for a couple of days, program director Mike Gilley says many students reported this year’s school was the best they’d ever attended. Gilley is director of library services, archives, and cultural heritage programs at MECC.

“Mountain Music School serves a mission,” said Gilley. “It preserves the traditional music of the Appalachian mountain region in Southwest Virginia by handing down the music to future generations who sit and learn first-hand from the master musicians. In the process, it instills pride in the community. People travel across the country and even from Scotland to learn our music.”

Workshops catered to beginners and advanced musicians alike, and were scheduled for a wide range of traditional musicians playing banjo, autoharp, guitar, mandolin, old time fiddle, shape note singing, and stand-up bass (a.k.a. “doghouse bass”.)

Each class included students of all ages, playing and learning together. Many of the instructors are regulars in country, bluegrass and folk bands across the region.

Mountain Music School 2020 will take place next July 27-31. And if you’re feeling the itch to participate in classes, registration will close next June 30.

Visit the Mountain Music school website here.

Read’s article on the Miss Ellie String Band, an all-girl, all teenager band with strong ties to the Mountain Music School.

Editor’s note: MECC is not alone in celebrating regional music in the summer. Virginia Highlands Community College stages an annual song writing contest around Memorial Day.

Editor’s note #2: Grammy Award winning bluegrass duo Daily & Vincent will perform at NRCC Sept. 28. Learn more here.'

Jim Babb

Jim Babb works for Virginia's Community Colleges in the Office of Strategic Communications.

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