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Mountain Music Trail: The Informal Music Jam

Our Mountain Music Trail column usually features bands that play out in public and the venues that host them, But most traditional music happens in more informal settings – Like a kitchen, a front porch, or a local community center. Many of the most outstanding musicians in our region never play formal gigs – either they’re shy, or don’t like playing for an audience, or just don’t like playing in a place with lots of talking and too many drunks. Some of these folks only play in private. But there is an intermediate type of venue – the informal music jam, where the focus is on the music, not an audience. (Pictured above: Hans Creek String Band)

Every month, there are many traditional music jam sessions open to everybody – pickers, grinners, foot tappers and those who just like to sit back and take the music in..

Monroe County: the Senior Centers have morning jam sessions weekly – Tuesdays at Greenville and Fridays at Union. The Open Mike night in Union is an opportunity for musicians of all types and levels to come share songs with each other, producing an excellent night of music and companionship. It’s every third Saturday of the month, at the Korner Kafe, right on US 219 in Union. At 7 pm.

Greenbrier County: the Renick jam is an open jam with a potluck dinner, held every second Saturday of the month at 6 pm at the Renick Community Center, just off US 219.   

They play a lot of bluegrass songs and some old-time too. You can expect guitars, banjos, an accordion, and fiddles. This jam is beginner-friendly.

Pocahontas County: every Wednesday there is an open mike night at the Fiddlehead, just off US 219 at the Snowshoe intersection. It starts at 4 pm and goes to 10 pm.

Randolph County: Elkins City Park is a lively place on Wednesday evenings from May through September, with country, gospel, bluegrass and old-time jam sessions open to all. The Augusta Heritage Center sponsors the free event with support from Elkins Parks and Recreation Commission (EPRC) giving musicians of all ages an opportunity to play music together in a family-friendly setting. Visitors and beginners are welcome to attend the weekly sessions. Throughout the spring, summer and early fall, classic country and gospel jam sessions take place in the small pavilion along the path inside the park. Bluegrass musicians jam in the Sycamore Pavilion along Sycamore Street, and old-time musicians gather around picnic tables throughout the tree-shaded park. In case of rain, old-time jams take place under the large pavilion. The pavilions are wheelchair accessible.

We’re sure there are many more jams out there – if you are involved in one that’s open to new people just let us know by emailing mountainmusictrailwv@gmail.com or messaging us at Mountain Music Trail FB, and we’ll spread the word.

May events along the Mountain Music Trail include:

Saturday, May 5 – First Saturday Square Dance at the Helvetia Community Center in Randolph County – unique Swiss-American community is a half hour off US 219 at Mill Creek –a trip well worth taking.

Friday, May 11   direct from Chapel Hill, the hot acoustic ensemble MIPSO at Carnegie Hall in Lewisburg – check them out at youtube.com/watch?v=wS4TuTLrX7Y

Saturday, May 12 – The Long Point String Band plays at the Hawk Knob Cidery near Lewisburg, 6 to 9 PM

Saturday, May 26 – Annual Spring Fundraiser Concert for the Mountain Music Trail at the Greenbrier Valley Brewing Company at Maxwelton, Greenbrier County, just off US 219 – 6 to 9 PM

You can also hear traditional music from the radio stations of MMT member alleghenymountianradio.org, coming at you from Frost, Pocahontas County, plus Hot Springs and Monterey VA, just across the Allegheny Mountain. They stream several locally-produced shows featuring our kind of music; beginning the week on Sunday with Norris Long’s “Bluegrass Reflections” from Noon to 4 PM. Uncle Norris started spinning the platters on Sunday afternoons in 1981 and he’s still going strong in the age of digital downloads. Through the week Fiddlin’ Jake Hyer pours a healthy portion of traditional music into his drive time mix on “The Shake With Jake” 3 to 6 PM, and Monday nights Cousin Stevie sends out a string music–friendly mix from 6 to 8 PM Thursdays it’s the “Rockin’ Country and Bluegrass Hour” with DJ Willie from 6 to 8 PM, and don’t miss “TGIF Bluegrass”, Fridays from 2 to 3, You can check out AMR’s program schedule at alleghenymountainradio.org/program-guide/

– Gibbs Kinderman. HashtagWV #101. May 2018

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