Located in Southwestern North Carolina is Jackson County. The musical roots of Jackson County run deep into the wellspring of traditional Appalachian music. The musical styles are mixed fairly evenly between old time, bluegrass, and gospel. Like its neighboring Haywood County, many of the styles here are mixed, producing the bluegrass gospel sound and many other musicians that play across genres. One of the most famous early musicians in Jackson County was Samantha Biddix Bumgarner who, in 1924, was the first woman to record “hillbilly” music. Her accompanist on the recording was Eva Smathers Davis of Sylva, NC. Samantha’s father, Has Biddix, was also a fiddler of some reknown. Today, there are still many musicians of high caliber in Jackson County like the notable Queen Family, The Fiddlin’ Dills Sisters, Darren Nicholson (award winning mandolin player with Balsam Range), Rye Holler Boys and the up and coming bluegrass/gospel band Mountain Faith. Click here for more information on the musical heritage of Jackson County.
Blue Ridge JAM is a new program serving additional communities in Jackson County, NC. This program began Fall 2016 and meets at Blue Ridge School, a combined elementary, middle and high school located in the community of Cashiers. Classes take place on Mondays from 3-5 PM and are open to students in 3rd grade up, including students at the Blue Ridge Early College. It will meet 12 times each semester. Students will choose to specialize in guitar, banjo, fiddle or mandolin. They will also have opportunities to play autoharp, dulcimer and upright bass. Tuition is $95 per semester, but most students can participate for a free or reduced rate thanks to the JAM scholarship fund provided through donations to the Blue Ridge School Education Foundation.
Dusk Weaver, guitar
Betty Brown, guitar
Grace Morris, fiddle
Carter Giegerich, mandolin
John Duncan, banjo
Debbie Lassiter, volunteer fiddle assistant
Jennifer McKee, volunteer guitar assistant
Jimmy Strickland, volunteer guitar assistant
Jim Yoder, volunteer mandolin assistant
More about the instructors
Dusk Weaver is delighted to have served as Director of Jackson County JAM at Cullowhee Valley School since May 2012. He is well-known in the region as a singer/songwriter and recording artist. Dusk is an away-winning author as well.
Betty Collins Brown learned to play guitar from her dad as a teenager growing up in Virginia. She more recently began playing banjo. She retired from her job as Jackson County School Board Assistant in 2012 and began teaching beginning guitar at Jackson County JAM the same year. Betty has also served on the Board of Directors for the Catch the Spirit of Appalachia organization for four years.
Carter Giegerich started playing traditional music at age 16 when he was taken by the sound of Doc Watson’s guitar playing. He set out to pick apart the iconic flat picker’s style, and two years later, he enrolled in East Tennessee State University’s world-class traditional music undergraduate program. While attending ETSU, Carter studied mandolin, dobro and guitar with some of the bluegrass industry’s top instructors and performers. Influenced by artists ranging from Flatt and Scruggs to Sam Bush and Jerry Douglas, Carter regularly performs with several groups throughout Jackson and Macon Counties.
John Duncan was born into a musical family in nearby Franklin, NC. He spent years learning fiddle from Arvil Freeman and Bobby Hicks, and also plays banjo and guitar. He placed 5th at the prestigious RenoFest in 2015.
Grace Morris has been playing the fiddle for 10 years, and has made a full circle trip around JAM. She started in the program as a student and became a teacher in Jackson County JAM when she was only 14. She began studying classical violin but soon moved to traditional bluegrass and old time music. Grace is currently a student at Western Carolina University and studying to be an elementary teacher.
Current Advisory Board
For more information, please contact:
Sarah Hall – Program Director (also the music teacher at Blue Ridge School)
95 Bobcat Dr., Cashiers, NC 28717