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Blue Ridge JAM (NC)





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 in its second year, serving the Cashiers, NC area. It began last year as a club at Blue Ridge School. This year, sponsorship has been taken over by Mountain Youth Charities, a 501c3 organization. The program continues to meet on Monday afternoons, 3-5 PM, 12 times per semester at Blue Ridge School. Classes are offered for students in grades 3-12 in guitar, banjo, fiddle and mandolin. New this year is a pre-JAM class where students play ukulele and practice group instruction before taking part in regular JAM classes. Students also have opportunities to try autoharp, dulcimer and upright bass. Everyone also takes part in “Prime Time” which includes games, dance, crafts, stories, guest speakers and guest performers, and “Community Time” where everyone comes together at the end of the day to share what they have learned. Tuition is $75 per semester, with a $20 instrument rental fee. Many students participate tuition-free thanks to generous donors.

Current Instructors

Sarah Hall (program director, pre-JAM instructor) Sarah holds Masters degrees in Music and Education from Appalachian State University and UNC-Greensboro. She has taught pre-K through 12 in public schools and has also taught at colleges and universities. She served in the past as Director of Education for the Salisbury (NC) Symphony where she directed the After-School String Program. Sarah currently teaches music for both Blue Ridge School and Blue Ridge Early College in Cashiers, NC .

Grace Morris (fiddle) Grace has been playing the fiddle for 11 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.

Dusk Weaver (guitar) Dusk is delighted to have served as Director of Jackson County JAM at Cullowhee Valley School May 2012 – June 2017, and this is his second year teaching guitar at Blue Ridge JAM. Dusk is well known in the region as a singer/songwriter and recording artist, having released two CD albums and a CD single of original music that reviewers coined “StorySong Americana.” Dusk is also an award-winning author and a featured member of the Poetic Genius Society. His children’s storybook entitled “Bill Willy the Wild (who isn’t a boy at all!)” is due out this holiday season.

Alex Canup (banjo and guitar) Alex first started playing guitar at the age of 10 after being exposed to the music of Johnny Cash. Since then, he has spent the last 11 years playing with string bands in his hometown Concord and in the Cullowhee area. Alex has recently started playing banjo to perform with his new string band and has been an instructor at JAM since the spring of 2016. He is currently a Western Carolina University student studying music.

Instructional Assistants

Debbie Lassiter (fiddle) Debbie has been playing violin for over 50 years, starting lessons and playing with the school orchestra in 5th grade in Chicago. After moving to Atlanta, she played with the Dekalb County Community Orchestra and Atlanta Emory Orchestra during high school and college. Since moving to Highlands/Cashiers she has been performing for 20 years with the Summer Chapel gospel/bluegrass band and Nocturne, a classical chamber trio. Debbie is chairperson of the Blue Ridge JAM Advisory Council and assists teaching the JAM fiddle class. With her love of music and children she brings a wealth of experience and energy to the program.

Jarrett Davis (guitar and banjo) Native Atlantan Jarrett Davis and his wife Jane made the Cashiers area their full time home in 2014. Since quitting the big city, Jarrett has been able to pursue his life-long love of music, especially guitar and singing. Jarrett joined the Blue Ridge JAM volunteer team during its first year as a guitar teacher. His passion is sharing the joy of making music with the next generation. Jarrett serves as treasurer of the Blue Ridge JAM Advisory Council. He is also a Big Brother with Big Brothers Big Sisters and serves on the board of The Cashiers-Highlands Humane Society.

Jennifer McKee (song and dance leader, instrumental assistant) Jennifer is a multi-instrumentalist who teaches fifth and sixth grade language arts and social studies for Blue Ridge School. Her family ties run deep in Western NC, and she is well-versed in local history.

Advisory Board
Debbie Lassiter, chairperson
Jarrett Davis, treasurer
Wanda Crisp
Jennifer McKee
Sandi Rogers
Teri Walawender
David Wansley

For more information, please contact:
Sarah Hall, Program Director, 95 Bobcat Dr., Cashiers, NC 28717