BIG STONE GAP, Va. - The popularity of our brand of Appalachian mountain music is based in part to the willingness of those who play and sing it to share it.
It's a tradition that Mountain Empire Community College's Mountain Music School has upheld for ten summers now. Many of those first students are back, not as students, but as instructors, passing that tradition along.
If you can pick it, or strum it, you can learn old time Appalachian music at the Mountain Music School. There are classes for every level of player, and age is not a question. All it takes is a desire to know the music that has lived in our mountain home for generations.
The school has hit a milestone with its tenth year of offering these classes. It has tripled in size since that first year.
"I had never had any formal lessons, ever. I had played for about a year when I started up here, and I came every summer except for last year," former student and now instructor Kayla Miller said.
It's as traditional as the music, passing it along to the younger and sometime older generations. "I came here six years ago and I started out in beginner guitar. It was kind of the basics for everything I do now. Mountain Music School is a really great way for me to get started in everything, I met really great people," instructor and former student Beth Miller says.
Some have taken what they've learned to a whole new level, attending the East Tennessee State Bluegrass and Old Time Music program for a degree. It all started with this school and the music they found. "I came here playing guitar. I wanted to be a country music star. I liked a lot of Johnny Cash music. One of the bands played some Carter Family tunes. So that night I went home and I downloaded several albums of Carter Family music. That's what got me into old time music," says ETSU Bluegrass senior Tyler Hughes.
And now with two CD's under his belt, he's back and giving back to the music that changed his life and others.
It's just like the song says, 'will the circle be unbroken?' It's doubtful as long as we keep passing it on.