By: Zoe Van Buren, Folklife Specialist
The fiddler’s convention has a central place in the old-time music tradition. Musicians seek out North Carolina’s storied old-time gatherings for the chance to meet one another, join workshops, and jam with pickers from near and far. These convenings grow the tradition and keep its people together.
This year, the Folklife Program of the North Carolina Arts Council and the Stecoah Valley Cultural Arts Center gave the youngest generation of old-time musicians a gathering of their own. Over a May weekend at Stecoah’s historic schoolhouse building nestled in the mountains, students from Junior Appalachian Musicians (JAM) programs across the western counties came together to create their own community of music at Stecoah JAM Camp. Stecoah is home to one of the oldest JAM programs supported by the N.C. Arts Council’s Traditional Arts Programs for Students (TAPS) grant.
Master fiddler Roger Howell, JAM instructors, Stecoah staff, and representatives of Junior Appalachian Musicians, Inc. led the weekend’s workshops, jam sessions, and singing circles, culminating in a special round of the Mountain Youth Talent Contest, hosted by the Jackson County 4-H. As the weekend wound to a close, Folklife staff asked one camp instructor, Julie Nelms, a former student in the Stecoah JAM program, just what JAM means to her.
Stecoah JAM Camp was sponsored by the North Carolina Arts Council, the Stecoah Valley Cultural Arts Center, and Graham County Travel and Tourism.