By Laurie Adams

Ferrum College was awarded an IBMA Foundation project grant for the development of an Appalachian Instrument Library. This project will provide Ferrum College students and community members with access to instruments, as part of the Appalachian Music Program, an initiative within the Department of Music and in college-wide programming.

This semester, 24 Ferrum College students participated in at least one course offered by the Appalachian Music Program, and numerous community members and students participated in weekly community jams and tune workshops, which are open to all, regardless of experience level. These community members included students from the local Junior Appalachian Musicians program, whose participation opened channels for mutual learning and shared experiences among youth, college students, and community members. A series of slow jams was started and will continue to provide opportunities for players new to their chosen instruments to learn foundational skills and tunes. International students who participated in the program represented Sweden, Italy, Brazil, and Nigeria. Several students of the program who were previously new to Appalachian traditional music reported a desire to continue to study bluegrass and old-time music, and to pursue the study of an acoustic instrument.

The acquisition of instruments to be circulated and available for loan through the Stanley Library at Ferrum College represents a major improvement of access to students who wish to study and learn. The Appalachian Music Program at Ferrum College is dedicated to building community by creating a spirit of invitation and welcome to anyone who is interested in the study and performance of regional music, regardless of background or experience.

The collection is now housed in a newly dedicated space and will be available for circulation when Ferrum College opens for the spring 2022 term. A new work-study position has been created and a student worker hired to maintain the collection, tune instruments, and replace strings as necessary. This student musician will spend the winter 2021-22 term developing a series of instructional videos which will be available for streaming on the program’s YouTube channel to assist beginners in playing their first notes and chords.

Instruments and accessories were purchased from a local business, Franklin Music, which allowed us to stretch and make the most of grant dollars while supporting a business that supports young musicians and our local music community. Franklin Music has offered to perform necessary repairs on the collection free of charge. Items acquired include two acoustic guitars, two fiddles, two mandolins, two autoharps, two banjos and six electronic tuners, plus assorted cases, straps, rosin, strings, stands and instructional videos.

Photo: Sophomore music major Ryon Johnson learned to play the upright bass in Orchestra Appalachia. He plans to study the mandolin in the spring of 2022 and beyond. He is shown here learning to tune a mandolin for the first time.

RETURN to the December 2021 issue of The Cornerstone.