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Music Center launches summer concert series

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The Blue Ridge Music Center launched its 2008 summer concert series on Saturday. This season, visitors from all over the world will have a chance to hear and learn about many types of Blue Ridge music and to meet people associated with it from this region.

The visitor center and interpretive museum is open Wednesday-Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. After Memorial Day weekend it will be open daily. There will be music at the music center daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“We encourage everyone to bring dinner and friends,” says Joe Wilson Chairman of National Council for the Traditional Arts that is responsible for programs at the center.

The center is operated through a partnership between The National Park Service and The National Council for the Traditional Arts. Much of the work of the non-profit NCTA is done by community volunteers and partner organizations like Friends of the Parkway.

“We owe a great deal of gratitude to the many volunteers who have contributed thousands of hours of time, talent and energy to the development of the center,” said Debbie Robinson, program coordinator.

“We currently have between 75 and 100 citizens who assist with the many activities that take place. They have had a huge impact and are an important key to the success and sustainability of the center.”

For more information and a printable schedule, see www.blueridgemusiccenter.org.

The center is at milepost 213 of the Blue Ridge Parkway near Galax.

Scheduled performances include:

• May 31, 7 p.m — piano master Jeff Little with guitar master Wayne Henderson will open the show. Then a tour de force show by piano great Daryl Davis. Since he replaced Pinetop Perkins in the Muddy Waters Legendary Blues Band as a youth, Davis has toured with legends Chuck Berry, Eric Clapton, The Allman Brothers. The late beloved mountain-style pianist Woodie Blevins (from Baywood) will be honored. A documentary film about Piedmont blues, Blues House Party, will be shown in the museum auditorium at 5 p.m. All for $10.

• June 7, 7 p.m. — Ron Block Band with Sierra Hull, Beth Lawrence, and Cory Walker. The master guitarist, banjo player, and composer-singer in the Alison Krauss band will bring his own band featuring wunderkind mandolin player Sierra Hull. Opening is by the young bluegrass band, Broken Wire. First Saturday square dance with the Slate Mountain Ramblers old-time band, with free lessons at 4:30 p.m. in the museum breezeway. The award-winning film about the banjo, “Echoes of America,” will be shown in the indoor auditorium at 4 p.m. All for $10.

• June 14, 7 p.m. — The hottest new band meets the masters. Don Rigsby and Midnight Call, a head-turning new band in bluegrass, meets Allen Mills and the Lost and Found, a revered band of bluegrass masters. Trained in the Bluegrass Cardinals and J.D. Crowe’s New South, brilliant musician Don Rigsby is Ricky Skaggs’ first cousin and his rival as a singer and mandolin player. The composer of some of the finest songs in bluegrass, Allen Mills has led the Lost and Found throughout its career.

Former Twin Countian and former Miss America Kylene Barker will open by singing, “God Bless America.” Youth Spotlight will feature award winning siblings, Zeb and Samantha Snyder. A Flatt and Scruggs TV show video will be shown in the indoor auditorium at 5:30 p.m. All for $10.

• June 15, 2 p.m. — The Jubilation Student Choir. This 85-member youth choir from Florida is in the region to do community service. Free.

• June 16-20 — Henderson’s Week. The week before the Wayne Henderson Festival (held at the Grayson Highlands Park on June 21) honors contributions of guitarist-luthier Wayne Henderson with a display of instruments he has built and a jam session led by Henderson and friends on June 20 from 1 to 4 p.m. in the museum breezeway. Free. Bring your instrument.

A film made at Henderson’s shop will be shown at 3 p.m., followed by a Flatt and Scruggs TV Show film.

(No show at the center’s outdoor theater on June 21).

• June 22, 3 p.m. — Shape Note Singing Convention with the Patton Family, the Mount Zion Singers, the Bethel Branch Singers, and Frank Newsome, pastor and legendary singer from The Little David Church in Haysi. The program is sponsored by the Blue Ridge Music Makers Guild. The award-winning film, “Awake, My Soul” (the story of sacred harp music) will be shown in the indoor auditorium at 1 p.m. All for $3.

• June 28, 7 p.m. — The Carolina Chocolate Drops are a young African-American string band based in Durham, N.C., now getting a lot of attention in the U.S. and Western Europe. They play fiddle and banjo music in what is usually called “old-time style,” and they play it well, and with their own sense of jive and slam-dunk. It is a sound with echoes of the great black bands of the 1920s.

The Mountain Park Old-Time Band will open the show and banjo balladeer Kenny Price will sing. A local clogging team will present the first of a series of fourth Saturday clogging showcases. The documentary old-time music film, “Things Ain’t Like they Used to Be,” will be shown in the museum auditorium at 4 p.m. All for $10.

• July 5, 7 p.m. — Hot Ladies Will be Heard. Carrie Hassler and Hard Rain meets Amber Collins and No Speed Limit. Two bright young female singers in bluegrass in what is certain to be a memorable program. First Saturday square dance with the Slate Mountain Ramblers Old-time Band with free lessons at 4:30 p.m. in the museum breezeway. Documentary film “High Lonesome,” will be shown at 5 p.m. in the museum auditorium. All for $10.

• July 12, 7 p.m. — The Singing Pencil Pusher week honors and celebrates the many contributions of beloved local mountain artist Willard Gayheart. Nationally known for his detailed pencil drawings of musicians and mountain folk, Gayheart has been a member of three storied recording bands: Alternate Roots, Skeeter and the Skidmarks and The Highlanders.

All three bands will have reunions at the Saturday evening show and will perform, and a major showing of Gayheart’s artwork will be displayed Tuesday-Sunday that week in the museum. A Flatt and Scruggs TV Show film will be shown at 5 p.m. All for $10.

• July 19, 7 p.m. — Tell Me A Story, Sing Me A Song: Appalachian storytellers and singers combine forces. Ballad singers Elizabeth and Sandy LaPrell, triple threat singer-storyteller-picker Jim Lloyd, Sodom Laurel singer Donna Rae Norton and Daughter, and harmony singers and multi-instrumentalists Heather Berry and Tony. The film “The Dillards,” about the band from the Andy Griffith Show will begin at 5 p.m. in the auditorium. Bring dinner. All for $3.

• July 26, 7 p.m. — Fine Band Convention. Robin and Linda Williams, heard regularly on Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion, bring their show to the Blue Ridge. They call their band, “The Fine Group.” Opening by the local Ballard’s Branch Bogtrotters. Presented by the Arts Council of the Twin Counties. Flatt and Scruggs TV Show video will begin in the auditorium at 4 p.m. Fourth Saturday clogging showcase in the museum breezeway from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. All for $10.

• Aug. 2, 3 to 5 p.m. — master artists and their apprentices show how Virginia’s traditional arts are kept. Demonstrations by craft and performing artists of many kinds. Virginia state folklorist Jon Lohman will sign his book, “In Good Keeping.”

• Aug. 2, 7 p.m. — master musicians and their apprentices open the evening show. Dale Jett and the Carter Family Trio are featured. Jett, a son of Janette Carter and grandson of A.P. and Sara Carter, is an outstanding performer with a rich voice. Jonny of Jonny and the Jambusters is expected. First Saturday square dance with the Slate Mountain Ramblers old-time band with free lessons at 4:30 p.m. in the museum breezeway. All for $3.

• Aug. 16 — TBA

• Aug. 23, 7 p.m. — Hell Among the Round Peakers, a salute to the tiny rural community of Round Peak in Surry County, N.C., that’s just over the ridge from the music center that has influenced music of the nation. National Public Radio’s Paul Brown (editor and host of Morning Edition) is the host and will play banjo.

Others are noted bands performing the Round Peak sound: The Toast String Stretchers and Back Step. Special guests are Kirk Sutphin, Wayne Jarrell, Bobby Patterson. The award-winning film about Round Peaker Tommy Jarrell, “Sprout Wings and Fly,” will be seen at 4 p.m. in the auditorium.

Fourth Saturday clogging showcase in the breezeway from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. Many jams are expected. Come early and bring your instrument. All for $3.

• Aug. 30, noon to 5 p.m. — Virginia‚ Makers and Players, jam sessions, workshops, and demonstrations by great hand makers of string instruments: Wayne Henderson, Jimmy Edmonds, Anderson-Strickland, Tom and Stevie Barr, Randall and Jacob Eller, Mac Traynham and Bill Anderson. Sponsored by Virginia Tourism.

• Aug. 30, 7 p.m. — Kenny and Amanda Smith Band — among the most beloved of the nation’s bluegrass bands. Opening will be the master instrument makers and their apprentices, with some stunning musicians among them. All for $10

• Sept. 6, 3 p.m. — Honoring Ernest V. (Pop) Stoneman. While musicians from Galax and Fries, and Carroll, Grayson and Surry counties literally invented the country music business, this year Stoneman becomes the first local musician to be installed in Nashville’s Country Music Hall of Fame. Friends will gather in the museum breezeway to sing his songs, meet his daughters, and hear stories about a beloved and legendary artist. Free.

• Sept. 6, 7 p.m. — The Women of Mountain Music, the Stoneman Sisters (Patsy, Donna and Roni) with their band. Also, Jeanette Williams, Helen White, Donna Correll, Deborah Jean Sheets, Fina Mae Sheets, Trish Fore, and the Sugar Creek Family Band. First Saturday square dance with the Slate Mountain Ramblers old-time band with free lessons at 4:30 p.m. in the breezeway. $10.

• Sept. 13, 7 p.m. — The Kruger Brothers — this stunning group of musicians, directed by Swiss-born brothers, perform with friends at the head of many Appalachian hollows, but also around world-class symphony orchestras.

Opening for the Krugers are the East Tennessee State Bluegrass Band and the Buck Mountain Band. Films from the Rainbow Quest Shanachie series that show the Stanley Brothers and Doc Watson in the 1960s will be shown at 4 p.m. in the museum auditorium. All for $10.

CENTER FEATURES MID-DAY MUSIC

Mid-Day Mountain Music every day at Blue Ridge Music Center:

• Monday — The Buck Mountain Band and Friends. This old-time band bears the name of a revered Grayson County mountain, and it plays many Grayson County tunes. But you are welcome to suggest others, and to bring your instrument.

• Tuesday — Bobby Patterson and Willard Gayheart. They can play old-time, bluegrass or whatever. Patterson traveled with the famed Round Peakers, Tommy Jarrell and Fred Cockerham, on their national tours and knows much about the history of local music. Gayheart is a noted pencil artist as well as a singer in some highly respected bands.

• Wednesday — Bill and Maggie Anderson. Both are great singers, and Maggie plays the dobro guitar. Bill plays all instruments, and is a noted instrument maker. He is retired from the Martin Company, and is a certified Martin repairman. He can tell you what that old instrument is, and what it is worth.

• Thursday — Scott Freeman and friends. Freeman plays bluegrass, old-time or whatever you choose. He is a fine session musician who plays an array of instruments, writes, sings and teaches. Bring your instrument.

• Friday — On Fridays you’ll likely find one, two or all three of these hot pickers at the music center: Spencer Strickland, Stevie Barr and Josh Pickett. All are virtuoso musicians and Spencer is a fine singer. Strickland makes world-class mandolins and guitars with shop partner Gerald Anderson. Barr is a bluegrass banjoist and noted teacher. Pickett teaches more than 75 students, is a hot guitar picker, and both he and Barr are members of No Speed Limit.

• Saturday — Blue Ridge Music Maker’s Guild and Junior Appalachian Music (JAM) students. The guild is an organization of local luthiers, players and fans. They’d like to have you join in. The JAM students will surprise you with their skills and love for the music.

• Sunday — Stu Shenk and Brien Fain. They lean to old-time, but are also broad-minded. Both play old-time banjo and like fiddling. If you know any good songs, they want you to sing with them. Don’t forget your instrument.