Crossroads promotes life-long learning

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Life @ the Crossroads’ first session features local bluegrass legend Tom Barr


The Crossroads Institute Higher Education Center begins its first session of Life @ The Crossroads on Tuesday with Tom Barr, owner of Barr’s Fiddle Shop.
In Barr’s session, titled “History of a Fiddlin Place – Barr’s Fiddle Shop and More,” he will talk about his extensive involvement with the local bluegrass music scene, including his contributions to the Blue Ridge Music Center, the Rex Theater and the opening of his own store, Barr’s Fiddle Shop, in downtown Galax.
“Tom has wonderful stories to tell about bluegrass music, his fiddle shop and the establishment of the music center,” said Crossroad Institute’s Executive Director Oliver McBride. “History is one of our themes, along with local culture.”
He, along with the other members of the planning committee, agreed that Barr fit into that mold perfectly.
The Life @ The Crossroads program is targeted for ages 50 and older, though anyone is welcome to join, said McBride. “We want to provide an opportunity for life-long learning and good conversation about interests in things they have learned and things they would like to share.”
Planning for this project started with a mutual interest in continued education for senior citizens. Members of the initial group include McBride, Dick Dalton, Ron Walters, Katheryn Fariss and Lynn McClary.
Barr’s lecture will be the first of six classes scheduled for the fall semester, with six more classes in the works for the spring semester.
Tuition for the entire academic year (12 classes) costs $50 per person. Students can participate in as many classes as they choose.
There are no assignments and no homework.
Classes will feature lectures from other locals in the 50-and-older age group, and issues will range from health concerns and quality life issues to the benefits of connecting though social media.
Lectures are based on the life experiences of each speaker. Ron Walters, for example, spent more than 30 years living in Egypt. During his lecture, he will touch on his thoughts about the current geopolitical situation.
Harold Mitchell, radio DJ and emcee of the Galax Old Fiddlers’ Convention, will tell stories about the various bluegrass musicians he’s had the privilege of meeting.
One of the goals for this project is to encourage students to become the teachers. In future classes, McBride hopes that students will volunteer their own stories or make suggestions about who they want to hear from.  
Participants can pre-register or simply show up when classes start. “We will have enough chairs for everyone. If we have to change our location to accommodate, we can do that, too,” he said.
McBride knew that the program would be well-received following a Carroll County Retired Teachers Association meeting. “One of the ladies told me afterwards that on the way to the meeting, she passed Crossroads and thought about how they needed to do something for senior citizens,” he said.


• Sept. 25 – Ron Walters, who lived in Egypt for more than 30 years, will talk about “Life in the Land of the Pharaohs.”

• Oct. 9 – Nurse and director of health initiatives for K-VA-T Food Stores, Lori Hamilton, will talk about “A Healthier You through Nutrition.”

• Oct. 23 – Radio DJ and emcee of the Galax Old Fiddlers’ Convention Harold Mitchell will talk about the “Inside Stories of Bluegrass Music Makers,” including the inside scoop on some of the founding fathers of bluegrass music.

• Nov. 13 – Jamie Edwards, assistant professor of sociology and human services at Wytheville Community College, will speak on “Adding Quality to Our Years.”

• Nov. 27 – Sandy Ratliff will discuss “How to Talk to Our Grandchildren: Demystifying Social Media.” The session features an overview and benefits of connecting on social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter.

These sessions will be held at the Crossroads Institute Higher Education Center on Cranberry Road in Galax. For more information or to register, call 236-0391.