By David Holloway
Tuesday night marked the end of the 2017-2018 season for the participants in the Johnson County JAM program. Approximately 300 people attended the annual JAMboree concert at Heritage Hall.
JAM, an acronym for Junior Appalachian Musicians, is a program for students in grades 4 through 12. Students learn Appalachian music on instruments including the fiddle, guitar, banjo, and mandolin. The Johnson County JAM program began in the 2016-2017 year and was an immediate success. The initial response was so great that many students had to wait until the next year in hopes to be a part of the program.
The JAM musicians learn about Appalachian music and culture through enrichment sessions held each week as part of the program. The students have a music lesson each week on their chosen instrument taught by master musicians who have volunteered their time to work with the kids.
The JAMboree opened with the invocation from Buddy Morefield. The Emcees for the night were Russell Love and JAM Band Students. There were performances from the different groups of the band students. Led by their instructor, each group of students took the stage and performed the songs they had been practicing.
“I believe our JAM program is a wonderful way for our children to experience who they are by participating in traditional mountain music,” said Mike Taylor, Director of the JAM program. “We as a community are better when we have a common vision and music is a great tool for that.”
JAM has an incentive program for the students. “Because of the grant we received this year we were able to offer incentives to students who have the most points – they get points from attendance, practicing at home, improved grades, improved attitude, improved behavior, performing in public, etc,” said Celia Pennington. “We’re awarding 15 students new instruments or scholarships for individual lessons. We hope to be able to do a similar incentive program next year.”
“The JAMboree is becoming a tradition for our JAM program and is so important because it gives our young musicians a valuable opportunity to perform on stage for their family and friends,” said Marty Pennington, guitar instructor.
“The thing I love about JAM is I get to learn to play the instrument that I love and get to learn more about the history of the music and the instruments that we learn here at JAM,” said Gunner Hutchins, guitar student.
A special guest from Nashville was part of the celebration of JAMboree. Jody Sliger, Community Development Director with State of Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, along with Mayor Larry Potter presented the JAM program with a $25,000 grant.
“Programs like this make generational changes,” said Jody Sliger. “The JAM program is very impressive, I do believe that there will be others created across the state once they see the student impact in Johnson County.”
The Johnson County JAM program was the first of only three across the state to be awarded the prestigious Governor’s TNECD Renaissance Award at the TNECD Governor’s Conference last fall as a model program for community development.
JAM presented Danny Herman Trucking with a plaque of a tree carved by Mike Taylor. The plaque is embossed with the fingerprints of some of the JAM students and represents the leaves. Tim Horne accepted the award for Danny Herman Trucking.
JAM will begin it’s 2018-2019 program year this fall. If students in rising 4th -12th grades are interested in participating, they may request an application via email at [email protected] or complete one online from the link on our facebook page. Applications deadline is the end of August.