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Mike Taylor teaches the art of playing mountain music at Mountain City Elementary

By Rebecca Herman
On Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, the sound of mountain music can be heard resonating down the halls of Mountain City Elementary thanks to sixth grade teacher, Mike Taylor. Taylor, who has been playing music for over 25 years, has a passion for Appalachian music that he wants to pass down to younger generations. “We live in such a rich, musical region and I don’t want kids to lose that,” said Taylor.
Taylor spent many evenings “sitting at Reid’s old store in Shingletown” learning Appalachian music from locals like Frank Grayson, Clint Howard, and Fred Price. Taylor took this knowledge and passion and is now passing it on. “Many people these days just hang instruments like dulcimers above their fireplaces and don’t ever learn to play them,” said Taylor. Through the music club, Taylor hopes that this will change and that students will “keep on picking.”
The program is for sixth grade students at MCE who want to learn how to play the guitar or dulcimer. There is no cost to the students because the instruments have been either donated or made by Taylor himself. “Many younger kids are excited to get in the program, but we save it as a special treat for sixth grade,” said Gay Triplett, principal at MCE.
Taylor said that the students pick up on the basics quickly and are able to perform many times in their sixth grade year. In the past, the Appalachian music club has performed in front of the student body at MCE, played during the intermission of the countywide talent show at Heritage Hall, and played for the Presidential Academic Awards program.
In the fall semester the guitar and dulcimer classes are on separate days, but Taylor combines the class after Christmas so students can learn to play with another instrument. Students not only learn to play an instrument but also learn the words to traditional songs. “We sing about groundhogs, hunting, and lost loves,” said Taylor.
For the rest of the story, pick up a copy of this week's Tomahawk.