Junior Appalachian Musicians take instruction online

The Cashiers-area chapter of Junior Appalachian Musicians normally offers group lessons in guitar, fiddle, banjo and mandolin 12 times per semester, ending in early May. But the Spring 2020 semester was disrupted by COVID-19. Rather than discontinue instruction, JAM has gone online offering lessons via Skype, Zoom, and FaceTime.

Since the online instruction has been so successful, and because so many summer camps and programs have already been cancelled, leaving the kids without activities, the JAM board of directors recently voted to continue offering instruction remotely into the summer.

Guitar Instructor Dusk Weaver has taught for Blue Ridge JAM since its beginning in 2016, but this is the first time he has taught online. 

“During this time of crisis, what a blessing it is to have online video teaching options,” said Weaver. “I’ve always felt that music is even more important in trying times, and this technology is allowing us to continue the JAM program in a meaningful way, even though we are not physically able to gather each week. The students are still able to make contact with instructors and receive guidance on their playing and singing. It’s certainly not taking place by the means we all envisioned for our semester, but the very fact that we can carry on with virtual class is something for which we can be truly grateful.”

Cassandra Leyva demonstrates fiddle form online for teacher Jacquelyn Golden.

Other teachers providing lessons are guitarist Norma Jean Zahner, fiddle teacher Jacquelyn Golden, and Blue Ridge student assistant Joshua Velasquez. The only JAM instructor already experienced in  teaching Skype lessons was Charles Wood-he made the transition easily.

JAM, Inc., the umbrella organization supervising over 50 chapters of Junior Appalachian Musicians in the Southeast, has had to cancel their spring and summer events and gatherings.

They have been encouraging JAM instructors and directors to submit teaching resources and online lessons, encouraging all chapters to continue distance learning until there is a return to normalcy and JAM musicians can once again gather together.

For information about JAM, contact the Blue Ridge chapter director, Sarah Hall at shall@jcpsmail.org.

Pictured at the top of the article is Maddox Wilson taking a break from playing guitar while he talks to teacher Dusk Weaver on his phone’s screen. Submitted photo

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