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The Panini Brothers will perform a variety of musical styles from blues and jazz to folk at the SMAC fundraiser. Photo courtesy of Betsy Ashton
Friday, July 5, 2013
Jim Mullens retired from the Franklin County school district four years ago, but his interest in helping to provide an affordable music program for local students has not waned.
Mullens, a retired Burnt Chimney Elementary principal, former director of elementary curriculum and instruction for Franklin County Schools and education outreach board member for Smith Mountain Arts Council, is the driving force behind the newly formed Junior Appalachian Musicians after-school program. The JAM program will provide small-group instruction in guitar, banjo, fiddle and violin.
In an effort to support JAM, SMAC will sponsor a benefit concert from 7 to 9 p.m. on July 13 at Bethlehem United Methodist Church in Moneta. Tickets, $10 for SMAC members and $12 for non members, are available at Radio Shack, the General Store and the SML Visitors Center.
If the program gets off the ground, students will be able to take $10 lessons once a week at Burnt Chimney Elementary and will have an opportunity to perform in front of an audience.
Funds raised from the concert will help pay for the cost of three instructors and a program director. Mullens also is looking for an instructor to teach traditional dance.
Because of reductions in school funding, JAM could give instruction to students who might otherwise not be able to afford or have access to music lessons, said Mullens.
He said he hopes the program can expand and be offered in Ferrum and Bedford elementary schools. Just because the program will start at Burnt Chimney doesn’t mean that other students couldn’t enroll, he said. The parents, however, would need to provide transportation.
Mullens said the process of enrolling students has not started because there are no funds available yet.
He said the Franklin County Violin Program, which he started along with another instructor five years ago, is severely underfunded. He sees JAM as a way to save that program.
“We’re trying to resurrect that. I don’t want to say we’re replacing it,” he said. “It’s difficult to keep it going.”
SMAC member Don Hershey said several local musicians are donating their time to the project by performing and spreading the word about the Jammin’ for JAM benefit concert.
The Panini Brothers, a group of original songwriters who aren’t brothers and mostly live at the lake, will perform a variety of musical styles from blues and jazz to folk and comedic pieces at the event. Hershey, who lives in Huddleston, said he will play trumpet with the Roanoke-based jazz quintet Quintessence.
Mullens said he’s always known he wanted to help children, even when he was in high school.
“I did that for 38 years,” he said. “I can’t see stopping that just because I retired. I still have a passion to do that.”
He added that while it’s hard starting up a new program, “ we’re trying to get the ball rolling and raise some funds.”
For more information, call Mike DeGiorgi, who is in charge of SMAC’S special events, at 719-0686.
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