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Wednesday, March 27, 2013
In a county better know for moonshine than cultural opportunities, Rocky Mount has taken a positive initiative to build on innate area strengths.
Franklin County has no Taubman Museum of Art, Performing Arts Center, Jefferson Center, Center in the Square or symphony.
Franklin County does have a large population of young, bright minds with potential for a successful future. It has a public school system replete with dedicated and skilled teachers.
Traditional music and dance forms of the Southern Appalachians can be found at several informal venues around the county. Historically, mountain music was part of an oral tradition passed within close communities and kinship groups on a one-on-one basis. This natural transmission has, for the most part, broken down.
Recently, a collaboration of educators from Franklin County Public Schools, Smith Mountain Arts Council, SML Good Neighbors, Ferrum College and local musicians has come together to initiate an affiliation with Junior Appalachian Musicians Inc., an organization with more than 20 affiliates in our Appalachian region.
JAM was founded by a school guidance counselor in 2000. The vision of JAM is to teach children to play traditional instruments and to learn dance and story-telling of the Appalachians. A JAM after-school program will provide Franklin County youth an opportunity to pursue positive activities. More than 50 percent of Franklin County students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.
As demonstrated by one of Franklin County’s own — Booker T. Washington — economic status does not predetermine lack of potential. The art of Appalachian music can give our youth enhanced self-esteem and many other positive attributes.
The addition of a new Rocky Mount Performance Hall at the end of The Crooked Road will bring performance opportunities for showcasing JAM’s students and performers who will inspire them. The economic benefits will certainly follow.
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