Junior Appalachian Musicians of Swain County (J.A.M.)

MDCS has been the home of the Junior Appalachian Musicians Program of Swain County since 2003. J.A.M. is supported by the N.C. Arts Council, a division of the Department of Cultural Resources. Jonathan S. Wertheim began the process of taking over as J.A.M. Program Director in 2004, keeping the original aims of the Smoky Mountain Music Association alive. J.A.M. meets after school at MDCS, instructing third-eighth graders in Traditional Mountain, Old Time, and American Folk Musics.

Jonathan expanded the program from roughly five students to its current 35-40 students served per school year. Third-eighth graders in Swain County are eligible to participate. Younger students may participate with a parent present, who would also be learning the instrument and volunteering. First year beginning students are offered free loaner guitars or mandolins and the cost is $55.00 per school year. Students receive no less than 20 weeks of musical instruction.

Somewhat unique to our J.A.M Program is an experiential bent. It is somewhat student-guided and they get out of the program what they put into it. Jonathan teaches three to four guitar classes per year and always includes culture, history, and an advanced songwriting concentration. Many of the advanced classes have recorded albums of original and traditional material.

Ellen Petty is an accomplished portrait painter, multi-instrumentalist, the mother of Holden and Colyn, and the significant other of our MDCS Director. After rescuing J.A.M. in various jams throughout the years, she has emerged as a vital and influential part of the program. Ellen lends a much-needed authenticity to what we do and is an incredible teacher. She is offering separate beginning and advanced mandolin classes for the 2011-2012 school year.

Interested families and/or students should be willing to commit to practicing several times a week. J.A.M instruction occurs in large groups and each building block or tune must be mastered before the class can move forward. There is no way to grasp all of the material in one sitting.

J.A.M charges $55.00 a year. That breaks down into $2.50 per class for 20 classes per school year. The “extra” $5.00 goes toward digital tuners. All student fees go toward supplies, strings, postage, instrument acquisition, and maintenance. N.C. Arts Council Grant funds are utilized to pay for instruction and administration. MDCS donates a lot to the program and student fees are one of the few ways to generate the matching funds needed each year. Beginning students should pay only $25.00 for Block I to ensure that J.A.M is right for them.


JAM Schedule 2012-13

All classes meet from 3:15-4:45

Guitar II with Mr. Jonathan
Mandolin II with Ms. Ellen

Beginning Guitar with Mr. Jonathan
Beginning Mandolin with Ms. Ellen
Wednesday- Beginning Banjo with Mr. Ryan

Advanced String Band with Mr. Jonathan and Ms. Ellen

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