Businesses and venues dedicated to live music have had a rough time this past few months. Restaurants and clubs, plus concert halls of every size have each been forced to cancel dozens of scheduled events, with all involved suffering loss of income. That includes more than performers, who of course have their shows wiped out, it also means show support people, stage hands, sound and lighting folks, box office personnel, food service and hospitality staff associated with concerts, and many others.
Some clever venue operators have found ways to take their business online, just as have a good many music instructors. One near me in Floyd, Virginia has taken some of their educational efforts into the virtual world, launching an at home series of lessons from their Handmade Music School at the Floyd Country Store.
Live music and in-person lessons have been going on for decades at their location on Rt. 8, “at the stop light” as locals say when sharing directions, referencing the town’s lone signal crossing. Their Friday Night jamborees have had participants driving in for miles to jam in the parking lots during the warm weather month, often spilling into neighboring business lots down the street. Saturday night and Sunday afternoon concerts draw people in from many surrounding cities and towns, as the Store shares old time and bluegrass music and dance traditions from the region.
But that has been shut down since COVID-19 restrictions began, as have their lessons, workshops, and dance classes. So Country Store owner and Handmade Music School founder Dylan Locke has created a program called Handmade At Home, which is offering classes online in a variety of topics of interest to lovers of Appalachian music, including lessons on several instruments from local professionals.
Handmade At Home also keeps in mind another founding concern of the School, keeping costs low so that more people can be involved. Most of these sessions are offered with a choose-your-fee theme, or for set fees as low as $15. Interested students can choose to pay as little as $1 if their funds are scarce, while those in a good position financially can contribute as much as they like.
Locke says that moving online like this will hopefully spread the reach of these traditions even further.
“Interacting as a community to play music and dance is the lifeblood of our region. Shutting down the Floyd Country Store and Handmade Music School has been extremely difficult for all of us, and we hope that in providing these online sessions we can help support musicians who have lost work, bring inspiration to those at home, and keep our organization going. With any luck, we’ll introduce folks around the world to our beloved traditions, and be stronger than we were before.”
Handmade At Home has scheduled 10 sessions through early June, which Virginia’s Governor had set as a likely reopen date. Two of these have already taken place – Bluegrass Mandolin with Jesse Smathers of Lonesome River Band, and Old Time Fiddle Fundamentals from Andrew Small – but they can still be viewed after the fact for the same low fees.
Upcoming classes include:
- Square Dance Roots with Phil Jamison
- Home Audio Production 101 with JoeBass Dejarnette
- Old Time Fiddle Bowing with Erin Marshall
- Old Time Mandolin with Carl Jones
- Appalachian Dance World with Martha Spencer
- Handing Down Banjo Traditions with Mac & Hanna Traynham
- You Should Have Been Here Yesterday with Jon Lohman
- That Sounds Like Jimmie with Kris Truelsen
Full details on these sessions can be found on the Handmade At Home web site.
Many states, including Virginia, seem to looking to open certain businesses even earlier than initially planned, but live or at home, these special classes from Floyd have much information and musical tradition to share. If there is sufficient interest, perhaps they will keep these going even after we can congregate again, hopefully soon!