Another important anniversary is being celebrated this week in South Carolina by the Young Appalachian Musicians (YAM). This is their 10th year teaching traditional Appalachian music to school children, and tomorrow is the annual festival that supports their work, the Winter Bluegrass Jamboree.
YAM was launched in 2008 by Betty McDaniel, a Pickens, SC educator, who took 32 children in the 3rd through 5th grades at Holly Springs Elementary and brought in local musicians to teach them to play banjo, mandolin, fiddle, and guitar by ear. Now the program is teaching 300 students in 12 different schools.
The organization raises all the money for instruments, lessons, and strings, and depends on support from the community to keep this effort alive. Students pay what their families can afford for lessons, but YAM is determined that costs never deter a child from getting this opportunity. Some of their first batch of students are now in college, and many continue to play ten years on.
Betty based her efforts on a similar program in North Carolina called JAM, for Junior Appalachian Musicians, which has chapters in several states. YAM is now affiliated with JAM, and also mirrors their adult nighttime classes in four cities in upstate South Carolina.
In addition to the proceeds from tomorrow’s festival, which will feature performances by top groups like Blue Highway and the Mountain Bridge Band, YAM receives support by Preserving Our Southern Appalachian Music, a 501(c)(3) non-profit that accepts donations from anyone willing to help them keep this music going into the next generation. A group of students from Young Appalachian Musicians will play on stage as well.
If you would like to assist in this valuable work, PayPal contributions are accepted online.