Keeping Up with the Jones House
Some of the region's best musical treasures are right outside
the front door.
For nearly two decades, the Jones House Community Center's porch has played stage to countless performers of all walks and tunes with the Watauga Arts Council's annual Concerts on the Lawn series.
"It looks like another good season," Watauga Arts Council (WAC) folklorist Mark Freed said.
Offering free concerts every Friday at 5 p.m. in downtown Boone throughout the entire summer, the series is now in its 18th year and will again feature artists with roots in Watauga and surrounding counties, including several newcomers to the porch.
This season's lineup is packed with 16 concerts, eight of which will feature a new component - Feasting on the Lawn, during which area restaurateurs and food vendors will set up shop on the lawn and serve supper both affordable and delectable.
"We're experimenting with some stuff, and some little things like 50/50 raffles, but the summer's pretty packed with at least two groups every night," Freed said.
In a Jones House musical sense, summer starts June 4 with an evening of swing, courtesy of the Swing Guitars and the Silvio Martinat Swing Band. The show starts at 5 p.m. with the Swing Guitars playing out front, followed by Silvio Martinat in the back parking lot, offering audiences room to dance and then some.
"It'll be the downtown art crawl night and our gallery reception, so we'll just open the doors and block off the parking lot and have a nice, big dance back there," Freed said. "We'll have food that night, too, so it'll be fun."
The opener's a fair indicator of this series' diversity in music. "Of course, there will be lots of good bluegrass and old-time music, but also some different things to mix it up," Freed said.
On June 25, the WAC presents a Traditional Mountain Music Showcase, celebrating the Blue Ridge Parkway's 75th anniversary with an evening of several local tradition bearers.
"We'll have our concert focus on traditional players, maybe some Beech Mountain singers and storytellers," Freed said.
June also features the Forget-Me-Nots, Sound Traveler, Upright & Breathin' and Cedar Creek.
July's lineup includes Surefire, the Dollar Brothers, The Neighbors, The Sheets Family, the King Bees Duo, Ken Lurie & Friends, The Lazybirds, Melissa Reaves, Elkville String Band, and Jim Lloyd & Trevor McKenzie.
"New this year is Ken Lurie, who teaches cello at the university, but he also has a job as a folk rocker," Freed said. "He'll be sharing the night with the King Bees."
August sees the Worthless Son-in-Laws, Danny Whittington, Steve and Ruth, Amantha Mill and newcomers Folk and Dagger and Amelia's Mechanics.
"Amelia's Mechanics (from Greensboro) are coming up to play, and they're going to share the night with Amantha Mill," Freed said. "I think it'll be a cool combo, too, between the two of them."
On Aug. 27, the WAC presents a Bluegrass Showcase with Leftover Bluegrass, Family Ties, Southern Accent and more.
"In September, we've got a nice night with one group that hasn't played here for several years, the Dashboard Hula Boys, and they'll be mixed with Kirby, Welsh and Stone - John Kirby, Charles Welsh and Rick Stone, who's a local instrument builder and mandolin player, so that'll be fun," Freed said.
Other September performances include the Zephyr Lightning Bolts, Whitetop Mountaineers, the Harris Brothers and Crys Matthews.
"We'll end off the season with some good soul and blues," Freed said.
Concerts typically last until 6:30 p.m., but Freed stressed that's a very loose 6:30, especially if the show is rife with jamming. There's no reserved seating, so audience members should bring lawn chairs or blankets to sit back and enjoy the musical ride.
"We've got lots of old favorites and some that just started playing last year," he said.
Once again, though, there were more applications than performance slots.
"As always, we had a lot of interest, and, unfortunately, had to tell some people that we just didn't have space for them on this year's calendar," Freed said. "We wish everyone could participate, but we just have a community so full of talented musicians, combined with other people wanting to play from outside the area. That's one of the worst parts about this, but it also means we end up having a pretty good schedule."
The series has also netted some good sponsors, Freed said, with Watauga Insurance Agency Inc., Mast General Store, the Downtown Boone Development Association, Footsloggers and Panera Bread helping cover this season's costs.
Music lessons start May 27
If the Concerts on the Lawn aren't quite enough, you could always learn to do it yourself.
The WAC is again offering summer music lessons at the Jones House, starting Thursday, May 27.
Regional master musicians will teach classes in fiddle, banjo, guitar, flatfoot dance, mandolin and more for all skill levels, beginner, intermediate, young and old.
Lessons are held every Thursday, from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m., and arranged in three five-week sessions throughout summer. The first session runs between May 27 and June 24, the second July 1 to 29, and the third Aug. 5 to Sept. 2.
Classes cost $50 for each five-lesson session, and instruments are available for rental at $10 per session.
"So, $60 will get you an instrument and five weeks of lessons," Freed said. "Or if you have one, dust it off and come learn to play it."
Following the music lessons, the Jones House is sticking to tradition with its Thursday night jam sessions.
"People will start using the porch and just getting out and playing," Freed said. "And that's right after the lessons ... so if people come for the lessons, they can stick around and hang out for the jam session if they like."
Thursday jams typically last from 7:30 to 11 p.m.
For more information on Concerts on the Lawn, music lessons and other Jones House activities, call Freed at (828) 264-1789, e-mail email@example.com, or visit http://www.joneshousecommunitycenter.org.
June 4 - Swing Guitars and Silvio Martinat Swing Band - Swing concert, Feasting on the Lawn, then dance in back parking lot.
June 11 - The Forget-Me-Nots and Sound Traveler - Celtic fiddling and folk
June 18 - Upright & Breathin' and Cedar Creek - Bluegrass, Feasting on the Lawn
June 25 - Traditional Mountain Music Showcase and Blue Ridge Parkway 75th Anniversary Celebration, featuring an evening of several local tradition bearers
July 2 - Surefire and Dollar Brothers - Bluegrass, Feasting on the Lawn
July 9 - The Neighbors and The Sheets Family - Bluegrass and old-time
July 16 - King Bees Duo and Ken Lurie & Friends - Blues and folk rock, Feasting on the Lawn
July 23 - The Lazybirds and Melissa Reaves - Jazz, blues, country and rock
July 30 - Elkville String Band and Jim Lloyd & Trevor McKenzie - Old-time, Feasting on the Lawn
Aug. 6 - The Worthless Son-in-Laws and Danny Whittington - Americana, Feasting on the Lawn
Aug. 13 - Steve & Ruth and Folk & Dagger - Hammered dulcimer and folk
Aug. 20 - Amantha Mill and Amelia's Mechanics - Bluegrass and Americana, Feasting on the Lawn
Aug. 27 - Bluegrass Showcase with Leftover Bluegrass, Family Ties, Southern Accent and more
Sept. 3 - Dashboard Hula Boys and Kirby, Welsh and Stone - Country, blues, folk and more, Feasting on the Lawn
Sept. 10 - Zephyr Lightning Bolts and Whitetop Mountaineers - Old-time
Sept. 17 - The Harris Brothers and Crys Matthews - Blues, country and soul