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Music in the Key of Community

By Derek Halsey (

Article Published: Jan. 24, 2013 | Modified: Jan. 31, 2013
Music in the Key of Community

Area guitarist Justin Butler will perform a benefit concert for ASU’s Community Music School on Wednesday, Jan. 30.

Photo submitted

It is always impressive when a local university takes the time to be a good neighbor and reach out to the local community.

One of the many ways that Appalachian State University does this is with the Community Music School program. This is where non-ASU students in the area can begin to learn how to play a musical instrument. The non-credit courses enable both young and old citizens to participate in a region already rich in musical heritage.

On Wednesday, Jan. 30, award-winning High Country multi-instrumentalist and composer Justin Butler will perform a wide-ranging guitar concert at 8 p.m. in the ASU Hayes School of Music recital hall. The concert is free, although donations will be accepted with all proceeds going to provide scholarships for students wanting to take part in the ASU Community Music School.

Butler’s guitar concert will range from the great classical music of J.S. Bach to the gypsy swing of the legendary Django Reinhardt, along with some original compositions of his own. He is one of the teachers at the ASU Community Music School and is also a music instructor at Milligan College in Tennessee, as well as at North Carolina’s Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute. Butler earned a master’s degree in music performance at ASU’s Hayes School of Music.

“When I was in high school, I became interested in jazz when I took some jazz improvisation classes at the community college,” Butler said. “So, I was interested in jazz before I jumped full-fledged into classical guitar. I grew up playing all kinds of rock music and classical music and jazz. My tastes are pretty eclectic. I like to try and play everything I listen to.”

As a teacher with the ASU Community Music School, Butler’s students range from young children to older folks wanting to take a new turn in their life. The school’s motto is “Transforming Lives Through Sustained and Deeply Engaging Experiences in Music.”

“It was started by one of the professors at ASU, Dr. Liz Rose,” Butler said. “She had this vision of opening a community music school, because if you want to take lessons at ASU, you have to be a student at the school of music or take private lessons. Dr. Rose wanted to create something that was open to community members of all ages.

“Mainly, we teach grade-schoolchildren from the ages of 3 all of the way up to 17. And we teach some college students, but we also have older students from the community. I have students in their 50s and 60s that are just starting out, learning how to play guitar. I find it amazing, and I think it is great.

“It is never too late, and this is a good way to keep the fingers and the mind active. My older students seem to have a better understanding of music just from their experiences of listening to it, and that seems to help them progress pretty quickly.”

More information about the ASU Community Music School can be found online at or by calling (828) 262-6452.

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