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There's No Place Like Mountain Home



Article Published: May. 20, 2010 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
There's No Place Like Mountain Home


Joe Shannon sees music as a connection, an extension of oneself to the audience.

And as founder, host and executive director of one of the High Country's most unique music revues, Mountain Home Music, Shannon would know.

"One time I was on stage with Doc Watson, and someone asked him how he achieves such a stage presence," Shannon said. "He said, 'Stage presence? What's that?' You just be yourself."

No one could accuse Shannon otherwise, since music is his life. From creating music to creating an avenue for others to do the same, "Mountain Home Music has become a community, and not only for the musicians," he said. "We've been doing it so long, there's a core group of people at every show."

These folks know what to expect, but not how to expect it. As Shannon said, "There's something old and something new."

Each week from May through September, Mountain Home Music (MHM) delivers live performance at its most honest, from music to dancing to storytelling and more, an opportunity for audiences to enjoy "world-class Appalachian performers that you've probably never heard of," Shannon said, "probably" being the key word.

This year's season, starting Sunday, May 30, features a lineup of artists both familiar and new to the show, including Skeeter and the Skidmarks, Jeff Little, Steve Lewis, The Butter-Pats, Mary Greene, Scott Freeman, The Dixie Dawn Band, Bryan Haas & Friends, The Mountain Home Bluegrass Boys, Steve & Ruth Smith, Strictly Clean & Decent, The Sheets Family, The White Top Mountain Band, the Nightlife Band and The Forget-Me-Nots.

"It's a wonderful venue," said Becca Eggers-Gryder, bassist for Amantha Mill and a MHM regular. "When Joe started it, there was nothing like it up here, and, in fact, there still isn't anything like it."

The idea for MHM came to pass when Shannon and Steve Lewis, both accomplished guitarists and banjo players, were driving home from a wedding. "We were complaining that there wasn't a local place for local musicians to play," Shannon said.

Though fiddlers' conventions in Ashe County and Union Grove offered some opportunities, Shannon and Lewis were looking for something closer to home, preferably even in Watauga County.

On Feb. 4, 1994, Music in the Mountains was introduced at Our Daily Bread delicatessen in downtown Boone, featuring Shannon, Lewis, Eggers-Gryder and Rachel Nelson. Shannon's memories of that first show?

"Fear," he said. "I was afraid no one would come. Our dilemma throughout our existence has been, 'How do you get people to pay money to come see somebody they've never heard of?' We don't have famous people on our programs. But they did come, probably in response to the music, which, hopefully, was pretty good."

According to Eggers-Gryder, it was pretty good and then some.

"It was great," she said. "We were playing in the storefront there, in the window, and it was ... one of the most unique gigs I had done."

Encouraged by the positive audience reaction, Shannon proceeded to seek sponsorships, establishing relationships with some longstanding partners and landing some much appreciated assistance from Appalachian State University, which agreed to broadcast the concerts on its cable access channel.

"It was community embracing community music, that's what it was," Shannon said.

It didn't take long to outgrow Our Daily Bread. The show floated between venues, from ASU's Plemmons Student Union to area churches and auditoriums, assuming the welcome qualities of an old-time traveling show.

"We don't really have a venue - the business is Mountain Home Music, and we just go wherever we can," Shannon said.

After learning that "Music in the Mountains" was trademarked, Shannon changed the name to "Old Time Music in the Mountains," which he amended, in favor of brevity, to Mountain Home Music.

The revue achieved nonprofit organization status in 2002, with its mission to celebrate diverse styles of Appalachian performing arts, while educating and building community through the arts by providing accessible, cross-generational experiences.

As a nonprofit, MHM hosts special concerts as fundraisers for area agencies, including the Hospitality House and Santa's Toybox, and this year a mid-summer show to benefit the Community Care Clinic. Regular concerts go toward operating expenses.

"We hope to make money to pay our expenses, but we do those benefit concerts just because I want to," Shannon said. "I like doing it."

Philanthropy's part of the tune, and always in the key of fun. Musicians and donors, dubbed MHM members, are invited to an annual celebration in Bethel to "spend a whole afternoon picking music," Shannon said.

And now folks can hear music in the morning. This season, MHM is producing four "breakfast" concerts at the Meadowbrook Inn in Blowing Rock, as well as the show's first outdoor concert, to be held at Chetola Resort, also in Blowing Rock.

And now, audiences can take some of the Mountain Home magic home. Shannon and company are producing The Best of Mountain Home Music CD series, compiled from 17 years' worth of recordings and funded through a grant from the Claybough Foundation. The first CD should be released in mid-July and will be available at various local merchants and online.

In short, "Mountain Home Music has grown into a whole lot more than whatever we thought it could be," Shannon said.

But Shannon still enjoys two things most - music-making and socializing.

"(Musicians) Lisa Baldwin and David Haney are leaving the community, and they invited me to play with them ... for one of their final concerts," Shannon said. "Just sitting on the front porch, playing music with my friends ... the connection is the main thing."

That's why you'll see Shannon, Johnson, Lewis and Scott Freeman performing in almost every show as the Mountain Home Bluegrass Boys, a house band in the not-so-formal sense.
Through 17 years of Mountain Home Music, Shannon's developed a social network truer than Facebook, MySpace or any other web-based variety. "The network of musicians I've become friends with is invaluable and just real important to me," he said.

He's seen artists come, go and grow, such is the case with young fiddler trio The Forget-Me-Nots.
"I gave them coloring books the first time they were on the show," Shannon said, "and their fiddles were about as big as your hand."

Sentiment's just as bright as the music, and most people - audience members and musicians alike - never leave a show empty-hearted.

"Joe doesn't focus only on musicians," Eggers-Gryder said. "He'd get folks who were storytellers, treasures to the community, any type of artist. He had my father (Stacy Eggers Jr.) in there one time, and he'd brought his harmonica. Dad and I played a song together, and I don't think we ever had before."

And Mountain Home Music's not so much a venue as it is an experience.

"It's hard to describe how much Joe's done for our community of musicians," Eggers-Gryder said.

"The thing about his show is it's not the fact you're local. It's that you're valued, treasured and given the respect - the legitimacy, if you will - of being a true artist, because sometimes you're not appreciated in your hometown. He gave us that venue, showing we have a lot of great talent here, and I appreciate that."



Tickets
This season's first Mountain Home Music show, Bluegrass & Brass, hits the Meadowbrook Inn on Sunday, May 30, at 8 p.m. in celebration of Memorial Day.

Tickets for MHM concerts may be purchased online at http://www.mountainhomemusic.com or in person at Mast General Store locations (Boone and Valle Crucis), Rydell Music Center in Boone, Fred's Mercantile in Beech Mountain, and Pandora's Mailbox in Blowing Rock. Tickets cost $15 in advance and $18 at the door.

Tickets for the breakfast concerts, only available at Meadowbrook Inn, cost $21 for those 16 and older and include a buffet breakfast.

Evening concerts start at 8 p.m., breakfast concerts at 9 a.m., and the July 3 outdoor concert at 6:30 p.m.

For more information, visit http://www.mountainhomemusic.com or call (828) 964-3392.



Schedule
Sunday, May 30, 8 p.m.
Bluegrass & Brass: Memorial Day Celebration
Meadowbrook Inn

Saturday, June 5, 8 p.m.
Old-Time Banjo & Fiddle: Skeeter and the Skidmarks
Blowing Rock School Auditorium

Saturday, June 12, 8 p.m.
Piano Man of the Blue Ridge: Jeff Little & Steve Lewis
Blowing Rock School Auditorium

Saturday, June 19, 8 p.m.
Generations: The Butter-Pats & Mary Greene
Blowing Rock School Auditorium

Sunday, June 20, 9-11 a.m.
Bluegrass & Western Swing: Scott Freeman & Steve Lewis
Meadowbrook Inn (breakfast concert)

Saturday, June 26, 8 p.m.
Carolina on My Mind: The Dixie Dawn Band
Blowing Rock School Auditorium

Sunday, June 27, 9-11 a.m.
Appalachian Folks: Bryan Haas & Friends
Meadowbrook Inn (breakfast concert)

Saturday, July 3, 6:30 p.m.
Bluegrass, Bagpipes and Burgers: The Mountain Home Bluegrass Boys
Chetola Resort (outdoor concert and picnic)

Sunday, July 18, 9-11 a.m.
Songs and Sounds of the Hammer Dulcimer: Steve & Ruth Smith
Meadowbrook Inn (breakfast concert)

Sunday, July 25, 3 p.m.
Folk Song Sing-a-Long: Strictly Clean & Decent
St. Luke's Episcopal Church

Sunday, Aug. 1, 9-11 a.m.
Appalachian Traditions: The Sheets Family
Meadowbrook Inn (breakfast concert)

Saturday, Aug. 7, 8 p.m.
World Travelers: The White Top Mountain Band
Blowing Rock School Auditorium

Saturday, Aug. 14, 8 p.m.
N.C. Beach Music and Boogie: The Nightlife Band
Blowing Rock School Auditorium

Sunday, Aug. 22, 3 p.m.
Celtic Traditions, Old and New: The Forget-Me-Nots
Grace Lutheran Church

Sunday, Sept. 5, 8 a.m.
A Labor Day Salute: The Mountain Home Bluegrass Boys
Location TBA

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