MECC Cancels 2020 Mountain Music School

Big Stone Gap — Mountain Empire Community College is cancelling the 16th Annual Mountain Music School, following the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for summer camps.

MECC Mountain Music School Coordinator Dr. Michael Gilley said the cancellation is “in the best interest of the health and safety of the students, faculty, and staff during this pandemic. We look forward to hosting Mountain Music School in July 2021.”

MECC’s Mountain Music School is a week-long event dedicated to the preservation and continuation of Appalachian music and culture. Students from age 10 and up learn to play an instrument of their choice, including beginning and advanced options in “old-time” fiddle, claw-hammer banjo, autoharp, guitar, mandolin, dulcimer, shape note singing, and dog house bass. More than 100 students participate each year from all over the nation and world. The majority of youth students attend on scholarship. 

The program, started by the late Sue Ella Boatright-Wells and Musician Ron Short, was developed to preserve old-time music in Southwest Virginia. Since it’s inception in 2005, Mountain Music School has trained thousands of musicians in traditional old-time music, including instrumental instruction, dance, and vocals. 

Several Mountain Music School students have gone on to perform professionally and have played at venues including the White House, the Smithsonian Institute, the International Bluegrass Festival, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. This is the first time in the program’s history that a cancellation has been required. 

“The decision to cancel the 16th Annual  Mountain Music School required much thought and consideration of the safety of our students, faculty and staff, ” said MECC President Kristen Westover. “With those priorities in mind and the given constraints of the current pandemic, we simply cannot create the amazing interactive experience that has defined the program for fifteen years. We do look forward to being able to deliver Mountain Music School in 2021.”

In 2019, MMS was named the recipient of a $15,000 grant from the Slemp Foundation to purchase new instruments for student instruction. The program has also received support from t​he Wise, Scott, Lee, and Dickenson County Board of Supervisors, the City of Norton Council, Auto World, Community Motors, the Mackie Family/Noteworthy Strings, the Mountain Empire Community College Foundation, the Papa Joe Smiddy Festival, the Cove Ridge Center, the Virginia Endowment for the Arts, Pro-Art, and the Crooked Road. 

For more information on MECC’s Mountain Music School, please contact Dr. Michael Gilley, at 276.523.2400 ext. 304