Folk Arts: Virtual Transitions

The tradition of gathering together to enjoy music is an essential part of the Appalachian experience. Whether it’s joining friends and neighbors to sing hymns on Sunday morning, listening to the sounds of classic rock at a weekend barbeque, or gathering to pick tunes on our porches. We’ve all experienced the community bonding that comes from making and enjoying music. Sadly, music appreciation has been pushed to the metaphorical back burner while we focused on keeping communities safe from the Coronavirus. 

During these trying times, creative expression is more important than ever, especially for young folks here in Eastern Kentucky. Using music for self-expression and stress relief improves mental health during these trying times. This is why the Hindman Settlement School kicked off our Pick and Bow After-school Music Program on September 16th; However, we have made a few changes from years past.  

Since 2016, Hindman Settlement School has provided low to no-cost music lessons to 2nd through 12th-grade students in Knott and Floyd County via the Pick and Bow program. Students can learn how to play the fiddle, banjo, guitar, and mandolin from local Appalachian musicians. These music lessons help young folks from Knott and Floyd county to connect with the traditional Appalachian music and provide an outlet for creative expression. Typically, these after-school group music lessons take place in person at Hindman Elementary, May Valley Elementary, and Knott County Central High School. 

This year the Pick and Bow program has moved completely online. Six music teachers work with 40 students in small groups via Zoom. Starting on September 16th, students will be meeting with teachers on Wednesdays and Thursdays every week until December. Virtual teaching sessions give students the chance to work in small groups with their instructor for 40 minutes, then we have some time set aside for group sing-alongs and hanging out. The sweet smiles on the students’ faces are proof that singing and playing together, although virtual, is still precious and essential during these difficult times. 

Looking ahead toward the Spring of 2021, the Traditional Arts Program at Hindman Settlement School is expanding the Pick and Bow After-school Music Program. For the first time, mountain dulcimer and ukulele lessons will be available along with fiddle, banjo, mandolin, and guitar. Expanding our offerings to ukulele and mountain dulcimer will allow more students, especially younger kids, to participate because both instruments are particularly friendly for little hands. The mountain dulcimer has deep ties to Knott County as it is often credited its birthplace; It only seems right to be teaching the next generation of Knott Countians the beauty of this regional instrument. 

If you are interested in helping us expand our Pick and Bow Program and have a mountain dulcimer or ukulele that you are not using, please consider donating it to our library of instruments. If would like to contribute, but don’t have an instrument, consider making a monetary donation to help cover the cost of an instrument. We will greatly appreciate and welcome your support. To donate to Hindman Settlement School CLICK HERE. To check out our Traditional Arts Program CLICK HERE.