In a region rich with mountain music, children have a chance to join in through the Junior Appalachian Musicians program starting up in January at Black Mountain Center for the Arts.

Every Wednesday, a Buncombe County school bus will drop enrolled children off at the center on State Street for group lessons in traditional Appalachian tunes on banjo, fiddle or guitar. Lessons are designed to be fun.

“One of the best things about JAM is the chance to learn in a noncompetitive environment,” said fiddle instructor Hannah Seng. Banjo instructor Ben Nelson said learning in a community is especially effective for kids.

Banjo player Ethan Tremble said the best thing about JAM is the chance to make new friends and learn new arrangements. Though the flow of the sessions is loose, the students learn quickly and sometimes most easily from one another.

“We have fun and learn at the same time,” said Abby Bewernitz, a second-year guitar student.

“It’s fun when someone new comes in and we can help them,” said Lily Garcia, a fiddle player who frequently steps out into the sunshine on the art center’s upper deck to get instruction from Seng. In just a few months students progress from never having held an instrument to playing as a group.

The next JAM session runs Jan. 6-May 25. The program is for students in third through ninth grades (or ages 8-14). The group classes are 3:30-5 p.m. Wednesdays.

The first 2016 session lasts 20 weeks and can be paid for in two $100 installments (the second session begins in September with the new school year). Kids can join at any time. Home schoolers are welcome, and instrument rental and gift certificates are available. For more, call the Black Mountain Center for the Arts at 669-0930.

JAM is supported by the N.C. Arts Council, a division of the state Department of Cultural Resources, with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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