The Elkton Bluegrass Jam Sessions are held every Tuesday evening from 6 to 8 pm running to May 13th and returning in the fall after festival season. Listeners as well as pickers of all ages and abilities are welcome. There is no dress code, so just come as you are! The acoustic Jams are free and open to the public. A Bluegrass Jam session, like its Jazz cousin, is the practice of creating music by ear without written notation. It’s the creation of instant performing art and has been going on in the valleys, mountains, cabins, garages and front porches of eastern Rockingham County for over two hundred seventy-five years. Typically, musicians, young and old come together, take turns around the circle and play a variety of songs. These songs include instrumental pieces with individual solo breaks and bluegrass, traditional country or gospel songs often sung in 3-part harmony.
Today the age old family tradition of music making is alive and well and it is once again available as a community social activity. The return of a regular public music jam in Elkton will bring back a town tradition that dates back many generations. These music jams are the bread and butter of a Shenandoah Valley music heritage that dates back to the 1730s.
The Blue Ridge Mountains and foothills of eastern Rockingham County have an amazing history of Appalachian Music development. In 1732, Joist Hite and his family became the first European settlers west of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Hite’s home place is just a few miles north of present day Elkton. Within a few years the area was teeming with new settlers and with them came their culture and distinct musics. Over the years, one can only imagine the sound of the mountain dulcimers, fiddles and banjars rising up out of the Blue Ridge Mountain’s valleys and ridges giving breath to a music style that would spread from its epicenter, often down the Great Wagon Road, to the far corners of the globe.
The line of musical families from the early settlers to today is unbroken. Elkton area’s musicians include Bela Lam, whose finger picking style banjo was recorded in the early 1920s by Okeh Records, six months prior to the famous Bristol Sessions. Elkton is the childhood home place of Patsy Cline. Her musical family along with the Hensley, Meadows, Lam, Shifflett, Dean, Allen, Sprouse and Stroop (to name only a few) have all contributed to the style and depth of American popular music. In spite of today’s instant communication, these family-oriented music jams perpetuate an oral music tradition that keeps the music fresh and alive for others to enjoy for generations to come.
The Jams are held at Elkton Community Center, 20592 Blue and Gold Drive, in Elkton, Virginia and are sponsored by the Elkton Community Center and the Shenandoah Music Trail. Serving as hosts for the jam are Don DePoy and Martha Hills. Both are active in the Valley’s music community, perform internationally as Me & Martha and promote music making as a lifelong endeavor.
For more information or directions for the Elkton Jam contact the Elkton Community Center at 540-298-8730. For any information regarding the other weekly jams in the Shenandoah Valley or the Shenandoah Music Trail call 540-209-3540. Visit Elkton, Virginia: America’s Gateway West Since 1716.