This past weekend marked the 51st annual Bluegrass & Old Time Fiddlers Convention in Mount Airy, NC. The weather was beautiful and several local and regional musicians traveled for what many consider as the festival season’s opening event. Friends and new acquaintances gather for jam sessions all around the Veterans Memorial Park in musical fellowship while spectators watch the hundreds of performers compete for the different categories in Bluegrass and Old Time fiddle, banjo, guitar and more. Multiple young musicians who are a part of the Floyd Country Store and Handmade Music School community and the Floyd JAM program placed in several categories and took home ribbons.
Wren Hello placed 2nd in youth old time banjo and his little brother Pelle Hello placed 2nd in the youth dance category. Margo MacSweeny placed 3rd in youth old time banjo and 3rd in the youth dance competition while her little brother Misha MacSweeny placed 4th in the youth dance competition. William Moeckel placed 4th in youth old time banjo and his sister Ola Moeckel placed 1st in old time fiddle. Every single youth who participated from Floyd placed in at least one category.
Dale Morris, the MC for the day, commented on how good of a job the Handmade Music School was doing as he announced the winners from the stage which included so many of Floyd’s young musicians.
“We have an amazing ecosystem here in Floyd,” says Floyd Country Store co-owner Heather Krantz. “With the Floyd JAM program giving so many young people an entryway into learning about the music and dancing here and then the Floyd Country Store giving them an intergenerational music community to be a part of and performance opportunities and the Handmade Music School giving them more opportunity to deepen their knowledge and skills, the result is a bustling, thriving music community. It’s so exciting to get to watch all these youngsters from our community continuing to improve and then go to a fiddlers’ convention and all come back with ribbons! They were all so happy to hear when their names were called to come to the stage. They are so important to the future of this music and our musical community. It’s an honor to know them.”
Many of these young musicians have been taught by Mac Traynham, an old time musician and banjo builder from Willis, VA. “Mac has been a teacher with the Handmade Music School and the Floyd JAM program for several years and is considered the musical ‘pied piper’ around here,” Krantz adds. “He’s a big reason we have so many young people excited about and playing this music.”
The adults from the area did quite well also. The first place win in the old time band category was The Get Down Boys with lead fiddler Raistlin Brabson from Callaway, VA, who performs bi-weekly at the Store and at the Friday Night Jamboree. He also took home 5th place in old time fiddle. Corbin Hayslett from Floyd and manager of County Sales was also a part of the winning band as well as Jackson Cunningham, a popular musician and guitar builder from Grayson County. Jackson has donated a guitar to the Handmade Music School which is being raffled off this Friday night when his band Nobody’s Business will take the stage for the Jamboree. Another notable player who frequents the store and leads the Sunday jam once a month is Jared Boyd of Galax, who took home a blue ribbon on the old time banjo.
Andrew Small and Ashlee Watkins from Floyd and their band The Alum Ridge Boys and Ashlee took home 1st place in the bluegrass band competition. Their band will be playing the Friday Night Jamboree on June 16th. Andrew also placed 2nd in old fiddle and 2nd in the adult folk song category. Other winning members of their band included Billy Hurt who placed 1st in old time fiddle, Trevor Holder who placed 1st in bluegrass banjo and Conner Vlietstra who placed 3rd on old time fiddle. Other Friends of the Store and Handmade Music School who placed were Allen Surface who took home 1st place on the dobro and Gina Dilg won 4th in the old time band competition with The Wildcats.
It was an exciting weekend for all these musicians and dancers of all ages and certainly Floyd musicians were represented well.