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News Review
MECC to Host Third Annual Gathering of the Sweet Folk Instruments
Posted Date: 2/4/2015
Big Stone Gap, VA – Mountain Empire Community College is pleased to announce the 2015 Gathering of the Sweet Folk Instruments on Saturday, March 21 from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
The third annual gathering will introduce and promote the autoharp, hammered and lap dulcimers, folk harp, penny whistle, bouzouki and bodhran to beginning musicians and extend the knowledge and skills of seasoned musicians.
The goal of the festival is to preserve the traditional performance of these instruments by attracting and teaching youth and adults the culture and musical heritage of the region. While Mountain Empire Community College (MECC) has long supported musical heritage programs, such as the college’s Home Craft Days Festival and annual Mountain Music School, music faculty saw a need to dedicate a program to sweet folk instruments.
“The festival began in March of 2013 because the music faculty at MECC were concerned with the low participation in performance classes for the autoharp and lap dulcimer,” said Gathering Organizer Michael Gilley. “Fewer and fewer folks were wanting to learn to play these instruments, especially our youth students. In an effort to promote these instruments, we decided to start this the Sweet Folk Instruments Gathering to promote instruments which might be overlooked.”
Gilley noted that since the event’s inception, the festival has grown in the types of instrument workshops offered and the number of attendees. New instructional offerings in 2015 include the penny whistle and the bouzouki and bodhran, traditional percussion instruments. “We doubled the number of attendees between the first and second years, including some younger musicians who took beginning lap dulcimer workshops. Our goal for this year is to again double our attendance,” Gilley said.
Students do not have to own an instrument to attend. Autoharps, hammered dulcimers, and a few folk/Celtic harps will be available to loan for the day at no cost. Penny whistle kits (penny whistle with instructional song book) will also be available for purchase at the workshop. Participants may enroll in up to four workshops scheduled in the morning and afternoon. Each workshop is $25 per person. Instrument workshops are limited to 14 students. Youth ages 6-18 who have participated in the Wise County Jams program and/or MECC’s Mountain Music School, can register for instrument workshops at half price. Students may also purchase a box lunch for $10.
An evening concert featuring John and Kathie Hollandsworth, Fire in the Kitchen, Jus' Jammin', Butch Ross, and Thistle Dew will begin at 6 p.m. in MECC’s Goodloe Center. The concert is open to the public. Concert tickets are $10 per adult and free for youth under 18 years of age. Workshop attendees who register for a full day of workshops will receive a free concert ticket.

Pre-registration and advanced payment is required for this event. For more information or to register, please visit or contact Terry Garrett at MECC’s Workforce Development Center at (276) 523-2400.