Teenagers Rebecca Standifer and Autumn Dollarhide began attending a weeklong music camp centered around mountain music about eight years ago.
Dollarhide, 15, was six and Standifer, 16, was eight when they took their first fiddle class at Cowan Creek Mountain Music School.
Dollarhide said classes have been different each year and that she has learned new songs each time around.
“We learn songs that I didn’t even know existed,” said Dollarhide, who will be a sophomore at Letcher County Central High School.
This year Dollarhide and Standifer have signed up to take their first guitar class.
Now in its 12th year, the Cowan Creek Mountain Music School attracts students ranging in age from six years old to 80 years old who spend the week at the Cowan Community Center and Cowan Elementary School learning how to play music.
The school offers courses in banjo, fiddle, beginning and lead guitar, old-time string band and singing. Instructors with the music school talk about different styles of music, and how some styles have changed and others have stayed the same.
“The majority of instructors are from right here in Kentucky,” said Stacy Dollardhide. Instructors are also from Southwestern Virginia, Western North Carolina and Southeastern Tennessee.
Autumn Dollarhide said someone who has never played an instrument could learn how to play a song during the camp.
“I would only encourage them if they were wanting to learn how to play an instrument,” said Dollarhide. “You have really good teachers that won’t quit until you learn.”
Standifer said classical performers have taken classes at the Cowan Creek Mountain Music School to learn how to play traditional music.
Students have come from New York, California and Florida.
“They have come from all over,” said Stacy Dollarhide. Last year 118 people took classes.
Arts and music classes for children ages five to 10 are also offered in a program called “Kids on the Creek.” Cost is $100.
Through Cowan Creek Mountain Music School came the Letcher County Passing the Pick and Bow Program, which is an afterschool program at Cowan Elementary, Fleming-Neon Middle, Martha Jane Potter Elementary and Jenkins schools.
The Cowan Creek Mountain Music School will be held June 24 – 28. Tuition is $200 for Kentucky residents and $250 for out-of-state residents. Scholarships are available. For more information call 633-3187.
“We’d like to try to encourage all children in Letcher County who are interested in mountain music to get involved,” said Stacy Dollarhide.