Junior Appalachian Musicians (JAM)


 The Jackson County Junior Appalachian Musicians program is an afterschool program that provides school aged students (3rd-12th grades) instruction and performance opportunities in mountain heritage music with traditional Appalachian instruments.   It is open to all Jackson County Public School students and to Jackson County homeschooled students. JAM began in Jackson County in 2011 and offers instruction in acoustic guitar, fiddle, mandolin, banjo, autoharp and string band. Funding for this program comes from the NC Arts Council, Jackson County Arts Council and through donations and contributions from the public. The Jackson County Arts Council is the designated county partner through the state that allows us to offer this program in our county.

Please contact the Jackson County Arts Council or Jackson County JAM if you would like to register your child for the upcoming Fall semester, become a volunteer or paid instructor, or help sponsor this wonderful program for our youth.

Jackson County Arts Council



Jackson County JAM






If your child is interested in learning to play Mountain Heritage Music on traditional Appalachian instruments – guitar, fiddle, banjo, mandolin or autoharp, or if your child has previously been a part of the program and plans to return for the Fall Semester, please contact JAM Director Betty Brown at (828-226-3788) or jcncjam@gmail.com and a registration packet will be mailed to you. You may also e-mail our sponsor, the Jackson County Arts Council at info@jacksoncountyarts.org.

JAM is open to all Jackson County students grades 3-12, (including home-schools and charter schools).

Class will meet on Tuesday afternoons in the music room in the north hall of Cullowhee Valley School, from 3:15-4:45. Fall semester class dates are September 19, 2017 – December 19, 2017 for $95.00. Late Registration will end on September 29, 2017.

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September 19, 2017 – ALL DAY

Jack the Dipper has so graciously agreed to donate a percentage of their sales to the Jackson County JAM program on Tuesday September 19. Please come out and have a treat to help support these young musicians.

JACK THE DIPPER is located at 170 E. Sylva Shopping Center Sylva, NC (near Quin Movie Theatre). COME JOIN US!!!



The Jackson County Arts Council has named Betty Brown as the NEW Junior Appalachian Musicians (JAM) Director.

Mrs. Brown has been singing, writing music and playing guitar for most of her life. She has recorded five CDs of Appalachian music with the latest CD containing fourteen of her original songs. She and her sister have published a book of their stories in song called “Ballads, Blues and Blessings.” Betty performs her music at many festivals and venues across the region. Her roots in Appalachian music are deep and she wishes to share her love for this music with others.

Betty (Collins) Brown graduated high school from Camp Lab School in Cullowhee, NC. She pursued a 29 year career as a legal secretary and then became the Secretary to the Superintendent and Assistant to the Board of Education for Jackson County Public Schools. In 2012, when she retired from the Jackson County Board of Education, she became a member of the Board of Directors for Catch the Spirit of Appalachia and served as president for 2 years. She has been teaching guitar for the JAM program for the past five years. 

Please help us welcome Betty Brown as the NEW Junior Appalachian Musicians Director. We look forward to the new direction the JAM program is heading under Betty’s new leadership.






A Brief and Amazing History of JAM (Junior Appalachian Musicians)

In the year 2000, guidance counselor Helen White of Allegheny County, NC founded an afterschool children’s music program at Sparta Elementary School. She named that program Junior Appalachian Musicians, which is often abbreviated to the appropriate term “JAM.”

Ms. White’s JAM concept was to preserve the venerable music, storytelling, and dance traditions of Southern Appalachia by passing them along to today’s youth through traditional instruction methods (that is, “by ear and by example”). Also, the program would be accessible and affordable for all interested children (even providing instruments on loan when needed), and once students became proficient, they would “give back” to the greater community through delightful public performances.

JAM was such an unqualified success that word spread rapidly throughout mountain communities, not only in NC but also in SC, VA, TN, WVA, KY, and elsewhere. Jackson County JAM began in 2011 and as of fall semester 2016, Jackson County JAM was among 42 JAM chapters in 4 Southern Appalachian states, with 2 other states seeking to organize additional chapters this year! And the newest chapter as of fall 2016 (#42) is none other than Blue Ridge JAM in Cashiers, NC, making Jackson County doubly blessed with two JAM programs. The Jackson County JAM is sponsored and administered by the Jackson County Arts Council while the Blue Ridge JAM is conducted through the individual school.

JAM is something of a miracle that preserves our rich heritage while simultaneously enriching our youth, and it is a considerable blessing to our Jackson County community at large. Here is a hearty “Thank you” to all of the individuals, businesses, and civic organizations that lend support to Jackson County JAM. And no account of Jackson County JAM would be complete without acknowledgment of the late, great Ray Menze, for he was responsible for bringing the JAM program to our county, even as he struggled in the waning years of his life. Thank you, Mr. Menze, for all you did to make Jackson County an even finer place to live.