Mountain music, dance gatherings going on strong at Western Carolina

CULLOWHEE – Western Carolina University decided to add a little warmth to the cold winter nights back in January by sponsoring a series of informal old-time and bluegrass music jam sessions and traditional dance gatherings — open to everyone in the region with a hankering to pick, sing and kick up their heels.

Those twice-a-month jam sessions and once-a-month dance gatherings took off like a hard-charging bluegrass breakdown, with the jam sessions averaging about 75 participants each night, and the dance gatherings averaging about 30 people, said Suzanne McDowell , interim director of Western’s Mountain Heritage Center.

The response has been so strong that organizers at the Mountain Heritage Center and Western’s A.K. Hinds University Center have decided to keep the jam sessions going through the summer, McDowell said. The dance events will be on hiatus for three months, but will return to the schedule in August.

All the jam sessions are held from 7 to 9 p.m. on Thursday nights.

The May schedule includes a May 5 jam session at the Mountain Heritage Center, followed by another jam session on May 12 in the Grandroom of the University Center, and a third jam at the Mountain Heritage Center on May 19.

Jam sessions will continue in June and July, but all the jamming will take place on the lawn in front of the University Center . Jam sessions dates are June 9 and 23, and July 14 and 28. In case of rain, the June and July sessions will be held in the University Center Grandroom.

The events are open to pickers and singers of all ages and experience levels, but also to those who just want to watch and listen, McDowell said.

For more information, call the Mountain Heritage Center at (828) 227-7129.