Caught up in Clawhammer

Caught up in Clawhammer

Listen to strangers. Listen to strangers that tell you to go to interesting things. Listen to strangers even when they send you to small places that you have never heard of like Swannanoa, which isn’t really even a city, just an area. Why should you listen to strangers? Because they will send you to shows like this. Nestled in the mountains of North Carolina, just outside of Asheville is a wonderous place called Warren Willson College, where students go to become great people, learning to take care of the earth, the people of this world and themselves. In the summer, the college offers one week music camps. I happened upon banjo-mando-fiddle week. In the heart of bluegrass country I was presented a show from the best of the best who were visiting from all over the country to teach eager students keen to be clawhammer masters themselves. In a dark theater, for the first time in my life music brought me to tears. I somewhat sheepishly tried to flick away the small drips that dotted my cheeks and caught sight of my neighbour doing the same. We smiled at each other, laughed openly, then cried openly through the next three songs. Following the concert I slipped out a side door hoping to explore the campus a bit more and was surprised to stumble upon a pathway dotted with christmas lights and alive with pockets of music echoing in the dark. Small circles formed under pavilions, in entrances, under tents, in the middle of pathways, and in dark nooks just out of lights reach. Students, teachers and strangers all played familiar bluegrass and swing tunes deep into the night. I left early, not because my ears were tired, but because I was invited back to a barn to continue the jam. Yes, thats right, an honest barn jam. I laid tummy down on straw bales and looked over on the boys as they plucked and plunked away on their instruments, exploring the different ways they could sound together. I closed my eyes. I heard bare feet tapping on the straw covered floor. I heard crickets and frogs competing for airtime in the open air barn. I heard music become magic and decided that for people in these parts, music is something that was gifted to them at a very young age. When complete exhaustion set in, we pulled out our sleeping bags and climbed a ladder to the loft and slipped first into mosquito nets then into a deep sleep that can only be obtained when you sleep in an open air barn deep in the forest of the Appalachians.


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