A! Magazine for the Arts

Old-Time String Band performs.

Old-Time String Band performs.

Retirees are enjoying learning to play old-time music

December 26, 2022

For the last 10 years, retirees have been enjoying learning to play stringed instruments in the Old-Time String Band class, an exciting and fun performance class that has been offered on the campus of Virginia Highlands Community College each spring since 2012. Mary Munsey, the music professor at VHCC, designed this class and has opened the class to students, faculty and community members from all walks of life.

The members have varying musical backgrounds and entrance abilities. Some are beginners and others have been playing for several years. Several of the members already knew how to play another musical instrument but chose to broaden their musical horizons by trying a new instrument or a different style of music.

Munsey says, “You won’t learn to read music in this class, but you will learn to read tablature which is much easier. Tab will show you where to place your fingers on the instrument by showing the string and the fret. The class learns 20 standards including “Shortnin’ Bread,” “Wildwood Flower,” “Old Joe Clark,” “Tennessee Waltz,” “The Crawdad Song” and more.”

The class meets once a week on Monday afternoons 4-5:45 p.m., in the spring semester. It begins Jan. 23 and finishes May 8. In addition to playing at the Southwest Cultural Center and Marketplace, the group has played at the Green Cove Train Station on the Appalachian Trail, regional Teacher’s Symposiums, the Abingdon Farmer’s Market, the Abingdon Fiddler’s Convention and at White’s Mill.

Playing in the Old-Time String Band is a fun musical journey for all of the participants and for the instructor. This past year there were 39 members in the group that ranged in age from 8 to 92.

The program is also accepting string instrument donations. If you would like to donate a guitar, fiddle, banjo, mandolin, bass, dulcimer, autoharp, dobro, ukulele or other string instrument to the Old-Time String Band program, contact Mary Munsey at 276-739-2454 or at mmunsey@vhcc.edu. You may also contact her if you know of performance opportunities for the group.

The class is listed as MUS 150. It is a three-credit course that counts as an elective for students with an Applied Music Pathway. It may also be taken for personal enjoyment instead of credit. Contact the Workforce Development office at (276) 739-2430 or email Vota Thomas at vthomas@vhcc.edu for help registering. You may pay online by accessing Workforce Development at vhcc.augusoft.net.