The arts, theater, and music are alive and well here in, around, and between the Blue Ridge and Alleghany Mountains. While this article will deal with music, there is an unusually large amount of creativity present now and from the past. Whether there is something in the water, land, air, scenic views, or the people, history shows this region inspires creativity. Patsy Cline came from the northern Shenandoah Valley and the Carter family from the mountains of the south. There are numerous recognizable names from Virginia that would bring the mountains and valleys alive with music. The Stanley Brothers, and now Ralph Stanley, are a perfect example of a long Virginia tradition spanning the past and present. The region is blessed with musicians and songwriters. Many of them are professional, and many others are just as talented but play music solely for the love and enjoyment of it. One of my favorite bumper stickers reads, “Real Musicians Have Day Jobs.”
You can take in a front porch jam session, a bluegrass or old time festival at Glen Maury Park in Buena Vista, or take in a concert at Lime Kiln Theater in Lexington, the Shakespeare Theater in Staunton, the Paramount Theater in Charlottesville, Garth Newell Music Center near Hot Springs, or the Jefferson Center in Roanoke. Every Wednesday morning, for over 15 years, local musicians gather for a jam at the Lexington Coffee shop. You can sit at home and enjoy the views from the window or porch as you listen to one of several great shows on the local public radio stations (WVTF and WMRA). In addition to great classical programming, they offer bluegrass, mountain, old time, traditional country, blues, roots, and jazz music. The local station (WLUR) at Washington and Lee University offers a wide mix of musical tastes as well.
It is interesting to note that we sit in the midst of a stimulating triangle of higher education institutions that, of course, embrace the arts. One can choose from many programs at Virginia Military Institute, Washington and Lee University, Southern Virginia University, Hollins College, Roanoke College, Virginia Tech, Mary Baldwin College, James Madison University, Bridgewater College, Eastern Mennonite, and the University of Virginia to touch on just a few. From acoustic music to string ensembles to choral groups, the colleges and universities abound with it. A few of the artists that reside here and currently tour around the globe are: Robin and Linda Williams (often mainstays on Prairie Home Companion), Mike Seeger, Larry Keel, and Nothing Fancy. The list of wonderful musicians could go on and on. Some are known far and wide. Some stay closer to home. But, they all know and respect the music that past and current contemporaries give them. They would probably all agree that there is indeed something special about this area and the creativity it inspires. The point is that the hills are alive with music.