Mountain View, Arkansas: Folk Music Capital of the World
Take a walk through downtown Mountain View and you're likely to hear the sweet strains of folk music drifting from gazebos and park benches. If you hear it, do yourself a favor and walk in the direction of the song. It's likely to be one of the most special things you see while you're in town.
Each time I've witnessed this impromptu music phenomenon, the source has never been a well-known folk band — or even a band at all. There is rarely a music stand or sheet music in sight.
One or two people just sit down and start playing a traditional folk or bluegrass tune. Other musicians amble over and start playing along. Eventually there's a whole ensemble that sounds like they've been playing together their whole lives.
Some of the musicians are young. Some are old. Some play professional instruments. Others carry old beat-up banjos, dulcimers, or fiddles that look like they've been stored in the car trunk for a while. (And many probably have.)
Any time I'm in town, I keep an eye — and an ear — out. There's no telling when a jam session will start up.
Folk music is in our blood.
People in Mountain View are devoted to playing and preserving folk music. That's true of people of all ages. You're never too old to participate, and the Music Roots program proves you're never too young, either.
Music Roots starts in 4th grade, and it's offered through the local schools. Kids have the opportunity to choose their weapon: fiddle, guitar, banjo, dulcimer, or mandolin. The program provides instruments, instruction, and ensemble playing experience during the school day, from 4th through 8th grade.
Each year, Music Roots students show off their skills on stage in front of an eager audience at the annual Mountain View Bluegrass Festival. By the time they graduate from the program, they're usually studying with private instructors or even playing in their own bands.
Started in 1998 by the Committee of 100, the program has educated thousands of children. There's no doubt it's lived up to its name, keeping the roots of traditional music alive.
Learn a folk instrument or show off your skills.
Whether you want to learn an instrument, you're ready to give your performance debut, or you just want to hear some five-star folk music, there's something for you in Mountain View.
If you're a beginner, I suggest you head over to Mountain View Music. Shay and Scott Pool own this local music store, and they have world-class teachers who offer music lessons on just about any folk instrument you might want to learn. They also sell instruments, supplies, and offer instrument repair.
Where can you hear live music in Mountain View?
The opportunities are almost endless. Start by moseying around downtown and see if you can catch an impromptu performance. Visit during one of our festivals and you're sure to hear music all weekend long.
Check out the Jimmy Driftwood Barn on a weekend night to catch gospel, bluegrass, and traditional folk tunes by a variety of talented local soloists and groups.
And last but certainly not least, watch the Ozark Folk Center's music calendar for upcoming events. The talent is shocking. It'll have your feet tappin' and your hands clappin' and I've seen people stand up and dance more than once during a show. (In fact, if you want to learn how to dance a jig, they offer classes on that, too.)
Preserving our Mountain View music heritage.
This precious folk music tradition is not thriving by chance. People around here make it a priority to ensure that it gets passed from one generation to the next. And it takes commitment from everyone: the school district, the state parks, the town, and its residents, both young and old. Thanks to them, these hills really are alive with the sound of music.