Future Farmers gain musical experience

First Posted: 2/2/2009

When 16-year-old James Gammons joined the Future Farmers of America, he thought it would be an easy A.
But it also turned out to be really fun, and gave him the chance to brush up on his guitar skills.
Along with learning about agriculture, Gammons and several other members of the North Surry and Surry Central high schools Future Farmers of America are taking free music lessons from local musician Jim Vipperman, thanks to a $1,700 subgrant from the Surry Arts Council. The funding was provided in a lump sum by the North Carolina Arts Council Grassroots Program last fall, and then divvied out in smaller amounts by SAC.
The classes kicked off earlier this month, with the group meeting in the multipurpose room downstairs at the Andy Griffith Playhouse every Monday from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. About 10 students from North Surry High School attended yesterdays lesson.
While on the surface, it doesnt appear the efforts of the Future Farmers of America (FFA) would go hand in hand with the arts, Aaron Ray Tompkins, the advisor for the North Surry FFA, said it ties right in with the organizations mission.
There are three goals in the FFAs mission, Tompkins said Monday, in-between practicing his bass with the students. …To provide premiere leadership, career success to its members and personal growth. (The lessons) meet all three requirements, especially since music has a lot to do with personal growth. Its a great opportunity for the kids which could lead to other things.
The chance for students to do something outside their element could be a positive reinforcement to their education, influencing them to continue their studies, he added.
This gives them an opportunity to learn something they may have not been able to learn before, and by learning this, it gives them something positive to do. This could be the reason a kid (instead of dropping out) would stay in school, they know they would have to be in school to be here.
The group, which met for only its fourth practice yesterday, has already been in talks about starting a band and competing in the Mount Airy Fiddlers Convention in June.
Its pretty cool, said Josh Moore, an 18-year-old senior attending North Surry. Weve talked about competing in the fiddlers convention. Ive never played bluegrass before, Ive played some country and rock, but bluegrass is different its faster.
Moore, who plays several instruments in the North Surry band, including trumpet and tuba, said the free music lessons at the playhouse are the first time hes laid his hands on a guitar.
I think this is going pretty good, he said, slowly strumming his guitar. I think playing music helps with your personal growth.
James Gammons, 16, said its not only fun learning how plants work and the functions of agriculture, but also perfecting his music skills.
I like learning how things in the world work, he said of his participation in FFA at North Surry, adding that he hopes the lessons will help develop a professional music career. I think a lot of the personal growth is being done here, and it will help in a career in music (for me). I like to teach people about playing music.
On the other hand, Jacob Hauser, 15, said he doesnt consider himself to be musically inclined, but is still thankful for the lessons.
I like it because its free and its a new experience, he said. It gives me an opportunity to put something on my rsum for college, and at least its fun.
Vipperman, who is instructing the students on playing fiddle, banjo, guitar and mandolin, owns Vips Violins and Music Company along Andy Griffith Parkway, where he provides lessons, repairs, sells instruments and accessories.
He said farmers gave birth to the type of music in the area, because it was their source of entertainment, which makes it ideal for the FFA students to learn.
This is where this music comes from farmers, Vipperman said, as he pointed to a painting of an old farm hanging on the wall in the multipurpose room. Its what we do, I just got off my tractor two hours ago. This is what (farmers) had to entertain themselves playing music, especially during the depression.
Regardless of a persons career, life path or background, Vipperman said music is beneficial to everyone, especially the youth.
Music is good for everyone, sometimes Ive been used more as a therapist than a music instructor, he said, laughing.
For more information about the free music lessons for the Future Farmers of America students, call the Surry Arts Council at 786-7998.
Also, Aaron Ray Tompkins, the advisor of North Surrys FFA, said many of the students, who are developing a strong interest in performing music, may not have the means to purchase an instrument to practice on their own time. Those interested in donating instruments to the students can contact him at North Surry High School or call the Surry Arts Council.
Contact Erin C. Perkins at [email protected] or 719-1952.

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