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Saturday jams share love of old-time music
Musicians play at Appalachian Jam in Dahlonega. The weekly event is open to players or listeners.

Appalachian Jam
Open bluegrass jam session
When: 2-6 p.m. Saturdays through Nov. 7
Where: Downtown Dahlonega square by the gold museum
How much: Free
More info: 706-864-3513

The Appalachian Jam on the Public Square in Dahlonega may be a recent tradition, but the music is much older.

Since 2007, musicians from near and far have been gathering on Saturdays to play old-time bluegrass.

"... It's the music of the Appalachian Mountains, and it's the music that the people here have always played," said Jim White, who acts as an onsite administrator for the group and also plays guitar, fiddle and sings.

The jam sessions are open to anyone who wants to play, and according to Joel Cordle, Downtown Development Authority and Better Hometown program director for the city of Dahlonega, there are usually between 10 and 15 musicians.

Many come from across the state and some even from neighboring states, and several hundred stop by to listen.

"It's really great music," said Mary Ann Knight, who often listens and is also welcome center manager for the Dahlonega Convention & Visitors Bureau. "... It's old-time mountain music."

The open atmosphere brings all ages and skill levels. But bluegrass provides a great platform for learning and teaching, said Cordle, who sometimes joins the group playing guitar or mandolin. Many players come to learn new songs and share their favorites.

"It's always fun, an adventure," Cordle said of playing with such a varied group of musicians. "You hear new things, learn new things."

Cordle said the group has included players as young as 8 or 9 years old and as old as those in their 80s.

The love of bluegrass ties the group together.

"I'm big on traditional music. ... One thing about it is just the acoustic instruments and the sounds of just wood and wires with no effects," Cordle said. "It's just the person and the instrument." Cordle added that he likes the harmony singing and the community atmosphere of the informal jam session.

White said he likes the instrumental breaks in the song, when one person improvises on the melody.

"That's the part I enjoy the most, is seeing what people can do with their instruments," he said.

He said listeners are often amazed "that folks can just sit around in a circle and go one-to-one, from one guy to the next guy, and play different songs and everybody's able to play along with it."

" ... There's always surprises," Cordle said. "New people show up every week, got their own favorite songs you know to share. It's a real positive thing."