Bill & Maggie Anderson, upon their retirement, he from an administrative position at Cornell University's School of Agriculture and she from a career in public school teaching, cast about for what to do next. For years they had sung and played together at festivals and jams throughout the northeast and wanted to connect more fully with a vibrant, living bluegrass and traditional music community. In the hills above Galax, Virginia near the Blue Ridge Parkway they found a piece of land along a gravel road looking out over the hills and fields where they built their comfortable and cozy Little Cabin Home in the Hills. Bill, a luthier and certified Martin repair technician set up his shop and, in the bluegrass way, the played their way into jams and began performing locally and regionally. Seven years later, they play out nearly 100 times a year, jam with their friends, and lead a life other bluegrass pickers can only dream about.
On Wednesdays during the season, Bill and Maggie play music at the Blue Ridge Music Center at Mile 213 on the Blue Ridge Parkway as part of the Mid-Day Musicians. From noon until 4:00 PM they play, sing and greet visitors who stop into the small building beside the museum where they're set up. Bill & Maggie are volunteers, but their CD's are available for sale at a table in the room. They greet visitors, who, on the day we were there, came from three foreign countries as well as from California to Louisiana, to our home in New Hampshire within the U.S. They interpret the local music as well as explaining the larger world of acoustic, old time, and bluegrass music. The Center features a fine, small museum describing the growth of traditional music in the Appalachian region, its roots in Scots-Irish mountain culture as well as the contributions of African strains to American music. There are fine displays of instruments as well films of bluegrass and traditional greats in performance. A careful examination of the museums displays would take, perhaps, 90 minutes. There's also an outdoor amphitheater where paid performances are held regularly. The Blue Ridge Music Center is a must see venue for travelers on the Blue Ridge Parkway, whether they're knowledgeable about music or have a more general interest in the region. It is an important stop along the Crooked Road for those coming to the region to explore our traditional musical heritage.
Throughout the two days of Mt. Airy's Fall Leaf Festival the Performance Stage, located on a side street where it doesn't interfere with the more commercial elements of the event, offered an impressive sampling of the high quality local music available in the region. Rather than focus on a couple of big-name national bands, the organizers have brought many bands not widely known outside the region to the stage. There was a substantial audience for both the music and the clogging.