Staunton, VA has one of the most underrated cultural museums in the Commonwealth of Virginia! The Frontier Culture Museum is located on 150 acres of prime farm land and has eleven living history exhibits that show what life was like when the Shenandoah Valley was first settled by the new immigrants in this region.
The Cultural Center comes alive even more over the summer with special events. Each week in August, there will be special musical presentations featuring traditional Appalachian, blue-grass, and “old time” music representing the music of this developing world. This is the time for the American Roots Music Concert Series.
On Sunday, August 6th, 2017, The Whitetop Mountain Band will be the featured musical group. The band hails from the highest mountains of southwestern VA and continues the tradition of fiddling, banjo-picking, and mountain dancing. This family-based group is led by Thornton Spencer on fiddle, Emily Spencer on banjo and vocals, and includes their daughter Martha Spencer on guitar, fiddle, bass, banjo, and vocals. Martha is the dancer in the family and will be happy to teach you a step or two during the performance! The band is completed by Debbie Bramer (a transplant from Michigan) on bass and Ersel Fletcher, a retired coal miner who plays guitar and adds some harmony in vocals. This group knows mountain music and will delight you with the tunes and the steps of southwestern VA!
Bud’s Collective takes the stage on Sunday, August 13, 2017. This award-winning bluegrass group plays old country songs and has a stack of original music too. This trio of pickers and singers hails from the Panhandle of West Virginia and holds deep roots in bluegrass but are not afraid to lean into some adventurous country and even a little Irish music. They often perform about half original songs and have their own special mix of bluegrass/country favorites. The group’s leader, Buddy Dunlap, is one of the big “up-and-coming” bluegrass musicians today. He plays great rhythm guitar, has mastered flatpicking, and his vocals are pure every time he sings. Jack Dunlap, the youngest member of the group, has already mastered the mandolin and teaches bass, ukulele, mandolin, and guitar at Blueridge Community College. Cody Brow holds down the bass section of the band. Cody has integrated musical styles from all areas of music in his bass-playing style. Cody’s “three Ts” of bass playing – tone, timing, and taste – gives this group one more stepping stone on the road to musical fun!
Commonwealth Bluegrass Band will entertain everyone on Sunday, August 20th. This band is known for a “high lonesome sound” and for playing straight-up, traditional bluegrass music. The members of this group, Randy Cook, Malcolm Pully, Mike Baliff, Joe Currence, and Wally Highes, play all the traditional instruments associated with bluegrass and add that certain harmonic voicing that speaks to a traditional sound. These gentlemen write some of their own music and arrange the rest themselves. They are a staple in the Bluegrass Music world.
Rounding-out the American Roots Music Concert Series is Amber Collins & Branch House Pavilion. Their recent release of “Our Great Virginia” (based on the tune “O Shenandoah”) will be a musical standard across the Old Dominion as the new Virginia State Song! The group’s name, Branch House Pavilion, originated as an effort to branch away from just bluegrass music and to mix any feeling into whatever each song required. Amber Collins, the vocal lead for the band, has a long list of accomplishments including performing in the Smithsonian Folklife Festival and singing on NPR. Other members of this group include Abe Goorskey on mandolin, guitar and vocals and Scott Patrick on guitar and vocals and writing some of the tunes you will hear.
Each week these concerts will be held in the Lee S. Cochran Pavilion from 5-7 PM. Admission to the Frontier Museum is $12 for adults, $7 for children (6-12 years old). Choose a weekend in August for a great summer getaway and some good bluegrass or mountain music.