The legacy of Tommy Jarrell lives on in the Mount Airy area and the world.
That was no more evident than when a group of young musicians showed they are ready to carry on the late fiddle player’s legacy during the annual Tommy Jarrell Festival, organized by the Surry Arts Council.
Tanya Jones, council director, said a youth competition has been a part of the festival all 16 years.
A number of children took to the stage at the Earle Theatre Saturday afternoon to compete against each other. The kids competed in categories broken down by instrument and age. Those ages 5 through 12 competed against each other, and 13- through 18-year-olds squared off against each other.
Though the competition included many local children, some traveled long distances to compete.
Lake Carver, 7, said she came up from Mocksville. She has been plaing the fiddle for nearly three years, and has competed many other places. She started playing because her mother and father play, and her grandfather played guitar.
Though she said she gets nervous sometimes, no nerves were evident when she hit the stage to play Red-Haired Boy alongside her teacher Larry Skipper, who plays in the band Uncle Joe & the Shady Rest.
Lake wasn’t the youngest of those in the fiddle competition. Hunter Hiatt said he just turned 6 and started playing fiddle six months ago. He also competed at the Galax Fiddlers Convention.
Though Hunter was the one who wanted to pursue music, he, like Lake, was inspired by the prior generation.
Todd Hiatt has been playing the guitar since he was 8 years old.
Prior to the competition, Travis Watts, 15, was keeping those on the streets entertained with a few selections on his banjo.
He said he’s been playing since he was 9. Though some kids are interested in sports and other activities, music has become his thing, and he travels around the area competing with his banjo.
Saturday’s competition, however, was only a portion of the activities which surround the Tommy Jarrell Festival, said Jones. It is a weekend packed with activities which celebrate and honor Jarrell’s legacy and the music which has become a staple in local tradition.
The event includes a number of workshops and concerts.
Jones said one of the most noteworthy concerts was set to happen Saturday evening. Bryan Sutton, a 10-time International Bluegrass Music Association Guitar Player of the Year, was set to play at the Earle.
Jones said he is well known for his time spent playing with Ricky Skaggs.
However, he has also toured with the Dixie Chicks, Jerry Douglas, Sam Bush, Bela Fleck, Hot Rize, Chris Thile and Tony Rice, and he has recorded songs with Garth Brooks, Taylor Swift, Blake Shelton, Eric Church, Brad Paisley, Carrie Underwood and Dolly Parton.
Sutton also won a Grammy Award for his guitar duet with Doc Watson on “Whiskey Before Breakfast.”
Sutton also performed at North Surry on Thursday, a concert Jones said was paid for using a Traditional Arts Touring grant from South Arts.
Marsha Todd taught flat-footin’ dance lessons, and Jimmy Vipperman taught free youth music lessons at the Earle on Thursday.
On Friday night, a Tommy Jarrell Birthday Celebrtation, which included performances by the Slate Mountain Ramblers, Buckstankle Boys, and Zephyr Lightning Bolts Old-Time Band, was held at the historic theatre.
Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.