Celebrating culture and the need for a library

There are many worthwhile upshots from The Sounds of Jackson County recording project, but two stand out among them: one, that something special can indeed happen when a community comes together; and two, the support for a new Sylva library is strong, and county commissioners need to sharpen their pencils in the upcoming budget year and find a way to find a way to pay for it.

The Sounds of Jackson County is the name of a new CD and soon-to-be-released DVD of the rich variety of music in the county. By bringing together more than 40 musicians from a wide spectrum of musical styles for a concert and recording two weeks ago, organizers, in effect, took a snapshot of Jackson County’s musical and cultural heritage. From lifelong players of mountain music to relative newcomers who play blues to foreigners who play classical and jazz, the project pulled together the diverse strands that make up this mountain community in the 21st century.

Projects that truly bring together communities are often attempted but seldom succeed. Too often most of us move around in our comfort zones and don’t work hard enough to connect to those who may live a very different life or come from a different place.

In this case, however, it all came together. Linda Watson, a long-time library supporter, first approached Western Carolina University’s Bruce Frazier about using the college’s resources to lead the way for this volunteer project. Frazier agreed, and included Pat Acheson, who runs the university’s recording studio, in the initial planning. They decided to go beyond just a recording and also make a DVD of the project.

The teachers, of course, wanted to bring in their students and make it a learning exercise. While there is no doubt that these students sharpened their technical recording skills, perhaps more important is the connection these students hopefully made with the purveyors of authentic Appalachian culture and other music. That’s a lesson one won’t find in a classroom.

But The Sounds of Jackson County project had another more tangible, short-term mission. It was a fund-raising project for the Sylva Library. The Friends of the Library have been raising money since the beginning of last year, and this project will no doubt help the group’s efforts. The reality, however, is that this project needs much more than a dedicated group of volunteers if it is to come to fruition.

As budget work gets under way, county commissioners need to make a plan and a formal commitment. This concert-CD-DVD project is proof that there is broad support among the county’s voters for a new library to replace the aging Main Street location. Sure, there are other needs in Jackson County, but this one is long overdue. And after all the fighting about location over the past several years, commissioners could go a long way toward resolving lingering animosities by putting the project high on their priority list. It is long overdue.

The Sounds of Jackson County is a great community project, a coming together of people to celebrate life and culture. That’s exactly what a library does, and it’s time for this one to finally get its due.

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