GATE CITY — Local jewelry maker and Scott County native Caron Lipe is creating what she calls fiddlehead fern pendants in different styles and finishes to help raise funds and awareness for the Scott County Junior Appalachian Musicians (JAMs) program. The program, which teaches traditional mountain music to local students, depends heavily on volunteers and donations.
Lipe uses flora and fauna she finds on her own property to make her jewelry.
“The fiddlehead is what people call the shape of the fern when it first comes out of the ground in the spring,” said Lipe. “It looks just like a fiddlehead on the actual instrument itself. The pendants are neutral and wearable and will go with everything.”
Lipe says the pendants will also serve as a way to honor the memory of the late Sue Ella Boatright-Wells, who was instrumental in helping to bring Scott County JAMs to the county’s students. Lipe is calling these fiddlehead fern pendants “Sue Ella Pendants.”
Boatright-Wells, who passed away earlier this month, was passionate about keeping the culture and traditions of the Southwest Virginia region alive and growing. Through her interactions with musicians throughout the region, Boatright-Wells established the Mountain Empire Community College’s Mountain Music School in 2004. This unique educational program offers opportunities for students age 10 and older to experience traditional Appalachian old-time music in a fun, enriching and supportive environment.
To further expand traditional music education in Southwest Virginia, Boatright-Wells worked with school divisions throughout the region to establish the Junior Appalachian Musicians programs. These after-school programs, like Scott County JAMs, have allowed hundreds of students to learn the music, traditions and heritage of the Appalachian culture.
Scott County JAMs students honored the memory of Boatright-Wells during her celebration of life service on Sunday, Aug. 7, at MECC. Boatright-Wells’ husband, Tim “Beech” Wells, says his late wife would have been proud of the JAMs students’ performance.
“I could see her Sunday, smiling, patting her foot, with a proud tear every once in a while. ‘Listen to those kids, just listen to them,’ (she would’ve said),” said Beech.
Lipe said $15 of each fiddlehead fern pendant sale will go directly to the Scott County JAMs program to help pay for lessons in banjo, guitar and fiddle.
“I hope these pendants will serve as conversation starters to spread the word about a wonderful program and help bring attention and inspiration to the talented kids in our region,” Lipe said.
The Scott County JAMs students have played at Homecraft Days at MECC and the Heartwood Center in Abingdon.