The Barn Jam

Meg Litteral’s barn jam takes place in her living room. A glaring irony to outsiders observing this gathering of community musicians, it is soon eclipsed by the yearning cry of fiddles accompanied by mandolins and guitars. “You can basically jam anywhere,” she says. The point lies in the tradition of the music.

The jam works like this: One person begins by choosing a song, and the group plays it from memory. If a musician does not know the song, they are learn it on the go. While the melody of each tune is concrete, each musician brings their own influence to the song. Fiddlers add harmonies or flourishes to the melody. Says Meg, “There’s no proper way to play it…It’s easy to try something new. No one’s judging anyone.”

For Meg, the jam is more than an opportunity to express herself doing what she loves– it is about closeness between people. She believes there is a “camaraderie” to Old-Time music. On a community-wide scale, this remains true. Similar jams throughout Knox County provide musicians a venue to share their love for this aspect of their history, while also actively working to preserve it. Currently there is a youth movement within the Old-Time community– According to Meg, there was an overwhelming youth presence at an August fiddle contest this year. Additionally, Meg gives fiddle lessons to local children in her free time.

Knox Countians are proud of their musical roots in Old-Time folk, as can be seen in their love for Dan Emmett, and it is clear that they value its continued presence in their community. They see the social benefits it provides by way of the barn jam and they are actively attempting to preserve it by passing it down to the younger generation.

“Old time music is not going to go away. It’s the music that people brought over from Europe and adapted in the United States. It’s not all about the music. Part of it is the social side. It’s relaxing, it’s really cathartic, and it makes you realize that this music isn’t just something you love, you can share it with other people.” –Meg Litteral

Photo: Meg performed in a Sauder, Ohio fiddle contest with guitarist Gideon Eddy in July, 2013. The Blade/Jeffery Smith.

Further Reading:

Click to access appalachianmusic.pdf

–Jonah Zitelli ’20 and Dora Segall ’20


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