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Heart Strings Band is keeping the music of Appalachia alive

Aptly named, the Heart Strings Band plays on your emotions. Emotions that usually come with a little knee slappin’ and toe tappin’.

Whether it’s a performance at Hagood Mill in Pickens or a jam session at Oolenoy Community House in Pumpkintown, it’s obvious that the band members are enjoying the music as much as the audience.

“I can’t image not playing,” says Susan Ware Snow, the newest Heart Strings member, playing upright bass and guitar. “I went to a jam session one Friday night over 20 years ago and here I am. It’s addictive.”

Formed eight years ago, Heart Strings Band includes Snow, Joy Evans on fiddle and Appalachian dulcimer, Lib Porter on autoharp, Dan Hendricks on guitar, mandolin and harmonica, and Norma Hendricks on guitar, upright bass and fiddle. The love of Appalachian music brought them together and a desire to pass it on to the next generation keeps them playing, and playing, and playing.

It was Norma who established the Friday night jam sessions at Oolenoy where the familiar refrain of “just one more” kept the jams going some nights until 3 a.m. The community celebrated 30 years of Friday night jams on June 22 with guitar and banjo pickers and fiddle players of all ages joining in.

“I started playing guitar in 1986,” Norma explains. “I met folks in Toccoa, GA that invited me to their jam session. I was looking for something near me but all I found were home pickers. I got four or five together for group playing, then they invited others. We found a place to meet then went to Oolenoy for more space as the jams grew.”

For members of the Heart Strings Band, the preservation of Appalachian music extends well beyond Friday nights. Almost every member of the band is or has been an instructor in the Young Appalachian Musicians (YAM) and Preservation of Southern Appalachian Music (POSAM) programs that teach guitar, banjo, fiddle and mandolin to children and adults.

Heart Strings also is dedicated to the protection and celebration of local heritage sites like Hagood Mill in Pickens County. The band plays there the second Saturday of each month to bring the music of Appalachia to life for visitors to the historic mill.

So, what does the band do between performances? Fiddle player Joy Evans tugs at the heart in another way with her custom jewelry designs. The owner of Spirithawk Jewelry, Evans designs, hand hammers, shapes, stamps and files each piece of her hand-crafted jewelry in the old southwest Indian way.

Snow travels the Upstate teaching guitar to elementary and middle school students by day, and to adults in the evenings through the POSAM program. Now retired, Dan and Norma Hendricks enjoy teaching young musicians the art of flat picking. Lib Porter is enjoying retirement and staying closer to home to play her beloved autoharp. A onetime member of The Rampey Family, Porter traveled the Southeast for several years with her parents and siblings singing gospel music at church revivals.

For those who’d like a taste of folk, gospel and Americana, the Heart Strings Band will play at Hagood Mill the second Saturday of each month beginning July 13 from Noon until 2. Admission is free.

If you’d like to book the Heart Strings Band for an event, call (864) 417-7363. You also can find Heart Strings Band on Facebook.

As they say at Oolenoy, it’s finger pickin’ good.

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