Pickin’ and Grinnin’ with Music and NC History at the Earl Scruggs Center

5 Aug 2015

If you grew up watching The Beverly Hillbillies, you may remember musicians Earl Scruggs and Lester Flatt. Occasionally, they sauntered through the Clampetts’ mansion door pickin’ and grinnin’. If you missed their appearances, you didn’t miss out on their music. Scruggs and Flat also performed the theme song for the show.

You can share the history of the toe-tapping, bluegrass music with your children by visiting a wonderful museum in western North Carolina. The Earl Scruggs Center, which opened in January 2014, is located on Lafayette Street in Shelby, North Carolina.

My local homeschool group recently visited the multi-faceted museum, housed in the former 1907 Cleveland County Courthouse. An array of activities provided opportunities for learning the history, music and cultural traditions of western North Carolina. Presented with complimentary ear buds upon arrival, each visitor is encouraged to plug in and participate throughout the museum.

You’ll learn about the legendary banjo player, Earl Scruggs, known for popularizing the three-finger playing style. Through live demonstrations, short films and exhibits you’ll discover how Scruggs continually stretched music boundaries by learning new techniques to grow with the changing times.

The museum is definitely pushing the edge with fascinating technology. One of the most popular, interactive exhibits is the Common Threads table. Touch screens, the size of your dinner table, make different instruments, various music styles and musicians come to life. The students in our group found the hands-on learning extremely fun!

Another exhibit allows participants to adjust the speed of a banjo picking visual so they can actually see the placement of each finger and the sound it produces.

In addition to the evolution of banjos and playing styles, the Earl Scruggs Center also houses exhibits on other aspects of NC history, such as the cotton industry, cooking and the advancements of technology.

Special events occur on a regular basis—from southern cooking demonstrations to outdoor performances. You can find out what’s taking place as well as the hours and prices on the website: www.earlscruggscenter.org.

Also on the website, you’ll find a multitude of free downloads to use in your homeschooling. Resources include project guides, journaling pages, as well as helpful teaching tips. There are suggestions for activities to do before, during and after your museum visit.

All ages will find things of interest at the Earl Scruggs Center. The exhibits are best suited for children over age five, but those under five get in free. Discounts are available for groups of twenty or more.

Allow plenty of time for your visit. We went with a group of sixty people and stayed about three hours. We still didn’t feel like we explored it fully and look forward to returning. Most of the homeschoolers in our group aren’t pickers, but we all left the enjoyable Earl Scruggs Center grinning.

Photos courtesy of the Earl Scruggs Center

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