The Outdoor Academy and Mountain Song Festival
Sometimes, it seems like progressive mountain culture can be summarized as banjos, dancing, environmentalism, and local food. Semester 37 got to experience all four elements this last weekend at the 8th annual Mountain Song Festival, which benefits the Transylvania County Boys and Girls Club.
OA has been involved with the festival since its inception. Once again, our students proudly volunteered at the composting and recycling stations. Mountain Song is a flagship for sustainable festivals. They are able to compost or recycle 80% of waste generated at the festival. On Friday night, only five bags of trash were taken to the landfill. Our students were instrumental to these efforts, educating the festival patrons about innovative materials that allow for plates and flatware to be composted. It was a great opportunity for our students to advocate for the environment while engaging with the community at large.
For me, and for many of our students, the highlight of the experience was the music. We were able to see banjo virtuosos Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn performing a diverse repertoire that ranged from Chinese folk songs to classical compositions. Comedian, actor, and banjo player Steve Martin joined the duo for a surprise guest performance—Martin lives in the area and has a musical partnership with festival co-headliners The Steep Canyon Rangers. For our students, it was an amazing opportunity to witness world-class musicians, with the satisfaction that they had earned their ticket by serving the community.
While we were at Mountain Song, I was struck by how the OA community extends far beyond our campus. We saw alumni, former Residential Faculty, the inventor of Morning Watch, old Program Directors and Medical Coordinators, and family members of our current faculty. When we ate our delicious locally-sourced volunteer dinner, we discovered that our Garden Manager and his wife were doing the catering. OA was everywhere, making this great community event happen.