Like a lot of people, I have a soft spot in my heart for “The Andy Griffith Show.” There’s just something so comforting about the idea of a small town where neighbors not only know each other, but they actually enjoy spending time together. It’s Americana at its finest. When I’m introduced to a new town, I mentally rate it on the “Mayberry Scale” of one to ten. Maybe you’ve never heard of Mountain View, Arkansas. Well, probably you’ve never heard of Mountain View, Arkansas. But I’m here to tell you that Mountain View, Arkansas comes as close to scoring a perfect ten on my Mayberry Scale as any town I’ve ever seen!
Play Me Some Mountain Music
What makes Mountain View so special that it has attained the highest mark on my Mayberry Scale? It’s the music! Mountain View is known as the “Folk Music Capitol of the World,” but that’s only part of the story. The town is filled with music of the folk, country, bluegrass and gospel varieties. It’s sort of like the entire town is the stage at the Grand Ole Opry!
This isn’t just a gimmick to draw in tourists (although tourists do visit). The music of Mountain View has been passed down from generation to generation like crown jewels or your grandma’s peach cobbler recipe! And, that my friend is the real secret of this Mayberry-esque town.
Train up a Child in the Way He Should Fiddle…
In a day and age when many parents can barely understand a word their kids say (Hint: There’s a BIG difference between M&Ms, the candy coated treat and Eminem, the rapper), the parents and children of Mountain View seem to speak the same language musically. That’s largely thanks to the “Music Roots” program through the Mountain View Public School System and the Ozark Folk Music Center State Park.
Through the Music Roots program, any student in 4th through 8th grade can receive a free musical instrument and music instruction. And children who are home-schooled are also eligible to participate in the Music Roots program. Banjos, mandolins, fiddles and autoharps are among the instruments of choice. The program is partially supported through a grant and whole-heartedly supported by long-time residents. Local musicians provide the music lessons, free of charge. Their enthusiasm is as contagious as the toe-tapping rhythms they teach.
Why is the program geared for 4th-8th graders? I’m not really sure. Maybe it’s because those are the years when the average child is able quickly grasp musical concepts. Or, maybe it’s because the people of Mountain View are trying to connect with the children before their teenage cynicism and eye rolling muscles are fully developed. Whatever the reason, it seems to work!
True confession time: I’ve never been someone who believes it takes a village to raise a child. I’ve always considered that to be the job of the parents. But I will say that I believe the right village can greatly enrich a child’s upbringing. Mountain View is such a village.
Music Roots is so innovative that people have actually relocated to Mountain View just so their children can have this musical advantage. When you stop and think about it, it makes a lot of sense. The benefits of learning how to play an instrument last a lifetime.
Former school superintendent, Danny Thomas, started the Music Roots program in the 1990s. (I must point out that the pilot of “The Andy Griffith Show” was a spinoff of “The Danny Thomas Show”. Coincidence or creepy gameshow trivia? You be the judge!) When NBC Nightly News featured Mountain View and its unique approach to music education, Thomas was quoted as saying, “Our forefathers who lived in this isolated, remote area of the mountains made a lot of sacrifices to make life better for their children. A lot of stories that took place here are told in the songs and the music.” How wonderful that those stories are being kept alive!
They’re a Pickin’ and They’re a Grinnin’!
You don’t have to visit a school to hear the music of Mountain View. You can find more live music than coffee shops on the street corners of downtown Mountain View during any hour when good, honest folks are likely to be awake! In the evenings, people are invited to bring their own lawn chairs and “set a spell” while listening to some fabulous local performers. Moving lawn chairs from group to group, listeners can enjoy an almost nightly game of Mountain View’s version of musical chairs! I like to think of it as listening to jam sessions by people who likely know how to make jam!
Hill music fans can also escape the Ozark mosquitoes and venture indoors for some music. There are indoor shows and “pickin’ barns” that offer a variety of music and comedy shows. It’s sort of like a mini Branson, Missouri without all of the traffic!
Th-th-th-That’s Not All, Folks!
Do you remember when I mentioned that the Ozark Folk Center State Park helps support the school’s Music Roots program? Well, that’s not all the folk center does. It is a destination in its own right. Visitors can enjoy pre WWII mountain music and learn about the crafts and heritage of the Ozarks.
The craft village has around two-dozen local artisans who demonstrate the crafts you might expect to see at a place call the Ozark Folk Center. Visitors can watch artisans weave baskets, make dolls, make lye soap, dip candles, make knives, throw pottery and so much more. The craft village is open between April and November.
About that Mayberry Scale of mine… Perhaps I need to rethink that. Maybe Mountain View, Arkansas deserves its very own scale for quaint, small town life. Shoot, if Mayberry had had some of the things Mountain View has to offer, Andy and Barney wouldn’t have had to drive Helen and Thelma Lou into Mount Pilot so often! And, Opie might still be living there today.
Enjoy this little video about Mountain View, created during the “off season”!
Happy Trails, y’all!