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Meet Our Instructors for 2022!

Andrew Small, JAMs Instructor

Currently serving as the Artist-In-Residence for the Crooked Road - Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail, Andrew Small is an award-winning multi-instrumentalist, singer, songwriter, and composer who holds a master’s degree in music performance from Yale University. He has performed around the world with artists including Sierra Hull, Mandolin Orange, and the North Carolina Symphony, and he performs in the house band for the PBS television show Farm and Fun Time as a member of Bill and the Belles. Andrew’s original music has been featured on recordings, podcasts, and the PBS documentary film, Rock Castle Home, and he was awarded first prize in the bluegrass category at MerleFest’s 29th Annual Chris Austin Songwriting Contest. An avid performer and proponent of traditional music styles from the Blue Ridge region, Andrew’s old time string band The Alum Ridge Boys & Ashlee won first place at the 85th Annual Old Fiddlers' Convention in Galax, VA and he performs old time, bluegrass, and country music in the duo Ashlee Watkins & Andrew Small.


Andy Buckman, JAMs Instructor

Andy has played Old Time banjo and sung in church choirs since childhood. He has performed at countless dances and fiddlers’ conventions in SW Virginia, he has recorded with local musicians including Mac Traynham, the Reed Island Rounders, and the Wolfe Brothers, and he has taught numerous classes and workshops. His music is rooted in the playing of Wade Ward, Abe Horton, Glen Smith, Matoke Slaughter, the Roan Mountain Hilltoppers, and Harold
Hausenfluck. Andy teaches both fretted and fretless banjo in traditional Blue Ridge clawhammer and thumb lead styles. He holds Bachelors and Masters degrees and he recently retired from
Franklin County Public Schools after a long career teaching US History and Political Science.

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Ashlee Watkins, BRS Enrichment Instructor

Ashlee Watkins is the enrichment teacher in the Blue Ridge Strings program. Having grown up in a musical family in New South Wales, Australia, Ashlee is a multi-instrumentalist, singer, and songwriter whose powerfully unadorned vocals exhibit a refreshing directness of expression reminiscent of Maybelle Carter, Molly O’Day, and Hazel Dickens. She has been awarded a number of blue ribbons from fiddlers’ conventions around the Southeast for her folk singing and old-time banjo and guitar playing, and in 2022, she completed a Virginia Folklife Apprenticeship with Floyd County master musician Mac Traynham. Ashlee has an enthusiastic appreciation for many kinds of music that she loves sharing with others!


Beth Meyers, Dance Instructor

Beth started dancing at age six and has never stopped! She holds a BS in Dance Education with Certification in grades K-12 as well as an MS in Gerontology. As a Social Gerontologist and Dance Educator, she has over 32 years of experience sharing her knowledge and skills to enhance good health and quality of life for both children and adults.
Beth is the founder of “River of Life Geriatric Family Care Services, LLC,” located in Floyd. Her business offers Geriatric Consultation, Elder care assessment and planning, “Ageless Grace Body Brain Fitness Program,” and a variety of dance-based programs for Children and Adults.

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Chesley Mercado, Little Ear Worms Instructor

Chesley Sigmon Mercado, Ed.D., MT-BC has many years experience sharing music with people both young and old. She was department chair and professor of music therapy at Georgia College & State University for the past 19 years. Her primary instruments are flute, fiddle, guitar and piano. She is passionate about sharing music with others and the friendships that form , the joy it brings, and the learning that takes place in a non-threatening fun environment. Chesley recently moved here with her dog Bella to be closer to her family who are long-time residents of Floyd County.

Christine Steiffer, Dance Instructor

Dance is for Everyone! This class is a great way for children to learn about different styles of dance, make new friends, and create lasting memories. Designed for movers of all levels, our class gives students the opportunity to try a wide variety of styles. We strive to provide exceptional dance training in a welcoming, supportive atmosphere—promoting a strong work ethic, teamwork, and FUN! The styles of dance included range from: Ballet, Jazz, Lyrical, Contemporary, Partner dances and who knows, maybe even a TikTok dance trend or two! 


Elizabeth Linkous, Blue Ridge Strings Instructor

Elizabeth has been involved with many music organizations in the area, including Roanoke Symphony Orchestra, Blacksburg String Quartet and Ensemble, St. John's Music on the Corner, Piedmont Suzuki Ensemble, and CelloFest of Blacksburg. She was a big help in getting the Blue Ridge Strings program started at The June Bug Center, and has been a great asset to this community and students. She is also trained in the Suzuki Method.


Emily Gruver, Musical Theatre Instructor

Emily received a Bachelor of Arts in both Communications (Media Production) and Theatre. Before working at The June Bug Center, she worked as a video producer at Citizens Cooperative and a News Producer at WDBJ7. She is also co-founder of The Floyd Community Theatre Guild, which is part of The June Bug Center and has directed many of the young actors' productions such as Frozen, Big Bad Musical, Oz the Musical, and many others.


George Slusher, JAMs Instructor

I was born and raised in Floyd County in a musical family. My parents played and sang traditional old-time and gospel music along with many relatives and friends. I was fortunate to have access from an early age to a variety of musical instruments, namely the harmonica, autoharp, ukulele, guitar, mandolin, banjo, and fiddle. At the age of 11 I started playing trumpet in the school band which provided me with a foundation of music theory and taught me to read a musical chart. That same year I began learning the guitar, getting the chords from a Mel Bay instruction book and rhythm techniques from watching my parents and other guitarists during the frequent music gatherings. Over the years I have been fortunate to play in a number of bands in different music genres and develop some facility on guitar, mandolin, and banjo. My goal with the JAM’s program is to help students learn in much the same way that I did, by learning in a group setting and by watching and listening to other musicians to see how all the pieces fit together.


Gina Dilg, JAMs Instructor

Gina has been steeped in the traditions of the music from the Southwest to the Southern
Appalachians since she was a young child. Raised in a family of musicians, she developed an affection
for the bright, energetic music of these traditions.


Jason Dilg, JAMs Instructor

Jason is a multi-instrumentalist singer, instructor, and respected interpreter of Appalachian dance tunes and ballads who loves sharing and teaching music with people of all ages. He's played banjo in the winning band in the renowned contest at the national Appalachian String Band Festival in Clifttop W.V.; he took first in banjo and third in fiddle the Fiddles and Folklife Festival at Warren Wilson College; and played guitar behind the Freighthoppers' fiddler David Bass in the first-place old time band at the Tazewell County Fiddlers Convention. He was a member of Colorado's favorite old-time band High on the Hog for four years, and served as an adjunct faculty banjo instructor for Naropa University. Since moving to Radford in 2017, he has won even more ribbons at the Galax Old Fiddlers Convention and many others along the Southeastern fiddler's convention circuit on banjo, mandolin, guitar, and singing as part of Trish Fore's Blue Ridge Wildcats and as a duo with his wife, Gina. 


Kirsten Griffiths, JAMs Director

Kirsten recently stepped up as the Floyd JAM Director in the fall of 2018, but she has volunteered
with the program for many years. Her daughter Sophie helps with the beginning fiddle students, and her
other two children are enrolled in the JAM program. She has many connections with the Floyd County


Lydean Spangler, STEAM Assistant

I have been programming for 40 years: first on a very simple computer in my parent’s home and then studying computer science in college.  One of my first jobs was to find a way to transfer large amounts of data from one application running on one machine to many applications running on the same machine, but also to 4 other computers.  For the last 25 years, it has been put to use building aircraft simulators – using real aircraft cockpits.  Watching students create projects using logic, programming and hardware is truly wonderful!