Helen Andren White (1950 - 2019)

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Service Information
Reins-Sturdivant Funeral Home
44 Dan Walters Dr.
Independence, VA
Celebration of Life
Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019
2:00 PM
Jam House
Sparta, NC
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Helen Andren White died after suffering a heart attack at her home in Mouth of Wilson, Va. on Monday, Oct. 14. She was 69.
She was born in Washington, D.C., and moved with her family to Durham, N.C., in 1951.
There she attended Durham Academy and Jordan High School, from which she graduated in 1968. During high school she spent a year at Burgess Hill School in England.
She also was a violin student of Giorgio Ciompi, who founded the Ciompi Quartet at Duke University, and later studied classical guitar with Sophocles Papas, in Washington, D.C.
She attended Vassar College, dropping out in her sophomore year to move to the State of Washington, where she began learning traditional music.
In Washington, she worked as a firefighter and ranger with the National Park Service.
She also took classes at the University of Washington, graduating with BA degree, taking a semester abroad to work in Nepal.
In time, she returned to North Carolina and received a master's degree in public health from UNC-Chapel Hill, followed by master's degree in guidance counseling from Appalachian State University.
She served as a guidance counselor at Sparta Elementary School and in 2000 founded an after school program for disadvantaged youth called Junior Appalachian Musicians (JAM).
She had noticed that generational old traditions in the area were no longer celebrated by the average student or family.
She was also concerned about the general cultural isolation of students and decided that reintroduction of traditional music was a positive way to offer after school activities, which had the benefit of getting their families engaged.
She served as Executive Director for 15 years, during which the JAM program was adopted in about 40 mountain communities and 5 states.
She also taught at major traditional music camps across the country, including Port Townsend and Mars Hill College.
She toured extensively with her partner, Wayne Henderson, in the United States and Europe.
She played at many festivals, including the Raleigh Wide Open Festival in its early years.
Her compositions include works for theater and video projects as well as a Booklist honored recording of original songs for children.
She won numerous fiddle awards at Galax Fiddler's Conventions and other festivals.
She and Wayne were also featured one Thanksgiving on Prairie Home Companion. She was a hit.
She was loved by all for her energy and hope.
Survivors include her partner, Wayne Henderson; her mother, Junita R White, of Durham, N.C.; sisters. Katherine R White (husband Thomas W. Urquhart) of Raleigh, N.C., and Emily White of Cambridge, Mass.; a brother, Peregrine White Jr of Ipswich, Mass.; a nephew, Samuel A. White, of Ipswich, Mass.; and a cousin, Susanna T. Gretz of London, England.
She was predeceased by her father, Peregrine White.
A memorial service - with lots of music - will be held at the Alleghany JAM House at 2 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 20 at 360 Main St., Sparta, N.C.
Helen expressly wanted no flowers.
She did want support of JAM and contributions in her memory may be made to Junior Appalachian Musicians, Alleghany JAM, P.O. Box 1326 , Sparta, N.C. 28675.
Reins-Sturdivant Funeral Home is serving the family.
Published in Galax Gazette from Oct. 18 to Oct. 20, 2019
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