“I love dancing,” says Amanda Wright Spencer. “That’s been my way to be involved with the music all through my life.” Amanda learned about bluegrass, and then oldtime, music attending dances and jam sessions with her father, and she has learned to play fiddle, banjo, and guitar. Today, Amanda attends regional jam sessions, fiddlers’ conventions, and dances, and she teaches with the Junior Appalachian Musicians (JAM) program in Ashe, Watauga, and Alleghany Counties.
Amanda was raised in the Collettsville community of Caldwell County. “Growing up I heard a lot of bluegrass gospel,” she says. Her grandmother took Amanda to church, where she heard gospel programs. She heard other music when she was with her father. “Every Friday and Saturday me and my dad would go somewhere,” she recalls, “Mostly to jams and some dances and street festivals.”
When she was 16 years old, Amanda’s father bought a fiddle for her, and she became interested in playing music. She heard old-time music at the dances and jams, and that caught her interest. “I really got crazy over the old-time stuff,” she says. As a student at Western Carolina University, Amanda attended a regular dance at the VFW in Cherokee. There she met Garr Mosteller and other musicians. One evening, attending a jam session in Fries, Virginia, Amanda was invited to join the jam. “The people there were relentless to get people to play,” she says.
Amanda took lessons with Emily Spencer, and she heard Emily’s husband, Thornton, play fiddle. “It was mind-blowing to hear him play,” she says. Emily helped Amanda learn some tunes on the fiddle, and soon she also taught her to play banjo and guitar. When the Spencers’ daughter Martha left her position teaching in the Ashe County JAM program, she recommended Amanda as her replacement.
Amanda performs on fiddle with Brian Yerman as a duet, and she plays banjo with her husband Kilby Spencer in a band that performs at dances and fiddlers’ conventions around the region. That band has gone by various names, including Haw Orchard Old-Time Band and the Virginia-Carolina Band, but has settled as The Crooked Road Ramblers.
Amanda Spencer is available for performances as a duet with Brian Yerman or with an old-time string band with Crooked Road Ramblers. She is also available for lessons in fiddle, banjo, and guitar, and elementary school classroom programs.