AT AGE 35, Jim Wood left his native Williamson County. He resettled in Flat Creek, a bucolic village in the Southernmost part of Bedford County, to escape the gravitational pull of Music City. Jim had spent the previous 21 years learning from his predecessors and working in the Nashville music machine. Working in the best recording studios in the world may have seemed like a dream, but the reality of the studio scene and corporate jobs became repetitious and less than rewarding.
Jim said, “It has been customary for decades to have sessions at ten, two, and six o’clock. Sessions normally happen in three-hour blocks. Trying to compress creativity into slots like that wasn’t very satisfying. It creates a cookie-cutter product. Even though I worked primarily on projects that were usually somewhat ‘outside the box’ and not as restrictive as most commercial sessions, I still felt unfulfilled past a certain point.
“At 35, I was very high mileage. A lot of things were happening in the industry in terms of styles changing in ways I didn’t enjoy, and I had expended so much energy doing music for everybody else that I had reached a point in my life where I really wanted to do more of my own thing. I wanted to be far enough away from Nashville that I didn’t feel its presence on a daily basis but close enough to where my fellow session players could come to my studio when I needed them. I needed space but not isolation.”
He continued, “The talent pool in Nashville is absolutely mind-boggling, and I value the relationships that I have with the army of these great players. Fairview, Tennessee, was a wonderful place to grow up, but it had kind of lost its soul by becoming more of a bedroom community for Nashville. On the one hand, I moved further from Nashville, and on the other hand, I moved to a small community similar to what Fairview had been in my childhood. We found Flat Creek, and it’s been perfect. I found myself exactly where I needed to be.”
Jim was born to be a musician. His father, Jimmy Wood, a championship guitarist himself, was heavily involved in the grassroots music scene where Jim grew up, 45 minutes west of Music Row. By the time he was 10, he was hanging out with his neighbor, Buddy Spicher, a member of the Nashville A-Team of session musicians and one of the greatest fiddle players of all time. Fairview had been a hotbed for traditional music for many generations, and this fertile ground nurtured Jim’s rapid development. He won 15 fiddle and mandolin state championship titles, including five Tennessee State Fiddle Championships, and he joined the professional musicians union at the age of 14.
Jim’s wife, Inge, is an exceptional vocalist and holds state championship guitar titles in Kentucky and Alabama, and she was the director of the Tennessee Fiddle Orchestra.
They settled in Flat Creek and began their family while committing energy toward promoting the power of music to impact lives and enrich communities. They are actively involved with their music at the Flat Creek Community Center, and for 22 years they have hosted the music for the regular Tuesday contra dances and jams at the center.
“We have a bunch of excellent amateur musicians in the area; some of these pickers are at the level of semi-professional. At the same time, beginners are welcome and can always join us. It’s a great thing; there’s great energy to it,” said Jim.
Together, the couple has passed on the gift of music through their Jim and Inge Wood School of Music. Jim has had 38 students win national and/or state championships, and the Tennessee Fiddle Orchestra had approximately 160 musicians throughout its seven-year run.
Lately, their teaching is expanding its reach through a new venture: the Jim Wood Online Acoustic Music Academy.
Jim said, “I had gotten to the age where I started to think about the fact that I don’t have as many years left on this earth as I once did. I enjoy teaching and realized this body of material I’ve been able to acquire over the years needs to be accessible to more people. I was very fortunate to be born at exactly the right time and place. I met all the right people and had all the right teachers, mentors, and opportunities. Most of my artistic and professional evolution is because of the many people who helped me along the way. It’s really important to me to pass along this knowledge that others gave to me.”
The online school features Jim’s Helix Learning System which is designed to help students at all experience levels, and it’s an ideal resource for homeschoolers. While Jim is working with the academy, Inge is continuing private lessons, and their son, James, and daughter, Angela, are exploring their futures in music. The family enjoys performing together occasionally, and interesting studio projects are constantly in the works.
If sharing is caring, Jim and Inge Wood have made it a way of life. GN