Our Origins

_DSC5443 copy 2The Southern Highland Music Foundation (SHMF) was founded in July 2013 by Tom Nixon. Tom’s background of musical experiences was developed at home, where music was played and encouraged; in church, where music was an integral part of services; and in school band and chorus. These experiences fueled his interest and inspired him to make music a large part of his life.  There was one entity in particular, however, that especially provided an environment for Tom to grow as a musician and allowed him true liberty to express individual music artistry. That entity was the Foxfire Music Program.  

 babytomanddeanThe Foxfire Fund Inc. offered classes other than music, but what is important is how Foxfire defines itself. Foxfire’s own definition is given as:

“Foxfire is a method of classroom instruction—not a step-by-step checklist, but an overarching approach that incorporates the original Foxfire classroom’s building blocks of giving students the opportunity to make decisions about how they learn required material, using the community around them as a resource to aid that learning, and connecting the students’ work with an audience beyond the classroom.”    

129598164192262812The practice of sharing knowledge among peers and the focus on student interests are key cornerstones of the instructional methods. This method allowed the creativity of Tom and the other students to flourish. In the Foxfire Music Performance classes, Tom became part of the Foxfire Boys Band. Playing in this band afforded him many performance opportunities and learning experiences over the past three decades.ffboysatrchsgym

After completing his undergraduate studies at Piedmont College in 1990, Tom chose teaching as a career. He taught at Rabun County High School as an interim math teacher and then accepted a job with a federally funded agency (Ninth District Opportunity) as a curriculum specialist. He later advanced into an administrative position with the agency’s Central Office. This position gave him opportunities to further his training and education and focus his interests on how people learn. Research on brain development and the diversity of the human learning experience were areas that he studied and that he continues to use to make himself a better facilitator in the discovery/learning process.

027After ten years with Ninth District Opportunity, Tom turned his attention to his primary passion, music. He left the agency and began teaching private music lessons and classes, which led to the opening of the Blue Ridge Music Store in 2005. The store has grown to offer instruction in music of all genres and instruments of all types. It has a full service recording studio, performance hall, retail store, and offers rental and repair services.  

As classrooms began to fill up, Tom found that many of his students struggled to pay for their lessons and many more , who wanted to learn, simply could not afford to pay. This was the spark that led him to create a new, non-profit organization dedicated to furthering the musical arts through donations and fundraising. This new organization was chartered to provide no-cost, and low-cost music instruction for both children and adults who had a desire to learn to play, but lacked the necessary funds.  In July, 2013, Tom formed the Southern Highland Music Foundation.

Relying on the Foxfire music instruction method, SHMF students are encouraged to learn from each other and to explore their heritage. This is now the basis of the Southern Highland Music Foundations’ methodology and what has made the program so successful.  When the student’s creativity is unleased, they learn at an accelerated rate. Learning becomes something they desire and it makes an impact on every area of their life. Tom experienced this for himself as a Foxfire student and seeks to carry on this tradition at SHMF.