1 of 2
The stage at the Jerry Run Summer Theater hosts music from bluegrass to newgrass to gospel.
2 of 2
Jerry Run Theater.
Dusty Anderson built the Jerry Run Theater.
It sits in the woods in the middle of nowhere, a part of central West Virginia so remote that there is only one town within 25 miles and it has fewer than 800 people. It’s the last place you’d expect to find a concert hall, much less one that is a beautiful all-wood creation that seats 150, has enviable acoustics and is the work of one man.
Acoustic bands from across West Virginia vie to play at the Jerry Run Summer Theater in Webster County, drawn by the intimate setting, the sound and attentive audience. The bluegrass group Third String travels all over the state, but member Jason Miller says, “We’d rather play there than anywhere.”
On Saturday nights and occasionally Fridays from late April to early October, West Virginians drive as much as two hours to the tiny community of Jerry Run to hear music in Dusty Anderson’s one-of-a-kind concert hall. They cross a tiny footbridge over Jerry Run Creek, pay $5 ($3 for kids) and sit downstairs or in the balcony beneath a vaulted, arched roof, usually listening to bluegrass but sometimes gospel, country, folk or acoustic rock.
Anderson emcees the show and acts as sound man. His wife Renee handles concessions, his mother Amelia sells tickets and his father Judd mows the acreage around the theater. They live in two houses across the road.
Dusty is an independent carpenter and jack of all trades, and building a music hall began as one of his pipe dreams. Being a musician himself, one of his first ideas was to build a place for bands to jam. Then he and Renee, a teacher at the nearby elementary-middle school, helped stage a series of benefit concerts to save the school from consolidation.
The concerts were held in the gym and raised thousands of dollars. They convinced Dusty that a community music theater could make a go of it.
He studied acoustics, made drawings and a scale model and poured the foundation in 1995. He worked on the project any time he could. Progress was slow, though many local people pitched in for a few hours at a time. Along the way he also fashioned a handsome log cabin, sleeping eight to 10 people, for visiting bands. He erected 12 trusses from floor to the 21-foot-high ceiling.
“I would wait till someone came by with a four-wheel drive or real low-geared truck and talk them into pulling it up,” he said. A neighbor with a tractor told Dusty when he had a truss ready to sound two short blasts and one long one on his car’s horn and he’d come. He raised the last two.
Building on a shoestring, Dusty traded his labor for 12,000 board feet of poplar from a lumber mill and paid a homeowner less than half-price for a flatbed truck worth of shingles. A musician friend who was a night watchman at a college alerted him they were replacing the seats in the science building. Dusty made three or four trips to haul the old seats home.
It took him 10 years to complete the theater. By then, he was already arranging the first concerts.