A! Magazine for the Arts

Jack Tottle and Ted Olson

Jack Tottle and Ted Olson

Achievements & Transitions at East Tennessee State University

May 25, 2010

Founder of ETSU Bluegrass Program speaks at Harvard

East Tennessee State University Professor Emeritus Jack Tottle spoke in Cambridge, Mass., at Harvard University's recent "Fire on the Mountain" bluegrass music symposium.

His topic during the morning session was "African American Influences in Bluegrass Music." He also touched on the importance of Washington, D.C., in the evolution of bluegrass and on the role currently played by the ETSU Bluegrass, Old-Time and Country Music Program, which Tottle founded in 1982.

Participating musicians included Harvard student Clint W. Miller from Abingdon, Va., North Carolina fiddling virtuoso Bobby Hicks, Kentucky's "newgrass" pioneer and mandolinist Sam Bush, California banjo virtuoso Alison Brown, and Garry West (co-owner with Brown of Compass Records), who discussed today's market for bluegrass and related acoustic musical styles.

Attendees included Raymond McLain, director of Morehead State University's Kentucky Center for Traditional Music and former director of the ETSU Bluegrass, Old-Time and Country Music Program; founders of Rounder Records; and members of the Boston Bluegrass Union, which sponsors the Joe Val Festival and conducts bluegrass outreach in area schools.

In addition to Tottle, academic speakers included Matt Glaser, artistic director of the American Roots Music Program at the Berklee College of Music, Boston; Michelle Kisliuk of the University of Virginia; and Neil Rosenberg of the Memorial University of Newfoundland. The morning session was moderated by Boston Globe folk music writer Scott Alarik.

ACMA Establishes Leon Kiser Scholarship at ETSU

The Appalachian Cultural Music Association (ACMA), based in Bristol, Va., has established the Leon Kiser Scholarship at ETSU. The ACMA presented a $1,000 check as "seed money" for the scholarship, which will benefit students enrolled in ETSU's Bluegrass, Old Time and Country Music Program with curriculum leading to a four-year degree. The ACMA promised that the scholarship will be endowed to the required $10,000 level by the end of this year, and the first ACMA Leon Kiser Scholarship will be awarded in 2011. "The late Leon Kiser worked very hard for decades promoting bluegrass music," stated Tim White, president of ACMA, a non-profit

For more information on ETSU's Bluegrass, Old Time and Country Music Program or to make a contribution to the Leon Kiser Scholarship, call 423-439-6969.

Olson Named Editor of Journal of Appalachian Studies

Dr. Ted Olson
of ETSU's Department of Appalachian Studies has been named editor of the Journal of Appalachian Studies, a peer-reviewed, interdisciplinary scholarly publication. The summer 2010 issue will include an introductory essay by Olson, Appalachian images in American publishers' bindings from 1888-1930, African American music and musicians, and more.

Olson is the author of Blue Ridge Folklife and Breathing in Darkness: Poems. He has edited several volumes of works by influential Appalachian author James Still, and, with the late music historian Charles K. Wolfe, Olson edited the award-winning scholarly study entitled The Bristol Sessions: Writings About the Big Bang of Country Music. More recently, he served as editor of CrossRoads: A Southern Culture Annual and as co-editor of the book A Tennessee Folklore Sampler: Selections from the Tennessee Folklore Society Bulletin, 1935-2009.