A! Magazine for the Arts

Dwayne Anderson is the winner of ETSU's first Leon Kiser Scholarship. (Andre Teague/Bristol Herald Courier)

Dwayne Anderson is the winner of ETSU's first Leon Kiser Scholarship. (Andre Teague/Bristol Herald Courier)

New Recognition for Old Time Music

September 7, 2010

*** This story was published Friday, Sept. 3 in the Bristol Herald Courier. ***

BRISTOL, Va. – Calling it a humbling experience, musician Dwayne Anderson on Thursday became the first recipient of the Leon Kiser Scholarship.

With his head bent slightly downward and a smile on his face Thursday, the East Tennessee State University junior received the first full-ride scholarship for the school's bluegrass, old time and country music program. The scholarship was developed by the Twin City-based Appalachian Cultural Music Association and presented during a brief ceremony at the Mountain Music Museum in the Bristol Mall.

"Thanks to everybody involved. I had so much tough competition. There are so many other students, I wish I could share it with everybody," Anderson said.

Anderson, who began playing the upright bass at age 15, is enrolled in the college's music program and is a member of the ETSU Bluegrass Pride Band.

The financial award is worth about $2,000 a semester and will be presented each year, said Daniel Boner, director of the program.

"This is a very important scholarship for us because it is the first full-ride scholarship we've been able to offer since the program began," Boner said. "It's validating in a lot of ways because, in comparison to some other fields or other academic programs, bluegrass and old time country music is very new. Having a full ride scholarship puts us among the other departments."

Now in its 28th year, the program focuses on traditional Appalachian musical styles and its graduates include country star Kenny Chesney and bluegrass standouts Adam Steffey and Tim Stafford.

Anderson might one day take that path.

"I would like to play professionally, but the main reason I came to ETSU is to get to meet more people my age who play music, get out there and meet people and to make friends," Anderson said.

Boner calls Anderson a perfect recipient.

"He's very hard-working and he's very dedicated. Dwayne is very humble. A musician of his caliber could easily get the big head and decide "college is not for me.' As exceptional a player as he is, he is very true to his roots and he's a great representative of our program," Boner said.

The nonprofit association was able to raise $10,000 this year to make the scholarship fully endowed, association President Tim White said.

"We promised that this scholarship would be fully endowed by the end of this year and I am pleased to say we achieved our goal months in advance," White said.

The new scholarship is the second administered by the ACMA. The first, named for late musician Benny Sims, doesn't cover a student's full costs.

"The Benny Sims Scholarship is in good shape and we wanted one that we'd started for ourselves. So we will fund both of these scholarships," White said.

About 35 students applied for the new scholarship, which is named after Kiser, who was widely respected both for his role in the Holston Mountain Boys band and his work to raise awareness about the Twin City's role in music history. He died in 1997.

In the 1970s, Kiser helped charter the former Appalachian Music Association and establish Country Music Days in Bristol. Those efforts led to the creation of a Country Music Foundation and establishment of Bristol's first country music museum, which preceded the mall location.

Daughter Tammy Kiser described Thursday as surreal.

"I know he would be very proud of this," Tammy Kiser said. "This is a very humbling experience to know there are people who thought enough of Dad. He was one of a kind and he loved this music."