JOHNSON CITY - Award-winning songwriter Rick Lang and his wife, Wendy, have established a scholarship endowment in the East Tennessee State University Foundation to benefit students in the Bluegrass, Old-Time and Country Music Program who have a genuine interest in songwriting.
The Langsâ€™ gift, which will generate an annual scholarship of approximately $2,000 for a student in the program, is a way of giving back for Lang, whose songs have been covered by some of the most renowned artists in bluegrass, Southern gospel and jazz.
â€œFor the last 30-plus years, writing and recording bluegrass music has become one of my greatest passions,â€ Lang says. â€œIt actually changed my life and led to many exciting and rewarding experiences. When I started out on my musical journey, I had no one to help, encourage, teach or guide me along the way. Through years of persistence and perseverance, I eventually started making progress toward achieving my musical goals.â€
Lang, a native of New Hampshire, has over 80 songs to his credit, and although many are self-composed, he has collaborated with other notable writers in the bluegrass and gospel fields, and he has released six studio albums of his own.
Langâ€™s first Christmas release in 2003, â€œThe Season of My Heart,â€ was voted one of the top 25 albums of the year by the National Folk Radio Survey, and his 2010 gospel CD â€œLook to the Lightâ€ was nominated for a Gospel Music Association Dove Award and an International Bluegrass Music Association Gospel Recorded Event of the Year Award. â€œThatâ€™s What I Love about Christmas,â€ the title cut from his second Christmas album, which was released in 2014, was named the 2015 Holiday Song of the Year by the International Music and Entertainment Association.
In March of this year, Lang released â€œThe Undertow,â€ a concept album containing several of his original songs reflecting ocean themes and settings. The story lines in the songs are all based on, or inspired by, real-life stories, personal experiences and places Lang has frequented in coastal New Hampshire since his childhood.
In addition to songwriting and performing, Lang does freelance writing for â€œBluegrass Unlimitedâ€ magazine and conducts songwriting workshops in the New England region. He is an alumnus of the IBMA Leadership Bluegrass program, chairs the IBMA Songwriter Committee and serves as a mentor in the organizationâ€™s Songwriter Mentor Program.
Lang says that through his work, he has come to know numerous graduates of ETSUâ€™s Bluegrass, Old-Time and Country Music Studies program who have established successful careers in bluegrass music.
â€œI gained an understanding of how much they learned from and valued this program, and it became clear to me this is where I wanted to establish a scholarship,â€ he said. â€œAt this point in my life, my focus is to give something back to the bluegrass music community, and help young people who have a passion and a love for bluegrass as I do. My intention with this scholarship is to help new generations of young musicians hoping to pursue a career in bluegrass music by helping to make it affordable to study in the esteemed ETSU Bluegrass, Old-Time and Country Music program.â€
â€œScholarships at this level of endowment can make a meaningful difference to students who are working hard and trying to make their way financially,â€ said Daniel Boner, director of Bluegrass, Old-Time and Country Music Studies at ETSU. â€œRick and Wendy join our ETSU family with the same love for bluegrass music and songwriting as our students, and their generosity is going to reach many students in the years to come.â€