Arts & Culture

In the isolated regions of Central Appalachia, music was once the only form of entertainment. It's still alive today thanks to The Crooked Road, a driving trail that connects music venues in Southwest Virginia. It stretches from the Blue Ridge to the Cumberland Mountains for 333 miles, crossing some of the poorest areas in the country.

Making a living in those areas has never been easy, as guitarist Greg Ward knows. He's a native of Floyd, Va. — population: 432.

"You know, it was a rough life," he says. "It was a hard life."

Chris Joslin

The incoming executive director of the International Bluegrass Music Museum brings a background in music and business to the job.

The Owensboro-based group today announced that Chris Joslin will lead the museum starting September 1. Joslin toured nationally with the bluegrass group Crucial Smith, playing banjo and resonator guitar, before working with a healthcare company and an executive search firm in Nashville.

Joslin received his Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Belmont University in Nashville, as well as a Masters of Business Administration from Belmont's Massey School of Business.

Joslin says he’s looking forward to being a part of the annual River of Music Party, held every summer in Owensboro.

“The work at the museum, combined with the energy and success of ROMP—it’s just a dream job.”

Another aspect of the job that attracted Joslin is a planned International Bluegrass Music Center, to be built in downtown Owensboro. Construction will start this fall, with the facility scheduled to open in 2017.

Joslin currently calls Franklin, Tennessee, home. He and his wife will soon make the move to Daviess County.

Gabrielle Gray, the longtime leader of the IBMM, stepped down in December.

Unitarian Church Welcomes First Same-Sex Wedding

Jul 30, 2015

Since the Supreme Court legalized same sex marriage across the nation, there’s been both acceptance and resistance. But at the Unitarian Church in Bowling Green, Kentucky, there is strong support for the new law, as the congregation prepares to celebrate the first same-sex wedding at the church.

“We are gay and straight together and we are singing for our lives…"

On this Sunday morning, the congregation at the Unitarian church in Bowling Green is singing, “We are gay and straight together...”  

The song has verses about being justice seeking-people  and a land of many colors.

Forrest Halford is playing piano. He will marry his partner, Greg Willis, in this church in August. 

Halford found his way to this welcoming community after years in other churches.

"I grew up in a Christian church. I grew up in a musical tradition. My mother was a musician at a church. I sang in the choirs. Ultimately, I played in churches and was a minister of music, saved at 16 with a sinner’s prayer, baptized in the Holy Spirit at 19, speaking in tongues, going to charismatic Pentecostal churches. And then backslid, whatever that means…"


Penn State / Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Jean Ritchie was born in the Perry County community of Viper, and that was where she learned the Appalachian folk music she would bring to the world.

Richie moved to New York City in the 1940s and became an internationally recognized torch-bearer of the traditional songs. She sang and played the dulcimer and other instruments on dozens of albums and became a familiar figure in the folk revival of the 1950s and ‘60s.

Richie moved back to Kentucky several years ago, settling in Berea.

She was preceded in death by her husband, photographer George Pickow. Survivors include two sons. Her niece, Judy Hudson, says Ritchie died in her home in Berea, with her family around her.

The tall, red-haired Ritchie, who grew up in Kentucky's Cumberland mountains, sang ballads with a clear soprano voice. She accompanied herself on the guitar, autoharp or the mountain dulcimer, a string instrument that Ritchie helped rescue from obscurity.

Hudson said Ritchie suffered a stroke several years ago and moved back to Kentucky from the East Coast.

WKU

WKU and Mammoth Cave National Park are partnering in an effort to revive the Folklorist in the Park program.

The effort is sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and will document the cultural heritage in and around the Mammoth Cave region. Josh Chrysler, a recent graduate from the WKU Folk Studies graduate program, has been hired as the project’s summer folklorist.

“What I’ll be doing is going around talking to people who live in the communities in and around Mammoth Cave, and I’ll be doing ethnographic interviews and oral histories documenting the traditional culture, arts, and music of the region," Chrysler said.

The materials collected this summer during the project will be housed in the Folklife Archives in the Kentucky Museum at WKU.

Chrysler will also work with Mammoth Cave National Park to develop evening programs for the public this summer focused on traditional arts and culture from the area.

Chrysler and the Kentucky Folklife Program would also like to ask for help in this project. If you or anybody you know practices a traditional skill or art, including but not limited to basketmaking, quilting, traditional music, hunting practices, traditional food preparation or recipes, contact Josh Chrysler at (270) 791-8653.

Youtube

NPR’s Legal Affairs Correspondent Nina Totenberg is coming to WKU later this year as part of the school’s 2015-16 Cultural Enhancement Series.

Totenberg is a familiar voice to public radio listeners who have heard her report on U.S. Supreme Court cases throughout her NPR career that began in 1975.

Totenberg will speak at WKU September 21st, and will kick off the Cultural Enhancement Series that also features appearances by the Martha Graham Dance Company, British author Neil Gaiman, and Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

Ticket information for the events will eventually be released by the Cultural Enhancement Series at its website.

Business is brisk at the Ole Curiosities and Book Shoppe, a block off the town square in Monroeville, Ala.

Jennifer Brinkley and her friend Leigh Mikovch are at the counter, putting in a pre-order for Go Set a Watchman, the much anticipated forthcoming book from Harper Lee.

"We're big Harper Lee fans and To Kill a Mockingbird fans," Brinkley says.

Both are writers from Bowling Green, Ky. They're visiting Monroeville for the annual Alabama Writers Symposium. Brinkley says it will be meaningful to have the new book come from Lee's hometown.

International Bluegrass Music Museum

A Bowling Green businessman is taking over as chairman of the board of trustees at the International Bluegrass Music Museum in Owensboro.

Mike Simpson is a lifelong bluegrass music fan who spent childhood summers in the Ohio County town of Rosine, which was home to the man considered the father of bluegrass, Bill Monroe. He takes over the museum’s board chairmanship from Dr. Peter Salovey, President of Yale University.

Simpson says the new International Bluegrass Music Center scheduled to open in 2017 will strengthen Owensboro’s appeal to tourists.

“And it will join other cities such as Cleveland, with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and Nashville, with the Country Music Hall of Fame, as having one of the few centers dedicated to one genre of music.”

He also predicts the center will rival other major attractions in the commonwealth.

“Much in the same way that the Kentucky Derby Museum in Louisville, the Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, and the Quilt Museum in Paducah drives economic tourism to those regions.”

Construction on the new music center is set to begin this fall. The International Bluegrass Music Museum recently completed a $15 million campaign to get the project underway.

The Symphony at WKU stayed close to home in finding their new Conductor and Director of Orchestral Activities. Dr. Brian St. John is currently Assistant Professor of Music and Director of Orchestra Activities at the University of Evansville, where he directs that University’s Symphony Orchestra and teaches courses in conducting, music technology and composition.

He’ll assume his new post at WKU this fall.

Besides leading the Symphony at WKU, Dr. St. John will also hold the Baker Professorship of Music, one of three endowed professorships in the Potter College of Arts & Letters.

St. John also served at Minnesota State University-Moorhead and in Colorado for what is now the Boulder Symphony Orchestra.

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