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Performers at the 2015 Celebration of Traditional Music include . . .
- Ron and Sarah Howard
- Jesse and Jamie Wells
- Carla Gover
- George Gibson
- Brett Ratliff
- The Mount Sinai Spirituals
- Straight Up Lonesome
- Nathan Salsburg
- Peter Rogers
- Anne Shelby and Jessie Lynne Keltner
- Bruce Greene
- Berea College Country Dancers
- Berea College Folk Roots Ensemble
- Berea College Bluegrass Ensemble
Ron Howard of Perry County, Kentucky, was already a seasoned performer at age 11 when he began learning clawhammer banjo at the Cowan Creek Mountain Music School in 2003. Since then, Ron has become a multi-instrumentalist and vocalist in both bluegrass gospel and old time music. He continues to perform with sister Sarah and their parents at churches and festivals including the Osborne Brothers Festival and the Bluegrass Gospel Showcase in Nashville. Ron has also taught individual banjo, guitar, dobro, and mandolin at Hazard Community College.
Sarah Howard of Perry County, Kentucky, comes from a family with a strong tradition of gospel singing. At 13 she was a Kentucky Folklife apprentice to Ray Slone and later learned fiddle from Art Stamper at the Cowan School. With the Howard Family, she has performed at numerous churches and regional festivals. Sarah is also a prolific songwriter whose work can be heard on the Howard Family recordings Same Today, The Potter’s Hands and their latest release, Our Style. She currently leads the Gifted and Talented program in the Perry County schools.
Jesse Wells from Johnson County, Kentucky, first learned fiddle from his father Jamie. He graduated with a degree in guitar performance from Morehead State University and now serves as education coordinator for MSU’s Center for Traditional Music. Jesse is a versatile multi-instrumentalist who has played in a number of old time, bluegrass, and rock bands; currently he plays with the Clack Mountain Stringband and Kentucky Wild Horse. He hosts a Sunday afternoon program of old time and bluegrass music on WMKY 90.3 FM.
Jamie Wells is from Johnson County, Kentucky. He performed for 15 years with the Bottom of the Barrel Bunch and later with the Trough Sloppers. His performances include the Kentucky Folklife Festival, Seedtime on the Cumberland and Berea College’s Celebration of Traditional Music. Jamie’s fiddling and original tunes can be heard on the Trough Sloppers recording Turnip Town. He has also taught at Augusta and the Hindman Settlement School’s Family Folk Week and currently teaches fiddle, mandolin and banjo at the Mountain Arts Center.
Carla Gover, a Letcher County native, first learned clawhammer banjo from Lee Sexton. Since earning a degree in Appalachian Studies from the University of Kentucky, she has pursued a career as a dancer, songwriter, and musician. She has performed with the dance group Footworks and the duo Zoe Speaks. Carla loves to sing traditional songs as well as write original music. She has won numerous songwriting awards, including MerleFest’s Chris Austin Contest. She has worked with hundreds of students across the country at schools, camps, and festivals.
George Gibson on George Gibson: “I was born in 1938 at Bath, in Knott County, Kentucky. Bath was a rural post office, now discontinued on Little Carr Creek. I learned to play and sing the old songs, in the old tunings, from my family and neighbors. I left Knott County in the 1960’s, taking with me a Kay banjo and a Vega Whyte Laydie guitar banjo. I have been mostly a couch banjo player since leaving. I believe that continuing to play banjo was my way of holding on to a past that I glimpsed only briefly. That past is part of a world and time in Knott County that has vanished forever. As far as I know, I am the last person left playing the old Burgeys Creek banjo music. I am the last possum up the tree.”
Brett Ratliff is a multi-instrumentalist, singer and music organizer from Van Lear, Kentucky. Brett was mentored by some of Kentucky’s old time music masters, including knock-down banjo player George Gibson of Knott County and Pike County fiddle and banjo player Paul David Smith. When not at work with the Hindman Settlement School, Brett performs with the Clack Mountain Stringband, the Railsplitters and as a solo artist. Brett has appeared on numerous recordings and has released a fine album of ballads and banjo tunes titled COLD ICY MOUNTAIN.
Mount Sinai Spirituals are a gospel choir from the Greater Mount Sinai Missionary Baptist Church in Lynch, Kentucky. There is a long and rich history of the coal mining community of Lynch, and the Spirituals will be sharing the long-standing African American gospel traditions of the local area. The Spirituals have performed extensively in area churches, at events for groups such as Kentuckians for the Commonwealth and the Cowan Creek Mountain music School and at the Berea College Celebration of Traditional Music.
Straight Up Lonesome are a dynamic young bluegrass band from Eastern Kentucky. All band members are students at Hazard Community Technical College’s Kentucky School for Bluegrass and Traditional Music at Hyden. Their personnel includes Ryan Davidson (guitar/bass), Brack Allen Jr. (guitar), Lindsay Branson (guitar), Tanner Horton (guitar) and Randall McKinney (mandolin).
Nathan Salsburg is an acclaimed guitarist and curator of the Alan Lomax Archive at the Association for Cultural Equity. A native of Louisville, Kentucky, Nathan has been an active part of the repatriation of historic Lomax field recordings from Eastern Kentucky to Special Collections and Archives at Berea College. Nathan has released two solo albums and performed extensively with area artists including Joan Shelley and Bonnie Prince Billy.
Peter Rogers has taught traditional dance for about four decades: in community dance programs schools; at various dance camps; and numerous “one night stands.” He leads English, Danish, Appalachian, Contra, Morris and Sword for new dancers as well as experienced, and is an acknowledged leader for teaching callers to call. One of his special interests is the square dances of Southeast Kentucky (aka “Running Set”) about which he has gathered oral histories, published descriptions and lived experience to share with others.
Anne Shelby is a writer, storyteller, performer and singer from Clay County, Kentucky. Through her one-woman Kentucky Chautauqua play, Anne introduces audiences to Aunt Molly Jackson, the late midwife, union activist and noted folksinger from Bell County. Anne will be joined by her sister Jessie Lynne Keltner, a talented multi-instrumentalist, singer and songwriter.
Bruce Greene is widely known for his preserving and playing old time Kentucky fiddle music. He is also a skilled old time banjo player, singer, and collector of traditional Appalachian music and culture. Bruce has lived and worked among the people of Kentucky, Tennessee, and North Carolina for more than thirty-five years, bringing to his playing the intimacy and dignity he absorbed through his apprenticeships with musicians born as far back as the 1880’s. He teaches fiddle classes at festivals and gatherings including Augusta, Swannanoa, and Mars Hill and has performed as an artist in residence at Brown University and Amherst College.
The Berea College Country Dancers have been performing and leading workshops regionally, nationally, and internationally since 1938, bringing traditional and folk dances of Europe and the Appalachian region to audiences of all ages, sharing the joy of dancing and the community it can inspire. The group has toured Denmark, England, Japan, Mexico, and Central America, as well as much of the United States. They have recently enjoyed learning new clogging choreography by members of Footworks Percussive Dance Ensemble. They will help lead participants in fun but accessible dances – no experience necessary!
The Berea College Folk Roots Ensemble is a student band of many branches, offering links to diverse world traditions through music and song. Directed by Professor Elizabeth DiSavino (who performs regularly with A.J. Bodnar and Illegal Contraband), the Folk Roots Ensemble performs dance music alongside sacred and secular songs from Appalachia and beyond. The Ensemble regularly performs at convocations, campus events and at the Celebration of Traditional Music.
The Berea College Bluegrass Ensemble has thrilled audiences for over a decade with their shining student talent and fun, lively performances. The band’s founder and director Al White teaches dozens of new students each year as the college’s Appalachian Instruments instructor and is known for his performances in various bluegrass bands including the Bluegrass Alliance and the McLain Family Band. The Bluegrass Ensemble has performed many times in collaboration with Berea College Presidents, traveled throughout the Eastern United States and has toured internationally in Ireland and Japan.
The CTM is partially supported by the L. Allen Smith Memorial Fund