Berea College Hosts 39th Annual Celebration of Traditional Music

The 39th annual Celebration of Traditional Music (CTM) will take place at Berea College October 18-21. The celebration will feature national recording artists the Sweetback Sisters and many others. All events are free and open to the public except for the Saturday night concert.

All talented instrumentalists and vocal harmonizers, the Sweetback Sisters (a band of 2 women and 4 men) model their songs after vintage country music and western swing, infusing their throwback sound with youthful intensity and broad influences. They will give a free concert at Berea College’s Phelps Stokes Auditorium on Thursday, October 18, at 8 p.m. as the Stephenson Memorial Convocation Concert Performer.

Friday, October 19, offers several workshops, including master classes with festival musicians, a multimedia remembrance of Doc Watson, an on-stage interview between Phyllis Gaskins and Silas House, archival footage of past celebrations, a jam session, and a symposium by poet and musicologist Marianne Worthington on inspiring banjo-picking women. Workshops are offered Saturday morning and afternoon, featuring an afternoon square dance, an afternoon concert, a dulcimer master class with Phyllis Gaskins and a panel discussion about replicating dulcimers made by the greatest craftsman in the tradition, hosted by Appalachian scholar Loyal Jones.

On Saturday October 15 at 7:30 p.m. a ticketed concert will feature singer and dulcimer player Phyllis Gaskins, Paula M. Nelson, Jackie Helton & Jesse Wells, Wayne Henderson, Carl Johnson & Jim Lloyd, and Randy Wilson. The cost will be $10 at the door – cash only. Berea College students with ID and children under 10 get in free.

Master dulcimer player, Phyllis Gaskins will be accompanied by her husband Jim Gaskins, an expert fiddle and banjo player. Carl Johnson regularly performs as part of the Black Banjo Gathering at Appalachian State University. Jim Lloyd is one of the mountains’ best-known rhythm and finger style guitarists, an excellent storyteller and a multi-instrumentalist. The Celebration ends with hymn singing at Union Church (in Presser Hall at Berea College) on Sunday morning featuring the festival musicians.

Three exhibits will be displayed on the Berea College campus. Dulcimers from the Appalachian Center Collections will be on display in the Loyal Jones Appalachian Center Gallery weekdays 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. A collection of paintings by Amy Campbell, honoring women of country music, will also be displayed in the Appalachian Center Longwall Gallery, October 18 – December 7, weekdays 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Another dulcimer exhibit, Kentucky Made: The Art and Craft of the Mountain Dulcimer, will be on display in the Upper Traylor Gallery September 16 – November 4 during regular gallery hours.

The CTM strives to represent homemade music passed on from person to person in the Appalachian region and the musicians who play it. Old-time string band music, country, rockabilly, traditional gospel and Cherokee singing, and acoustic instruments will be featured in a family-friendly atmosphere. Berea College welcomes the public to enjoy this festival of roots music and dancing. Bring your instruments, feet, and voices, and enjoy the many jam sessions and opportunities to learn how to sing, play and dance to this music.

The CTM is supported by the L. Allen Smith Memorial Fund. View the complete schedule of events on the web at

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Tags: Appalachian Center, Celebration of Traditional Music, Cherokee, Concert, music

Berea College, the first interracial and coeducational college in the South, focuses on learning, labor and service. The College only admits academically promising students with limited financial resources—primarily from Kentucky and Appalachia—but welcomes students from 41 states and 76 countries. Every Berea student receives a Tuition Promise Scholarship, which means no Berea student pays for tuition. Berea is one of nine federally recognized Work Colleges, so students work 10 hours or more weekly to earn money for books, housing and meals. The College’s motto, “God has made of one blood all peoples of the earth,” speaks to its inclusive Christian character.