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Berea Sound Archives Fellowship Topics

Jim Carrier Madison, Wisconsin / 2008-2009 Fellow / Topic: Music - Banjo

Jim CarrierProject: Jim Carrier is a longtime journalist who is currently writing a documentary script on the racial history of the banjo. Jim's Music Fellowship work will focus on banjo history, music and styles played by black and white individuals and bands in Appalachia. His study will utilize the Buell Kazee, John Lair, Bascom Lamar Lunsford, John F. Smith, Jeff Titon and D.K. Wilgus collections.  Jim and Bill Evans, an ethnomusicologist and professional banjo player, are proposing a 90-minute film to PBS. Evans and Rhiannon Giddens, an African American banjo player currently with the Carolina Chocolate Drops, will serve as film co-hosts who retrace their personal journeys of discovery into the history of the banjo. The documentary will include filming in Africa, explore the various branches of the banjo family, and deal forthrightly with the racial issues that the banjo accompanied.


Rob Clutton / Toronto, Ontario, Canada / 2011-2012 Fellow / Topic: Banjo Music

Project: Rob Clutton is a doctoral candidate in Music at York University in Toronto, Canada. He will be drawing upon Berea's recordings and manuscript collections of such banjo figures as Buell Kazee and Bascom Lamar Lunsford in support of dissertation research on five-string banjo music of the 1920s. Research outcomes in addition to the dissertation, will be at least one paper for the Society of Ethnomusicology and informal music exchanges with campus-community musicians.


Joseph O'Connell / Bloomington, Indiana / 2013-2014 / Topic: Banjo Music

Jospeh O'ConnellProject: Joe's Fellowship supported research involves documenting banjo player and songwriter Jim Smoak, whose 60-year career includes important contributions to early bluegrass music.

Through a series of sound recorded interviews, performance recordings, and documentary photography he will explore Smoak's musical beginnings in rural South Carolina including his contact with three-finger banjo innovator Snuffy Jenkins, his career as a professional musician playing with Bill Monroe and others, his musical repertoire and techniques (vocal "eefing," "knocking the banjo," and other styles that date to his upbringing).

Joe's research will result in a collection of documentary materials for future research use in the Berea College Archives, an online resource presenting excerpts from this collection, a public program at Berea, and concert in Smoak's home area, Washington County, Indiana.

Joe is a musician and public folklorist with a special interest in folk music and community identity. In collaboration with Indiana's state folklife agency, Traditional Arts Indiana, he has documented many bluegrass and old-time musicians.


James RuchalaJames Ruchala / Pinnacle, North Carolina / 2006-2007 / Topic: Banjo Music

Project: James is an Ethnomusicology PhD candidate at Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island. He has been intensely involved with Appalachian music as a fan, musician, dancer, and scholar since the mid 1990s. In order to better understand the “Round Peak” banjo and fiddle styles which he is studying in North Carolina, and to develop a working theory of regional styles in general, much of his Fellowship work, beginning in January, will involve making comparative transcriptions of tunes and songs from Berea audio collections that are found in both North Carolina and Kentucky traditions. Additionally, he will spend much time doing documentary fieldwork at local music events, dances, and in visits with musicians. The results of James’ work will be shared through campus performance, website exhibits, and deposited in the Berea archives for use by future researchers.


Barbara Taylor / Santa Barbara, California and Boone, North Carolina / 2010-2011 / Topic: Banjo Music

Barbara TaylorProject: Barbara Taylor is an old-time fiddle and banjo player, a doctoral student in Ethnomusicology at the University of California, Santa Barbara and a master's student in Appalachian Studies at Appalachian State University. Her classroom experience has included being a teaching assistant at UC, Santa Barbara and adjunct general studies faculty at Appalachian State. She has also served as Assistant Editor of Ethnomusicology, the journal of the Society for Ethnomusicology.

Taylor's Berea Fellowship work will be primarily in support of dissertation research on various aspects of African and African America history of the banjo. A secondary focus will be on the place of women in old-time music and the intersections of race and gender in American vernacular music practices. She will be making use of several of Berea's traditional music related collections that include field recordings, early commercial recordings, radio broadcasts, and related manuscript and print materials.

Anticipated research outcomes include paper presentations at national academic society meetings such as the American Folklore Society and an article in an appropriate peer-reviewed journal such as the Journal of Appalachian Studies or the Black Music Research Journal. Likely topics include repertoire and style transmission between black and white musicians and comparison of meter and rhythmic structure between African American and Euro-American performances of the same pieces.