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Berea Sound Archives Fellowship Topics

Josh Bearman Richmond, Virginia / 2011-2012 Fellow / Topic: Radio Programs

Project: Josh Bearman is a musician and radio DJ in Richmond, Virginia. He is noted for his radio program, The Edge of Americana and string band, The Hot Seats. Both integrate the likes of bluegrass, jug band, vaudeville, and old-time string-band music. His radio play list has included a variety of noncommercial sources including Berea online audio material. He will use Berea's audio and manuscript collections for the development of radio biographies of early Kentucky old-time musicians, Buell Kazee and Asa Martin.


Helen Gubbins / Limerick, Ireland / 2007-2008 / Topic: Radio Programs

Helen GubbinsProject: Helen is an Irish traditional musician (button accordion, tin-whistle & singing) with a strong interest in the historical relationship of traditional music to the mass media, especially radio. Her Masters of Philosophy thesis at University College Cork, entitled "Shortwaves, Acetates and Journeyworks," concentrates on the transmission of Irish traditional music by Radio Éireann (Irish public radio) from 1926-1960. On previous U.S. visits, she served as artist-in-residence, teaching and performing in Columbia, Missouri, and throughout the midwest.

Her work in the Berea Archives will generally be directed toward widening her research focus to include the historical relationship of radio to traditional music of the American south. Specifically, she will explore Berea’s extensive music related broadcast audio and manuscript material in the John Lair, Reuben Powell, Bradley Kincaid, and WHAS collections.  Of particular concern will be how radio music programming represented musical identities in Appalachia, and the interaction of radio stations and local music community, formulating a more complete history of traditional music programming on WHAS and other Kentucky stations.  Helen will share her research findings through a conference paper (Winter 2008), a scholarly article (Spring 2009), a website presenting collated radio programming information from the Berea archives, and an audio documentary to be submitted for broadcast to public radio in the U.S. and Ireland. 


Kevin Kehrberg / Lexington, Kentucky / 2006-2007 / Topics: Hymns and Sermons; Radio Programs

Project: Kevin is currently a doctoral candidate in musicology at the University of Kentucky where his Masters thesis focused on the gospel quartet recordings of Bluegrass music pioneer, Bill Monroe. He has written about Bluegrass music vocal styles and presented papers at scholarly meetings including the Society of American Music. As a bassist he has performed on stage, television, and recordings with such traditional musicians as Art Stamper, Lee Sexton, Jean Ritchie, and Curley Seckler. Beginning in June, his Fellowship work at Berea will focus on analyzing the performing styles and repertoires of the various gospel quartets documented in Berea’s radio program collections especially those of John Lair’s Renfro Valley Gatherin’ and other programs aired in the 1940s and 1950s. His efforts will be directed at understanding stylistic similarities and differences within a concentrated region and developing a more complete account of sacred music’s role in the radio programming, gospel quartet contests, and annual all-night gospel singing events produced by John Lair.


Niki King / Louisville, Kentucky / 2012-2013 / Topic: Radio Programs

Niki KingProject: Niki's Fellowship research will make use of radio programs, oral histories, and related materials to support further development of TheHillVille.com, an online urban lifestyle magazine for Appalachians that she co-publishes.

The envisioned result would be an approachable, journalistic, narrative treatment of the migration of Appalachians to urban centers, 1940 to 1970, in an interactive forum that would engage a new generation.

A chief feature will be an interactive map of urban Appalachian neighborhoods in such cities as Chicago, Cincinnati, Dayton and Detroit with content that will tell their stories, past and present, based on original research, first-person interviews, old and new photographs, news clips, videos and other visual, experiential elements.

Niki grew up in East Tennessee. With an undergraduate journalism degree she has reported for metropolitan newspapers, including The (Louisville) Courier-Journal. Her master's degree study focused on urban planning, economic and community development and the role of communication in community change, development and integration.


Kate Larken / Kentucky / 2010-2011 / Topic: Radio Programs

Kate LarkenProject: Kate Larken is a Kentucky musician, writer, educator and publisher with much experience in media production, teaching, and roots music management. She was a founding member of Public Outcry the performance group that used music, spoken word and images to raise awareness of pressing Appalachian environmental issues. She has produced several albums of her own songs and has appeared on recordings by a number of other artists.

Her Berea Fellowship research will be in support of developing a publication project tentatively titled Rural Radio: The Tool that Transformed a Culture. Her resultant nonfiction book and companion website will focus on roots music in the rural south. Particular attention will be paid to developing an understanding how rural people saw themselves and their homemade music, and how radio changed that vision.

Recordings and related manuscripts, photographs and print material that will be drawn upon are from Berea collections in the areas of Kentucky radio program recordings, field recordings of traditional musicians and singers, and personal papers of musicians and others involved in the commercialization of traditional music.


Molly McBride / East Lansing, Michigan / 2012-2013 / Topic: Radio Programs

Project: Molly's Fellowship research is related to graduate Ethnomusicolgy studies and will use radio program recordings and oral histories to explore gender issues in early country music.

She will use Radio program to examine performer roles, musical styles, and character interplay. She will also consider how early country music radio was a place in the minds of listeners for women to act outside gender norms while still representing traditional values and remaining endearing and entertaining.

A near term research outcome will be creation of an online multimedia resource to communicate the early radio barn dance experience from the perspective of both listeners and performers. As Ethnomusicolgy study progresses, research findings will be the bases for conference papers and articles in such journals as Southern Quarterly and Women and Music.

Molly is a graduate student in ethnomusicology at Memorial University of Newfoundland and is currently compiling oral histories of women in the Michigan fiddling tradition.


Nathan McGee / Bellevue, Kentucky / 2011-2012 / Topic:Radio Programs

Nathan McGeeProject: Nathan McGee has recently earned a Masters degree in American History from the University of Cincinnati. His work in the Berea Archives will be in furtherance of a doctoral project that will examine the strong connection between radio and migration in the twentieth century. Particular areas of interest include how radio served as a support mechanism for Appalachian residents who migrated to urban areas in the 1940s and 1950s and how musical and cultural aspects that were once mainly "Appalachian" became part of the national consciousness. His Berea research will make extensive use of radio program recordings and scripts, listener mail, and oral histories recorded by radio station performers and programmers. In addition to support of doctoral study and teaching, research outcomes include a paper presentation at an upcoming Appalachian Studies Conference and an article in a regional journal such as Ohio Valley History.


Marina Peterson / Athens, Ohio / 2010-2011 / Topic: Radio Programs

Marina PetersonProject: Marina Peterson is an anthropologist and is Assistant Professor of Performance Studies in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts at Ohio University. Her Berea Fellowship work will be in furtherance of research relating to a publication project on the 1940s musician's union recording bans.

Use of Berea's archival audio material will allow her to move beyond print accounts to get a sense of what the recording bans sounded like especially in the form of radio programs. Major themes to be addressed include music as labor, labor legislation, music commercialization, creation of regional identity through radio broadcasts, and how Appalachians were connected to the nation. Recordings and related manuscript materials that will be drawn upon are from collections in the areas of early commercial country music, commercialization of traditional music, Kentucky radio broadcasts, and traditional crafts and occupations. Research outcomes will include a series of conference papers at the International Association for the Study of Popular Music (IASPM-US) and the Southern Labor Studies Conference. Journal articles will be submitted to journals in anthropology, performance studies, popular music studies, and labor studies.


Jacob Podber / Carbondale, Illinois / 2008-2009 / Topic: Radio Programs

Project: Jacob PodberJacob Podber is an Associate Professor in the Radio and Television Department at Southern Illinois University. Jacob's Music Fellowship work will be a continuance of research on the importance of Country music radio programming and how Appalachian music on the radio (and later television) helped contribute to the regions Identity. His study will utilize several portions of the John Lair Collection and the Renfro Valley Barn Dance Oral History Collection. His several years of research to date have resulted in his book, The Electronic Front Porch: An Oral History of the Arrival of Modern Media in Rural Appalachia and the Melugeon Community.


Suzanne Savell / Whitesburg, Kentucky / 2006-2007 / Topics: Radio Programs; Appalachian Music

Suzanne SavellProject: Suzanne is a scholar, musician, and community organizer with degrees in Appalachian Studies from North Carolina’s Warren Wilson College and Appalachian State University where her research focused on community building and rural asset-based community development. Since 2003 she has worked at Appalshop, the multi-disciplinary arts and education center, doing grassroots organizing within the current traditional music communities of Southeastern Kentucky and Southwest Virginia. Her efforts have resulted in the development of after-school music programs, a bi-annual workshop / concert series, and production of traditional music programming on public radio station WMMT.

Beginning in January, her three months of Fellowship work will involve research and preproduction of a multi-part radio series about the first twenty years of Berea’s Celebration of Traditional Music. Building on the work of previous Music Fellows, Ajay Kalra and Deborah Thompson, she will delve deeply into the issues of gender, race, and what counts as tradition in Appalachian music. The programs will be broadcast on WMMT over the air and through the Internet and made available to other public radio stations. Audio clips and interpretive notes, and photos will be posted on a website and updated as the series is produced.


William Sears / Williamsburg, Kentucky / 2007-2008 / Topics: Radio Programs; Appalachian Music

William SearsProject: William is a fiddler and recent graduate of the University of Kentucky where he majored in Agriculture and Agricultural Biotechnology. His interest in homemade music developed from family and community associations growing up during the 1980s and 1990s in rural Whitley County, Kentucky about halfway between Williamsburg and Corbin. He started playing the fiddle at age twelve. Besides older fiddlers, his musical models and mentors have included singers, banjo players, and other musicians, many now up in years, who are railroad workers, farmers and public school teachers.

His study in the Berea Archives will be directed toward gaining an understanding of how his community's traditions of homemade music compare and contrast with those of adjacent counties and other parts of the state generally. Audio sources to be drawn upon include early commercial recordings of such groups as Walker's Corbin Ramblers and the later field recordings of Whitley County area musicians and singers made by Leonard Roberts and Loyal Jones. Work in the Archives will alternate with interview and performance recording of several Whitley and perhaps nearby McCreary County musicians and singers, none of whom have been documented previously.

Residency outcomes include a webpage exhibit featuring audio and contextual material documenting a sampling of some of the regional musicians that will be documented.