Skip to Main Content

Berea Sound Archives Fellows 2005 - 2016

Information about each of the Sound Archives Fellows and their project.

Deborah Denenfeld / Louisville, Kentucky / 2006-2007 / Topic: Folk Dance

Deborah Denenfeld

Deborah holds degrees in Philosophy and Hassidic Studies and Business Administration. She has been teaching folk dancing since her teenage years and since 1993 has worked as a Dance Artist-in-Residence in Kentucky schools. In her Fellowship work beginning in May, she will focus on researching and preserving Appalachian Play-Party or Singing Games, a popular social activity in eastern Kentucky and the southern Appalachian region until the mid 1900s. Requiring no musical instruments, the games were played at gatherings of young adults as an acceptable alternative to the social dancing that many rural communities considered morally suspect. Deborah will divide her time between research in Berea’s audio and manuscript collections and field work in the form of video recorded interviews with surviving dance callers and others who may remember the tunes, words, and movements that constituted the games. She will add the reconstructed games that emerge from her efforts to her teaching repertoire for school groups and dance workshop events such as Berea’s Christmas Country Dance School. Wider dissemination will be achieved through a website display and print publication. The resultant documentation will be deposited in the Berea archives for use by future researchers.

Liza DiSavino and A.J. Bodnar / Berea College, Kentucky / 2011-2012 / Topic: Appalachian Music

Project: Liza DiSavino is an Assistant Professor of Music and Music Education in Berea's Music Department. She is assisted in her Fellowship research by husband and fellow musician, A.J. Bodnar. Their study involves an in-depth musical comparison of previously gathered Catskills traditional music with similar titles and tunes from the Appalachian region found in Berea's collections. Research outcomes will include producing transcriptions of pieces for use in choral settings and other materials for use in her teaching elementary music methods for Berea's teacher education students. 

Liza DiSavino / Berea College, Kentucky / 2014-2015 / Topic: Appalachian Music

Project: Liza DiSavino’s study focused on early ballad collector Katherine Jackson (French) who collected over 50 ballads in the Kentucky mountains in 1909.  Jackson’s attempts to publish her collection in 1910 predate Cecil Sharp's landmark collection, English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians, by seven years.  She enlisted the aid of Berea College in her publishing attempt, an effort which never came to pass.  Liza’s research in the Berea Archives and extensive additional off campus work has brought to light the complicated relationship between Jackson and Berea, and raises intriguing questions regarding the impact publication of Jackson's collection would have had on America's crucial first impression of Appalachian balladry.  Liza’s research and Jackson’s ballad collection will be published in book form by the University Press of Kentucky. 

Liza is Assistant Professor of Music and Music Education in Berea College’s Department of Music.

Meredith Doster / Boone, NC / 2009-2010 / Topic: Hymns and Sermons

Project: Meredith Doster is a doctoral student in the Graduate Divison of Religion and Assistant Managing Editor, Southern Spaces, Emory Center for Digital Scholarship at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. Meredith has a master's degree in Appalachian studies from Appalachian State University, and her Berea Fellowship study was a furtherance of her master's thesis on the study of music in two Independent Baptist Churches in Watauga County, North Carolina. Meredith focused particularly on the conflicts between the four- and seven-shape note traditions of the 19th century as one example of the tension created when traditions and their rituals change. Her study also analyzed the deep-seated ties between land, culture and religion in small, rural communities and the collective impact of those Appalachian qualities on worship practices. Meredith's Fellowship Activity Report includes full color images and a vivid description of the singing traditions and churches explored in her research.

Sarah Downs / Berea, Kentucky / 2012-2013 / Topic: Modern Dance and Traditional Music

Sarah Downs

Project: Sarah's Fellowship research will make use of interview and performance recordings of Lily May Ledford and the Coon Creek Girls to develop a dance work for Berea's annual modern dance concert, Kinetic Expressions in 2014.  It will include improvisational contributions from Berea College students built around the archival materials. They will be shaped, structured and, ultimately, choreographed into a completed work with portions of the audio material also serving as a soundscape.  Additional research outcomes include (1) performances at schools, hospitals, and community centers in lecture demonstrations, dance playshops, and exhibitions throughout Madison and surrounding counties; and (2) Inclusion of a soundscape or "found sound" based project in the syllabus of PED 305 Improvisation and Choreography.

Sarah is Assistant Director of Dance Programs, Instructor in Physical Education and Health at Berea College. Her undergraduate and graduate study, respectively was at Eastern Kentucky University and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Ben Fellows / Oxford, England / 2009-2010 / Topic: Race and American Roots

Ben FellowsProject: Ben is a student majoring in politics and modern history at Oxford University's Harris Manchester College which accepts only students aged 21 and over. His research interests lie in the examination of social, cultural and political history of the United States. He is particularly interested in the experiences of musicians, singers and songwriters from the reconstruction period of the late 1800s to the civil rights movement of the mid 1900s.  His Fellowship work at Berea was directed at analyzing how a variety of vernacular musical forms can be used to understand the attitudes and dispositions of Americans who lived through the dramatic societal changes resulting from the Brown vs. the Board of Education Supreme Court decision in 1954.  He drew on traditional music and other audio material, manuscript collections such as the Southern Regional Council Appalachian Desegregation Survey, news papers, and other published print sources. His Fellowship supported research formed the basis for his undergraduate dissertation for which he was awarded high distinction by Oxford University. His Berea research is also serving as a starting point from which to launch doctoral research which will focus on white nationalism and music from the 19th century. A copy of his undergraduate dissertation is available here through Berea's Department of Special Collections and Archives. [NOTE: Mr. Fellows' work contains, in a scholarly context, examples of language and viewpoints that some may find objectionable.]

Kathi Freeman / Knoxville, Tennessee / 2014-2015

Kathi’s oral history project involves recording stories relating to the persons, places, and times documented in Berea’s Coleman Ogg Photograph Collection. Coleman Isaac Ogg, Kathi’s great-grandfather, was a traveling photographer, who worked in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky from 1880 until about 1940. He photographed Berea College life during that same period, and also operated portrait studios in London and Lancaster. Ogg's work has been widely published over the past 135 years but often without attribution. In response, Kathi’s several years of research led to her recently publishing Ogg Land: The Rediscovered Photographs of C. I. Ogg, the first book dedicated to Ogg's life and work. Kathi is an artist, luthier, fiddle player, and writer and is preparing a second volume of Ogg’s photographs.​

Hugo Freund / Barbourville, Kentucky / 2007-2008

Hugo FreundProject: Hugo Freund is a folklorist and teaches in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Union College in Barbourville, Kentucky. He is in the process of writing a book about the notable Appalachian writer Silas House whose writing includes frequent references to a variety of secular and sacred traditional music genres. His research thus far has resulted in several article and conference papers.   His work in the Berea Archives will be directed to achieving a fuller understanding House's relationship to southeastern Kentucky song, music, and culture. Specifically, he will be focusing on older commercial as well as field recordings of traditional ballads, fiddle-playing, Pentecostal singing, and children's rhymes, expressive forms all of which are referenced in House's writing.   Residency outcomes will include an on campus lecture to share what has been learned and future publications and paper presentations.

Carla Gover / Richmond, Kentucky / 2007-2008 / Topic: Teaching

Carla GoverProject: Carla is a native of Letcher County, Kentucky where she was part of a large extended family in which music of many kinds was a constant. She is a multi-instrumentalist and singer and has a B.A. in Appalachian Studies from the University of Kentucky with a concentration in music and folklore. For the past fifteen years she has been heavily involved in performing, composing, and school-based artist-in-residence programs in Kentucky, other parts of the United States, and internationally.

Her Music Fellowship work focused on learning 12-15 new songs around which she developed teaching materials that highlight the diversity of Appalachian music. The result is a one hour show for school presentations and a series of teacher lesson plans disseminated through a website that will include audio links to the songs.   As of November 2008, work on the proposed lesson plan website is under way in collaboration with Flying High Designs of Berea with launch projected February 2009. The school show is coming together in collaboration with banjo and fiddle player, Sarah Woods. They will audition the show for Kentucky teachers live and on KET-ED in March as part of the 2009 Arts Education Showcase program presented by the Kentucky Center for the Arts.  Fellowship derived material from such performers as the Couch Family, Pleaz Mobley, Snake Chapman, and Maude Kilbourne has been well received by adult audiences on recent tours in Ohio and Tennessee. Also, "Lady Isabelle", and likely one other tune from the archives, will be included in a commercial CD being recorded in November 2008.

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.