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Berea Sound Archives Fellows 2005 - 2016

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

Alan Jabbour / Washington, D.C. / 2007-2008 / Topic: Fiddlers and Fiddle Music

Alan JabbourProject: Alan served as director of the American Folklife Center in the Library of Congress during the years 1976-1999. He is a folklorist and fiddler who has specialized in American folk music, particularly instrumental folk music of the Upland South since the 1960s. He has published extensively on this subject and has edited various documentary field recordings. In the 1960s and 1970s he documented the old-time fiddle music of West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina.

His work in the Berea Archives will provide the opportunity to delve deeply in old-time Kentucky fiddling as represented in the recordings of such collectors as Bruce Greene, John Harrod, Barbara Kunkle, and Steve Rice. 

One aspect of his study will be tracing and understanding the cultural flow from these collectors to archives and back into present day culture – a process that has been magnified by the multiplying new technologies of the 20th century. More specifically, his study will focus on analyzing the correspondences and divergences between eastern Kentucky fiddling and the fiddling of North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia. A secondary focal area will be the Tallmadge and Titon collections of Old Regular Baptist lined-out singing in connection with a book project in the works on the Decoration Day cemetery tradition.

Alan will share his research findings in the form of tune transcriptions and related data assembled for inclusion on the Berea website, an on campus lecture-concert, possible print publication regarding contributions of eastern Kentucky fiddling to American music and the place of lined hymnody in Decoration Day celebrations. 


Ajay Kalra / Johnson City, Tennessee / 2005-2006 / Topic: African Americans

Project: Kalra is a Ph.D. student in Ethnomusicology at the University of Texas at Austin. In 1999 he left behind a medical career in India to study bluegrass and country music performance at East Tennessee State University. There he earned an M.A. in Liberal Studies and became deeply involved in researching the music and culture of the region. He served as an assistant editor for the Encyclopedia of Appalachia, for which he wrote a number of articles on Appalachian music. While at Berea he focused on analyzing the repertoires and playing styles of the seventeen African American performers who have appeared at Berea’s Celebration of Traditional Music since its beginning in 1974.


Ajay Kalra / Bowling Green, Kentucky / 2015-2016 / Topic: Lomax Kentucky Web Collection

Ajay Kalra

Project: Ajay Kalra’s Fellowship supported work will be directed toward providing in-depth history and analysis of many of the recordings in the Alan Lomax Kentucky Recordings Collection. His detailed annotation and music analysis will be readily available as part of the entries for individual performances on the Collection’s website.  Ajay is presently in the Graduate Folklife program at Western Kentucky University where he teaches African American and World Music. In addition to his dissertation he has published extensively on the music of the American South in the Encyclopedia of Appalachia, New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture, and Grove Dictionary of American Music and Musicians. His extensive 2006 Fellowship work profiled the African American performers at Berea’s Celebration of Traditional Music up to that time.


Jesse P. Karlsberg / Atlanta, Georgia / 2013-2014 / Topic: Oral History

Project:  Jesse's research will involve both study in the Berea Archives and travel conducting oral history interviews. At Berea he will be focusing on audio recordings in the William H. Tallmadge and Rural Hymnody Symposium collections. Oral history interviews will be with members of long-time Sacred Harp singing families in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Texas. He will use their collections of songbooks as a starting point for wide ranging discussions of their own and relatives' involvement with Sacred Harp and related singing styles.

Jesse's research will result in a collection of audio recordings, transcriptions, and photographs to be made accessible for future research use in the Berea College Archives.

Jesse is a doctoral candidate in American Studies at Emory University and serves as Managing Editor of Southern Spaces, published online by Emory University Libraries. He is also the vice president of the Sacred Harp Publishing Company, publisher of the most widely used contemporary edition of The Sacred Harp, and edits the online Sacred Harp Publishing Company Newsletter.


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.


Christine Kuhn / Lexington, Kentucky / 2008-2009 / Topic: Experimental

Christine KuhnProject: Christine Kuhn is a professional artist with degrees in biology, chemistry and diplomacy. She uses her chemistry knowledge to create her own medium which combines mixed media, drawing and painting techniques with cast epoxy resins. Her art focuses on commemorating life’s transitions and passages and has included work based on various types of music.

Pretty Polly Painting by Christine Kuhn

Christine's Music Fellowship Work involves exploring Appalachian music, history, visual images and artifacts.  The resultant information/imagery is being used to produce an exhibition of paintings exploring themes of    Appalachian spirituality and cultural heritage. The themes that will be addressed are the duality inherent in  Appalachian spirituality--death and despair vs. otherworldly faith; the relationship between Appalachian  Christianity, romantic obsession and addiction; and the relationship between humans and animals in the  Appalachian world and imagination. The resultant exhibition will be accompanied by an emotive soundtrack  comprised of archival recordings of music, spoken word and storytelling. The combined works will be exhibited in  such venues as the Berea College Appalachian Center, Berea Artisan Center, the Kentucky History Center, Lexington's History Museum and at least one other arts venue in Lexington.

(Image: Pretty Polly, by Christine Kuhn)


Jordan Laney / Blacksburg, Virginia / 2015-2016 / Topic: Bluegrass Music History

Jordan LaneyJordan’ Fellowship research will be in furtherance of her dissertation work in the area of collecting, archiving, and interpreting the history of Bluegrass music festivals. She will use Berea collections to gather data about early traditional music festivals and the transition from singing conventions to festivals.

Jordan is a doctoral student in an interdisciplinary program at Virginia Tech where her research is focusing on activism and space-making within Appalachian music. She is also works as a Graduate Teaching Assistant in the Appalachian Studies program.


Paula Larke / Stone Mountain, Georgia / 2008-2009 / Topic: Race and American Roots Music

Paula LarkeProject: Paula Larke is a writer, musician, and, story-teller who performs at schools, historical societies, cultural diversity programs, and historically black college alumni gatherings. The sources she draws upon include chants, songs, and spirituals from Tuskegee, Alabama; the Georgia Sea Islands; the Blue Ridge and Appalachian Mountains; and the Piedmont Plateau region of North Carolina.

Paula's Music Fellowship work will be directed at gathering music and other materials to be used in a school based musical presentation that has as its backdrop the lives and times of her two grandfathers. Themes she will emphasize in her presentation include the importance of preserving family history and demonstrating ways of doing this with modern technology and through creative expressions such as song, rap, spoken word tributes, theatrical reenactments and video – digital stories.

One of her grandfathers was a community activist associated with the establishment of Southern Normal Institute in Brewton, Alabama. The other along with his sons, journeyed from South Carolina to Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee and finally Ohio in search of work. Paula is particularly interested in identifying recordings of music and voices from radio and other sources that will suggest the music her father and grandfather were hearing and making their own as they made their way north to Ohio.

Paula's reflections on her archival work and performance of music encountered during her study are available in an approximately one hour You Tube video presentation.


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.


Saro Lynch-Thomason / Ashville, North Carolina / 2012-2013 / Topic: Appalachian Ballads

Saro Lynch-ThomasonProject: Saro's Fellowship research will make use of audio recordings in Berea's Leonard Roberts Collection to study Kentucky ballads which have mostly fallen out of oral tradition. She will build a singing repertoire of between 25- 30 pieces with the object of revitalizing these rare stories and melodies in Southern Appalachian singing communities. Follow Saro’s research progress on her project blog.

Activities toward this end will include a series of knee-to-knee teaching workshops in West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina; an on-line teaching resource with recordings; and development of a show exclusively featuring songs from this repertoire, including stories and memories from the source singers.

Saro's previous traditional music research and production work includes Blair Pathways, a musical exploration of the West Virginia Coal Wars (1902-1921) via a 20-track CD and multipage historic narrative. She also sings at numerous regional festivals, teaches in ballad-singing workshops, and leads a weekly community singing group that trades and teaches songs.