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Berea Sound Archives Fellows 2005 - 2016

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

Nathan Salsburg / Louisville, Kentucky / 2014-2015 / Topic: Lomax Kentucky Web Collection

Nathan SalsburglProject: Nathan Salsburg’s Fellowship supported work involves preparing portions of John and Alan Lomax’s Kentucky recordings for addition to Hutchins Library’s extensive online traditional music collections. The recordings are being added in cooperation with the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress and the Association for Cultural Equity / Alan Lomax Archive.

The recordings were made at various times 1933 to 1942, mostly in eastern Kentucky counties but also include sessions in northern Kentucky with soldiers at Fort Thomas and southern Ohio with Kentuckians living near Cincinnati.  The originals consist of about 185 acetate discs which have recently been digitized.

Specifically, Nathan will be building a digital catalog for the more than 500 individual performances on those discs. He will also make speed and pitch-adjustments to the audio files to correct for speed fluctuations that occurred when the original instantaneous disc-recording machines had to depend on battery power. He will make a presentation about his work and the present day significance of the Lomax recordings at the Berea’s Celebration of Traditional Music in October.

Nathan has served as curator of the Alan Lomax Archives at the Association for Cultural Equity since 2002.


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.


Judy Sizemore / McKee, Kentucky / 2015-2016 / Topic: Teaching

Judy Sizemore

Project: Judy’s Fellowship work will be directed toward developing educational resources that enhance awareness of the musical and storytelling heritage of eastern Kentucky as documented in the Alan Lomax Kentucky recordings.

These resources will initially be provided for use by teachers, teaching artists, and students at the elementary, middle, and high school levels in the target counties of the Berea College Promise Neighborhood Initiative (Clay, Jackson, and Owsley) and other Eastern Kentucky counties. They will eventually be included in the Kentucky Educational Television collection on PBS Learning Media which will make them available to a national audience of educators.

Judy is a freelance writer, arts and cultural consultant. Her areas of expertise include arts education planning and assessment, arts integration in the classroom, and folk & traditional art. She most recently served as cultural researcher and arts education consultant for the Berea College Promise Neighborhood Initiative.


Susan Spalding / Lexington, Kentucky / 2013-2014 / Topic: Folk Dance

Susan SpaldingProject: Susan’s research is directed at identifying and documenting 1900s era dance traditions in the area surrounding Berea College. This interest developed out of the realization soon after becoming Director of Dance Programs at Berea in 1995 that no local community square dance or footwork dance traditions were in evidence, despite the fact that the college has included dance among the traditional art forms it supports for at least the past seventy-five years.

Among important informants are family members and associates of Mary Lee Jackson. As a young woman she danced in nearby Estill County and later in Berea, established young people’s clogging teams. Interviews will be directed at learning about the teams’ dancing, how they learned the dances, and the dance experience of the team members’ parents. Other interviews will explore dance traditions in Estill County and the links between Berea dancers and the Renfro Valley Barn Dance stage shows.

Susan will share her findings in an annotated online article and a presentation at the 2015 Appalachian Studies Conference. Her project is also a first step toward further exploration of Central Kentucky 1900s era dance traditions. Her resultant collection of audio-recordings and other documentary material will provide both new knowledge and connect it to existing dance related documentation in Hutchins Library’s Department of Special Collections and Archives.


Susan Stenger / Buffalo, New York / 2012-2013 / Topic: Experimental

Susan StengerProject: Susan's Fellowship research will involve an in-depth study of particular aspects of Berea's traditional music collections toward the end of composing a new work for The Kronos Quartet, called "An Untamed Sense of Control" (in reference to Kentucky banjoist, Roscoe Holcomb and his performance style, as described by Bob Dylan). It will be premiered in 2013/14, the group's 40th anniversary season.

The musical interests that have come together in Susan's work include American folk, rock, and post-War experimental music. As a teenager she played in rock bands and then went on to classical flute studies in Prague and New York. She has toured the music of twentieth century composer John Cage, wrote songs, sang and played bass in Band of Susans. Most recently, she has been making sound installations and music for dance, film, and multimedia events.

Sound Strata of Coastal Northumberland CD/BookA fully illustrated 96-page hardback publication accompanied the Sound Strata of Coastal Northumberland exhibition tour, including a CD stereo mix of the installation. This is the first comprehensive solo publication about Susan Stenger and provides detailed information about Sound Strata as well as background on the artist’s practice.


Eric Strother / Lexington, Kentucky / 2007-2008 / Topic: Fiddlers and Fiddle Music

Eric StrotherProject: Eric is a musicology doctoral candidate at the University of Kentucky, with research interests in jazz, popular music, sacred music, and Appalachian ballad and fiddle traditions. His musical roots are in West Virginia where he grew up hearing the fiddle and mandolin playing of his stepfather and other family members. His work in the Berea Archives will center on transcribing and analyzing tune performances of West Virginia fiddlers Melvin Wine and Ernie Carpenter. His approach will be to document not only the tune but the complete performance which will allow future researchers to analyze the constants and variations in each repetition to gain insight into the performer’s characteristic style.