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Volume 26, Number 4 — April 2019

DVD promotes ETSU Bluegrass, Old-Time and Country Music Program

August 27, 2009

JOHNSON CITY, TN A new promotional video has been launched to highlight the academic and performance opportunities offered by East Tennessee State University's one-of-a-kind Bluegrass, Old-Time and Country Music Program.

Founded by accomplished musician Jack Tottle in 1982 and now housed in ETSU's Department of Appalachian Studies, the program has grown steadily through the years to an enrollment of over 400 students in the spring 2009 semester.

"It is not only the first, but also by far the largest of its kind at any four-year university," said Raymond McLain, director of the program, who added that students may now minor in Bluegrass, Old-Time and Country Music. A proposed major has already been approved by the Academic Council of ETSU and will soon be presented to the Tennessee Board of Regents and the Tennessee Higher Education Commission for final approval.

The new DVD, which documents where the program is now, will be used to promote the program to new students as well as potential friends and donors, according to Karen Sullivan, director of University Advancement. In addition to actual DVDs, the producers hope to take advantage of current technology to spread the word about the program by posting the DVD contents on such Web sites as YouTube, Facebook and MySpace.

Produced by String Theory Media and directed by Craig Havighurst, the DVD shows photographs taken throughout the history of the program and video footage from recent performances and classroom rehearsals.

It includes clips of interviews with current and former students some from as far away as Norway and Japan who discuss why they chose to come to ETSU to study bluegrass and what they have learned.

"It had an enormous effect on me as a person, as a songwriter, as a musician," award-winning country music superstar Kenny Chesney says on the DVD. "I was just so consumed by it wanting to get better and wanting to learn more."

The DVD describes the diversity of the program's curriculum, which offers instruction in vocals and a variety of bluegrass instruments. It also points out that the extensive historical bluegrass holdings in the Archives of Appalachia, a division of ETSU's Center for Appalachian Studies and Services, provide a unique resource for students.

Faculty interviewed for the project discussed the career opportunities in bluegrass and old-time music and stressed that students not only study the music itself, but are also taught the business side of the music industry.

They also focused on the ample live performance opportunities for students. Not only can students perform at regional venues, including the historic Carter Family Fold in Hiltons, Va., but as McLain points out, students have enjoyed playing at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, and the National Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C.

Some of the other faculty featured on the DVD include Grammy and International Bluegrass Music Association award-winners Adam Steffey and Barry Bales, as well as program Associate Director Daniel Boner, Roy Andrade, and others. Popular bluegrass artist Rhonda Vincent, whose band includes fiddler Hunter Berry, a former student and faculty member, was also interviewed.

"This DVD, I feel, fully tells you a story of the past, present and future of a wonderful, original asset that we have at our university," said Jim Hunter, a student and chairman of the Bluegrass, Old-Time and Country Music Program Advisory Board. He added that whether students studying this genre seek careers in the music industry or go into medicine, business or another field, the education and skills they receive will help them succeed and "further their ability to be an asset to their community."

Anne Cates-Edwards
edited the new DVD, and McLain, Sullivan and Hunter served as executive producers.

For more information, contact Sullivan at 423-439-6969 or, or McLain at 423-439-7072 or

For more about the video, follow this link: