Museum Archives - The Birthplace of Country Music
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“Reel ‘Em, Boys, Reel ‘Em” Film Screening & Square Dance Weekend Sept. 29 & 30

BRISTOL, Tenn.-Va. (Sept. 20, 2023) – The public is invited to attend two events of immersive West Virginia step dancing and square dancing at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum and Bristol Ballet Sept. 29 and 30 that will get your toes a-tapping to centuries-old dance customs that make up the fabric of Appalachian culture. The fun begins at 6:30 p.m. ET, Sept. 29, at the museum with a screening of “Reel ‘Em, Boys, Reel ‘Em,” a documentary that follows the Mountain Dance Trail as it winds across West Virginia, featuring interviews with callers, dancers, musicians, and dance historians, and followed by a Q&A with filmmaker Becky Hill.

The following evening at 6:30 p.m. ET, Sept. 30, participants may join in a high-steppin’ square dance session at Bristol Ballet’s studio located at 330 Buford Street in Bristol, Va. Becky Hill will lead the event with a short introduction to dance steps, followed by a full square dance with lively string band music from Gina and Jason Dilg. Both events are free and open to all ages; please RSVP through the Events pages at

“Dancing is a big part of Appalachian culture and community, and so we are thrilled to have Becky Hill here to share two engaging and fun-filled dance-focused events. The film is a great opportunity to learn more about dance traditions, while the square dance will give participants the chance to dance themselves!” said museum Head Curator Dr. Rene Rodgers. “All ages are welcome to participate and no partner or previous experience is needed for the square dance, and we are excited to partner with the Bristol Ballet who will host the square dance in their new studio.”

Becky Hill is currently programming manager for the National Council for the Traditional Arts (NCTA) and is a percussive dancer, square dance caller, choreographer, community organizer, and educator. Hill completed her M.F.A. in dance at the University of Maryland, College Park in May 2022 and has been an artist-in-residence at Strathmore, John C. Campbell Folk School, Hambidge Center for the Creative Arts & Sciences, and Loghaven. She is actively involved with Dance Exchange’s Dance On Creative Aging Program and can be found performing with T-Mart Rounders calling square dances and teaching dance all over the country.

Hill has worked with Footworks Percussive Dance Ensemble, Good Foot Dance Company and Rhythm in Shoes, and has studied with an array of percussive dance luminaries. She has also worked with a number of cultural and artistic organizations including Wheatland Music Organization’s Carry It On…Project, The Mountain Dance Trail of August Heritage Center, and Helvetia Hoot. She directed her first evening length music and dance work inspired by Appalachia called “Shift.”

As an avid organizer and teacher, Becky’s work is deeply rooted in the connections between music and community. She believes there is always more to learn and is dedicated to creating innovative choreography rooted in Appalachian music and dance.

These events are complementary programming to the museum’s current special exhibit, I’ve Endured: Women in Old-Time Music, on display through Dec. 31, 2023. Special thanks are due to the East Tennessee Foundation Art Fund for their support of the exhibit’s programming and to Bristol Ballet, one of the exhibit’s sponsors.

To pre-register for the screening and square dance, and for more information, visit the Events page at the

Birthplace of Country Music Museum Recognized as Tripadvisor 2023 Travelers’ Choice Award Winner

BRISTOL, Va.-Tenn. (Aug. 11, 2023) – The Birthplace of Country Music Museum in Historic Downtown Bristol, Va.-Tenn. today announced it has been recognized by Tripadvisor as a 2023 Travelers’ Choice award winner for attractions. The coveted award celebrates businesses that have consistently received great traveler reviews on Tripadvisor over the last 12 months, placing these winners among the top 10% of all listings on Tripadvisor globally.

“We are thrilled that visitors to our museum enjoy their time with us and leave such positive feedback on Tripadvisor,” said museum Head Curator Dr. Rene Rodgers. “We do our very best to provide a world-class experience for our guests and to offer great customer service so they’ll not only come back, but also encourage others to visit us.”

“Congratulations to the 2023 Tripadvisor Travelers’ Choice winners,” said John Boris, Chief Growth Officer at Tripadvisor. “The travel resurgence we’ve seen throughout the past year has even further heightened the competition. Earning a Travelers’ Choice Award demonstrates that you have provided great experiences to those who matter most: your guests. With changing expectations, continued labor shortages, and rising costs, this is no easy feat, and I am continually impressed with the hospitality industry’s resilience and ability to adapt. Cheers to another successful year!”

Check out all the reviews, and discover more about the Birthplace of Country Music Museum on Tripadvisor’s website at To plan your visit to the museum, visit

Special Preview of “I’ve Endured”: The Music and Legacy of Ola Belle Reed

BRISTOL, Tenn.-Va. (Aug. 10, 2023) – Mark your calendars for a captivating evening of music, history and culture as part of a special preview screening of the documentary film ‘”I’ve Endured”: The Music and Legacy of Ola Belle Reed.’ The event will take place at 6:30 p.m. ET, Aug. 28, at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum. Please pre-register to attend this free event.

This extraordinary documentary delves into the life and work of the renowned bluegrass and old-time musician, Ola Belle Campbell Reed (1916-2002). The film, produced in collaboration with Ola Belle Reed and the Southern Diaspora, a distinguished exhibit at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, artfully contextualizes Reed’s accomplishments within the backdrop of 20th century migration from rural Appalachia to the north. Through a combination of insightful interviews, mesmerizing performances, and precious archival footage, the documentary offers a profound understanding of Reed’s lasting impact on generations of musicians who were inspired by her remarkable songwriting and performances.

Attendees are invited to be part of a virtual Q&A session with scholar and filmmaker Bill Shewbridge upon conclusion of the 45-minute film, offering a unique opportunity to gain deeper insight into the making of the film and the intricate layers of Ola Belle Reed’s legacy.

The screening and Q&A serves as complimentary programming to the highly acclaimed special exhibit, “I’ve Endured”: Women in Old-Time Music,’ on display now at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum through the end of the year.

To pre-register and for more information, visit the Events page at the

Virtual Talk with National Museum of African American Music Aug. 8

BRISTOL, Tenn.-Va. (July 26, 2023) – The Birthplace of Country Music Museum in Historic Downtown Bristol has announced the next exciting installment of its Speaker Sessions series, featuring Dr. Bryan Pierce, curator of the National Museum of African American Music (NMAAM) in Nashville, Tennessee. The event will be held virtually at 7 p.m. ET, Aug. 8 via Zoom, allowing music enthusiasts from around the world to participate. Pre-registration is required at no cost.

A Black man in a light-colored shirt and dark tie. He is bald with a trimmed beard, and he is looking directly at the camera.“The National Museum of African American Music opened in 2021, and they’ve been high on our list for a Speaker Sessions presentation ever since then. We’re thrilled to host Dr. Pierce and gain insights into this new and vibrant museum and his work there,” said Dr. Rene Rodgers, Head Curator at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum. “He’ll also share stories of Black artists and music history that connect with the music of our region.”

A Ph.D. graduate from Arkansas State University, Dr. Bryan Pierce is a distinguished scholar and museum professional with a profound passion for African American aesthetics in music and decorative arts. Prior to joining NMAAM, Dr. Pierce served as the Digital Archivist at Philander Smith College in Little Rock, Ark., where he made significant contributions to preserving the rich history of African American cultural heritage. His extensive background in museum curation and exhibition development includes involvement with the exhibition development team at the Johnny Cash Boyhood Home in Arkansas’ Historic Dyess Colony.

During the Speaker Session, Dr. Pierce will take the audience on a captivating journey through the work and initiatives of NMAAM. Through his presentation, attendees will gain a deeper understanding of the histories and stories behind Black music and its indelible impact on American culture.

To pre-register for the Speaker Session with Dr. Pierce, visit the Events page at the

Renowned Author and Journalist Holly Gleason to Appear as Guest Speaker for Speaker Sessions June 13

BRISTOL, Tenn.-Va. (June 6, 2023) – The Birthplace of Country Music Museum is thrilled to announce that acclaimed author and journalist Holly Gleason will be the featured guest for this month’s Speaker Sessions series. The event will take place at 7 p.m. ET on June 13, offering an exciting opportunity for attendees to delve into the transformative power of women artists in the music industry. Guests may RSVP to join in person or pre-register to participate via Zoom. There is no cost to attend.

Gleason, known for her remarkable book “Woman, Walk the Line,” will lead a captivating exploration of how women artists change lives through their music. Despite the ongoing struggle of radio airplay, their songs continue to resonate and make a lasting impact.

“By shedding light on what women artists embody and the significance of their music, Gleason’s presentation promises to be an inspiring and enlightening experience for us all,” said museum Head Curator Dr. Rene Rodgers.

Holly Gleason is a music critic, academic, and artist development consultant. Her work has appeared in Rolling Stone, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, HITS, Musician, CREEM, the Oxford American, No Depression and Paste. She is also a co-writer of Miranda Lambert’s #3 New York Times bestseller “Ya’ll Eat Yet?,” and a Belmont Book Award and CMA Media Achievement Award winner.

Following her talk, Gleason will be available to sign copies of her book, offering attendees a chance to connect on a more personal level. To RSVP or pre-register to be part of the Speaker Session, visit the Events page at

“Music as Work” Panel Discussion May 23

Left: A young white woman with long brown hair and wearing a brown dress and sturdy shoes leaps in the air as part of a dance. She holds a banjo in one hand. Center: An older Black woman in a red or magenta sleeveless dress holds a gourd banjo in one hand. She sits in front of a display of other gourd-style instruments. Right: An older whilte women with straight brownish hair and wearing a blue top sits in a cozy room; she holds a banjo in her arms.

Bristol, Va.-Tenn. (May 11, 2023) – Panelists from a variety of backgrounds in music discuss what it is like to work in the field at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum, 7 p.m. ET, May 23. The program is in partnership with the Arts Alliance Mountain Empire (AAME). Participants may join online via Zoom or in person. There is no cost to attend.

“We are excited to partner with AAME to offer this fascinating look into the lives of women whose skills and experiences in music are so varied,” said museum Head Curator Dr. Rene Rodgers. “The panelists will offer multiple perspectives on making a career in music, providing insights to those who aspire to join them and those who enjoy their work.”

Special guests Carla Gover, Dr. Dena Jennings, and Emily Spencer will be part of the panel, exploring their different careers, how they engage others with their creative visions, the challenges and joys of dealing with the day-to-day realities of their work, and more.
Carla Gover is an 8th-generation Kentuckian, whose art and work celebrate the best of what the state has to offer. She shares flatfooting, ballads, and banjo through her performances, recordings, collaborations, and online courses. She’s released seven albums of music, including her most recent recording with CornMaiz String Band, which went to #1 on the Folk Radio Charts. She’s toured for nearly three decades, playing such venues as the Glasgow Royal Hall, Merlefest, and The Kennedy Center. She’s also won a slew of awards, including the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest and the Kerrville New Folk Award. She was also recognized as a Master Dancer by the Kentucky Folklife Program, and recently won the “Appy” for Best Dance Educator from the Appalachian Arts & Entertainment Awards. She is the founder of the groundbreaking online Appalachian Flatfooting & Clogging Academy. With her partner Yani Vozos, she also coordinates the Cornbread & Tortillas Artist Collective, whose mission is to build community by sharing art, music, dance, and cultural heritage.

Dr. Dena Jennings is a physician and artist in Central Virginia who hand carves modern instruments made from gourds and other natural fibers in the style of traditional instruments from around the world. Her practice’s waiting room is a gallery for her sculpted instruments and a listening room for Appalachian and Black American roots music. Through her nonprofit Imani Works, Jennings conducts instrument building workshops, conflict transformation retreats, and hosts the Affrolachian On-Time Music Gathering.

Emily Spencer was born and grew up in Arlington, Virginia, then moved to Southwest Virginia to attend college. She and her late husband, Thornton Spencer, formed the Whitetop Mountain Band along with the renowned fiddler Albert Hash. The band has performed widely in the region and other countries and continues to perform to this day. In 1980 she began teaching mountain music in a community music program at the Mount Rogers Fire Department. This program eventually became the Albert Hash Memorial Band program in Grayson County Schools. She is currently an instructor in both the Ashe and Alleghany JAM programs in North Carolina and has also taught through Wilkes Community College in Ashe, Alleghany, and Wilkes, and at Wytheville Community College. Emily has also led many workshops at various festivals and events.

Music as Work is complementary programming to the I’ve Endured: Women in Old-Time Music special exhibit, currently on display at the museum through December 31, 2023. Interested in-person attendees can participate in a curator-guided tour of the exhibit at 6:15 p.m. ET before the program starts.

Stringbean: The Life and Murder of a Country Music Legend May 9

Bristol, Va.-Tenn. (May 1, 2023) – Learn more about the life and shocking murder of country music legend Stringbean as part of the next Speaker Session with author Taylor Hagood at 7 p.m., May 9. Presented by the Birthplace of Country Music Museum, the event will be held virtually via Zoom and is free and open to the public.

“This true crime story is one of the most shocking and tragic events in the history of country music,” said museum Head Curator Dr. Rene Rodgers. “It may not be suitable for younger viewers due to the nature of the content.”

November 10, 2023, marks the 50th anniversary of the death of country music legend David “Stringbean” Akeman and his wife, Estelle. The brutal murder of the beloved couple shook Nashville and the country music industry to its foundations, changing it in fundamental ways.

Stringbean’s death ended a life that had spanned country music from its beginnings to the outlaw country era. Along the way, Stringbean played a foundational role in developing bluegrass music, continued through the honky tonk era, and survived the onslaught of rock ‘n’ roll. He made his mark as a banjo player, singer, and comedian on the Grand Ole Opry and Hee Haw, forging a persona at once hilariously retro and strikingly ahead of its time.

Taylor Hagood’s book, “Stringbean: The Life and Death of a Country Music Legend,” explores both the myths and facts of the enigmatic performer and his death. Hagood will offer fresh perspectives on Stringbean’s life and career while revisiting the intrigues of the murder, investigation, trial, and parole that altogether form one of country music’s most tragic stories.

Taylor Hagood is a writer, speaker, literary critic, musician, artist, and educator. An internationally-renowned scholar of the writing of William Faulkner, Hagood is the author of multiple books, including “Faulkner, Writer of Disability,” which won the C. Hugh Holman Award for Best Book in Southern Studies. His many articles range from literary criticism to a series of travel essays for the online journal Throomers. He has lectured throughout the United States and Europe at universities, institutes, and private clubs. His interest in country music is deep and lifelong, and he has had particular fascination with banjo playing, construction, and history. A native of Ripley, Mississippi, Hagood is currently a professor at Florida Atlantic University.

For those planning to join this free Speaker Session online, please pre-register through the Events page at

Whole Lotta Pickin’ & Grinnin’ at Pick Along Summer Camp

Bristol, Va.-Tenn. (April 11, 2023) – Pick Along Summer Camp at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum is back, and registration is now open for both beginner and intermediate level students. The session for beginners is scheduled for June 19–23, while intermediate level camp will be held June 26–30—no previous experience with an instrument is necessary for the beginner session.

“Pick Along Summer Camp is a truly fun and unique experience for students who are interested in music,” said Dr. Rene Rodgers, head curator at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum. “We believe it is unlike any summer camp experience offered in the region, and we’ve had students who travel to Bristol from out of town to take part. Some campers return year after year, and it is so rewarding to see how their skills have progressed.”

At Pick Along Summer Camp, students receive instruction on the same style of acoustic instruments played on the 1927 Bristol Sessions recordings – banjo, guitar, and fiddle. Campers also learn Appalachian music history, receive instruction in folk singing and dancing, and work on activities with the museum’s in-house radio station, WBCM Radio Bristol. Campers get the chance to hone their skills as a budding musician while busking in Historic Downtown Bristol, and at the end of camp week, students give a final performance for family or caregivers in the museum’s Performance Theater.

Beginner camp is specialized for students aged 8–14, while intermediate camp is designed for ages 10–16. Class size is limited and fills up quickly, so it is recommended that parents sign up as soon as possible.

Each camp schedule runs from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday and on Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. ET.

Discounts are available for families with multiple campers and for museum members. Scholarships may also be available. Parents can rent instruments from the museum, or students can bring their own. For more information and to register, visit the Events pages at

Cast & Collaborators for Barter’s “Keep on the Sunny Side” April 11

Bristol, Va.-Tenn. (April 4, 2023) – The Birthplace of Country Music Museum will host members of the cast and other collaborators of Barter Theatre‘s upcoming production of “Keep on the Sunny Side: The Songs and Story of the Original Carter Family” at 7:00 p.m. ET, April 11, as part of the museum’s monthly Speaker Sessions series. The public is invited to attend in person at the museum or online via Zoom. There is no charge to participate.

Playwright Douglas Pote, director Nick Piper, and Eugene Wolf, who did vocal arrangements, will join the Speaker Sessions program, giving audiences a sneak peek into the upcoming revival of this popular stage show.

“We are thrilled our friends at the Barter are bringing ‘Keep on the Sunny Side’ back to the stage,” said Dr. Rene Rodgers, head curator at the museum. “It’s a wonderful homage to The Carter Family and their music, and this Speaker Sessions event will give us the chance to look behind the curtain of the production with its creator.”

When A. P. Carter convinced his wife Sara and his sister-in-law Maybelle to record with him at the 1927 Bristol Sessions, he had no idea he was about to change his life – and the world – forever. “Keep on the Sunny Side” features Carter Family classic songs such as “Bury Me Under the Weeping Willow,” “Keep on the Sunnyside,” “Wildwood Flower,” and “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.”

“Keep on the Sunny Side: The Songs and Story of the Carter Family” is coming to the Gilliam Stage at Barter Theatre April 22–May 20. Tickets are on sale now at The play is a product of Barter Theatre’s Appalachian Festival of Plays and Playwrights.

Those who wish to attend the Speaker Sessions program in person at the museum are asked to RSVP. If you would like to join via Zoom, please register. You may do either by visiting the Events page at

Now Open! “I’ve Endured: Women in Old-Time Music”

Bristol, Va.-Tenn. (March 23, 2023) – GRAMMY nominated singer-songwriter Amythyst Kiah, along with members of the Reel World String Band and the East Tennessee State University Bluegrass Band, helped kicked off the grand opening of “I’ve Endured: Women in Old-Time Music” during a private media event and reception for the new special exhibit, now on display through Dec. 31, 2023 at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum.

“Over the course of two years we interviewed a number of contemporary female musicians to get their perspective and insights into the state of old-time music,” said Dr. Rene Rodgers, museum head curator. “These are fascinating women, many who fought against societal and patriarchal mores just to play music. Their stories deserve to be heard.”

Kiah and members of Reel World String Band, each featured in the exhibit, were part of a panel discussion for media prior to the reception and are representative of the tradition and innovation within this timeless genre. Bev Futrell, guitarist with Reel World, spoke on some of the hurtles the group has faced in overcoming gender bias within old-time.

“It means everything to be recognized like this because it wasn’t easy when we started out to get recognized. We had an agent who wanted to bill us as the ‘All-Girl Reel World String Band’ and we were like, ‘No, we picked our name so you wouldn’t know what gender we were.’ We wanted to be recognized for our music, not just because there’s some women out there playing old-time music.”

Amythyst Kiah is a graduate of East Tennessee State University’s Bluegrass, Old-Time and Roots Music Studies program. Amythyst had the opportunity to reconnect with one of her ETSU instructors, Roy Andrade, and take in a performance by the ETSU Bluegrass Pride Band – of which Kiah is a former member.

“My discovery of traditional old-time and early country music played a pivotal role in my development as an artist, and I stand on the shoulders of groundbreaking women like Mother Maybelle Carter and Elizabeth Cotten,” said Kiah. “I’m especially grateful to see my friend Rhiannon Giddens included in the exhibit as she continues to reclaim the history of Black women through music. These are stories of inspiring women that need to be told.”

This exhibit has been funded in part by grants from Virginia Humanities, the
Massengill-DeFriece Foundation, and the IBMA Foundation, along with local women-led business sponsorship from Friends of Southwest Virginia, The Crooked Road: Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail, Artemis Consulting Services, LLC, Bristol Ballet, Suzi Griffin (Studio 6), Kim Sproles (KS Promotions), and Kayla Stevenson (Matte Nail Bar). East Tennessee Foundation Arts Fund provided grant funding for related public programming, and the Virginia Tourism Corporation provided grant funding for the exhibit’s website. Special thanks is also due to the many women who shared their experiences and stories with us, and all who contributed to the exhibit through images, objects, research, advice, and more, especially the exhibit content team made up of Adam Alfrey, Scotty Almany, Erika Barker, Hank Collie, Toni Doman, Cathy Fink, Dr. René Rodgers, and Kalia Yeagle.

To plan your visit to see the special exhibit “I’ve Endured: Women in Old-Time Music” at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum visit the Events page at