Confessions of a Conferenceaholic: BCMM Goes to ICMC! - The Birthplace of Country Music
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Confessions of a Conferenceaholic: BCMM Goes to ICMC!

As a curator at a small-ish museum, I wear many hats. And one of those hats puts me in front of the public in a variety of ways, from media interviews to public programs to outreach activities. Another way is attending conferences – both professional and academic – to share the story of the Birthplace of Country Music Museum (BCMM) and related cultural and music history.

Over the years, the curatorial team has attended conferences for the American Alliance of Museums, Virginia Association of Museums, Tennessee Association of Museums, Appalachian Studies Association, Radio Preservation Task Force, Southeastern Museums Conference, and Smithsonian Affiliations. These opportunities are a great way to rejuvenate energy and inspiration around our work, develop professionally, make new contacts and partnerships, and learn A LOT.

Most recently, Collections Specialist Julia Underkoffler and I attended the International Country Music Conference (ICMC) at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. Begun in 1983, ICMC “provides scholars an opportunity to share their work in all aspects of country music. It broadly defines country music to include variants which share common historical and cultural roots ranging from Americana, alt-country, bluegrass, Cajun, country rock, crossover, and honky tonk to the Nashville Sound, New Traditionalist, old-time country, and Western swing.” Speakers come from all over the United States and several countries, and they present on a wide variety of topics. The 2024 conference had papers on Marty Robbins’ El Paso trilogy of songs; Confederate memory in classic country and bluegrass; country music and nostalgia; Black female musicians and Dolly Parton covers; the partnership between Johnny Cash and Chips Moman; the career and legacy of Howdy Glenn; and Daniel O’Donnell and Irish country – so something for everyone!


(Left image) A table with a black University of Illinois Press logo table cloth and several books on display. (Right image) The corner of a building with RCA Victor Recording Company on one side and the Nipper logo on the other.
The University of Illinois Press brings books galore, a never-ending temptation for history nerds, and being in Nashville provides plenty of reminders of the music industry of today with the early commercial country music we celebrate in the museum – it’s Nipper!


We attended ICMC for the first time in 2022, thanks to a professional development grant from the Institute for Museum & Library Services. And we are so glad we did – this conference has turned into one of our absolute favorites! It is an incredibly friendly event, and we were immediately welcomed into the fold and asked to participate in different ways, which really helped us to meet and get to know the other attendees. ICMC also provides some of the best conference food I’ve ever had!

(Top image) Feet wearing a pair of black boots with colorful designs. (Left image) A young woman with brown curly hair wearing an oragne dress and jean jacket is posing in a garten. (Right image) Three women standing together and smiling. The woman on the left is a white woman with brown hair. She is wearing a blue shirt and has sunglasses on her head. The woman in the middle is a white woman with white hair to her shoulders and is wearing a black suit jacket with a scarf. The woman on the right is a Black woman with blond hair and is wearing a black bedazzled shirt.
ICMC also offers beautiful walks around the conference’s host Belmont University; seeing old friends like bootmaker Lisa Sorrell (and her beautiful boots!); and making connections with other conference attendees, including LaDawn Fuhr and Sherry Glover, daughter of King Records producer Henry Glover!

Once again, the 2024 conference was a great experience, giving us the chance to share our work with a wider audience. And it was also Julia’s first experience at a professional conference! We participated in the conference in two tangible ways this year. First, Julia and I presented on the preservation of the museum’s Farm and Fun Time transcription disc – you can read the cool story of this artifact’s discovery and conservation HERE and HERE.

Second, I was invited to be part of the Charles K. Wolfe Memorial Panel: “Honoring Legacy Through (Re)building Museum Practice.” This panel was organized by Dr. Jada Watson and moderated by Dr. Kris McCusker. Along with Angela Stefano Zimmer of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum (CMHoFM) and Dr. Bryan Pierce of the National Museum of African American Music (NMAAM), we discussed the ongoing work museums are doing to highlight the legacy of Black music and musicians in the country music industry – through exhibits, educational outreach activities, and public programming. I found the conversation and learning about what the CMHoFM and NMAAM are doing so inspiring – and a great way to think about other work we can do at BCMM in the future.

(left image) Two white women, one in a blue shirt with straight brown hair and one in a jean jacket with curly brown hair, stand at a podium in front of a power point presentation. (right image) three people sit at a long table under a power point slide with one person at a podium off to the side.
Sharing the story of the Farm and Fun Time transcription disc (left) and participating in the Charles K. Wolfe Memorial Panel (right).

Besides the conference sessions and academic panels, the ICMC organizers always provide wonderfully engaging evening programs – for instance, last year we had a talk and performance by the Black Opry. This year’s Friday night program gave us the opportunity to gather together at Historic Columbia A Recording Studio to learn about how Latino culture has long influenced country music from the music to the wardrobe to the myths. Moderated by Dr. Greg Reish, we heard from artist manager and consultant Rick Rodriguez and country artist Orlando Mendez as they explored that influence, touching on pivotal moments in the industry development, the contributions of Latino artists, and the role of language and different regional styles to the evolving sound of the music, and sharing contemporary initiatives to spotlight this rich history. Even better we got a selection of songs by Orlando and a rousing performance by several of the participants to close out the program!

(left image) a man playing a guitar. (right image) four musicians stand in a row playing instruments.
Friday night music at Historic Columbia A Recording Studio!

As you can see, ICMC is a jam-packed but incredibly engaging experience. Julia and I came back from Nashville full of ideas, new friends and contacts, and a deep appreciation for all of the wonderful work that is being done in the world of country music history – and for its future. That inspiration is rejuvenating and will benefit our own museum and community! Thank you, ICMC!