Monthly Speaker Sessions
The Birthplace of Country Music Museum’s free monthly Speaker Sessions will be shared below. To view upcoming speaker topics, please see our events page.
January 2024 – Holly G on the Black Opry
December 2023 -McKenzie Isom on Women in Country Music
November 2023 -Appalachian Folklore with Damean Mathews
October 2023 – Ballad Singer Donna Ray Norton on Murder Ballads
August 2023 – Dr. Bryan Pierce, National Museum of African American Music
July 2023 – Dr. Angela Keaton on Appalachian Stereotypes
June 2023 – Women Walk The Line with author Holly Gleason
May 2023 – Stringbean: The Life & Murder with Taylor Hagood
April 2023 – Cast & Collaborators for Barter Theatre’s “Keep on the Sunny Side”
March 2023 – Jen Larson on the Grand Ole Opry Archives
February 2023 – Greg Cornett on the Influences of Jimmie Rodgers with Special Guest Wayne Henderson
January 2023 – Kristina Gaddy on the Banjo’s Hidden History
December 2022 – “All Aboard!” The Santa Train with Don Royston
November 2022 – Martin Guitars with Jason Ahner
October 2022 – Spooky Stories and Terrifying Tales with
DonnaMarie Emmert, The Haint Mistress of Abingdon
August 2022 – Dr. Malcolm Smith on “Appalachian Fiddler Albert Hash”
July 2022 – 1927 Bristol Sessions with Ralph Peer II
June 2022 – Dr. Daniel Pierce
May 2022 – Musical Stories Kelle Jolly
March 2022 – Scott Paulson on the Kazoo’s Place in History and Music
February 2022 – Histories of Black Life and Music in Appalachia
January 2022 – AAME Panel: Art as Work
December 2021 – Birthplace of Country Music Museum Curatorial Team on Music and Work
November 2021 – Jennifer Licko on Appalachia and Scottish Folk Songs
October 2021 – Spookers and Haints: Affrilachian Storytelling
August 2021 – Henry Glover: The Musical Alchemist of King Records
July 2021 – Timothy Duffy on Photography and Southern Music Makers
Timothy Duffy shares stories and insights from his career working with Southern roots musicians, talks about his exploration of the unique process of tintype photography, and discusses the mission of Music Maker Relief Foundation , a nonprofit he founded with his wife Denise that supports these musicians financially and creatively. This program goes along with our current special exhibit, Our Living Past: Platinum Portraits of Southern Music Makers, featuring Tim’s photographs and various pieces of folk art.
The exhibit is on display through September 30, 2021.
June 2021 – “The Musicianer” Discussion and Film Screening with Director Beth Harrington
Filmmaker Beth Harrington join us for a screening of her short film (22 minutes), The Musicianer, followed by a discussion with Beth and music from Petunia, the lead actor/musician. This fictional film – Beth calls it “Supernatural Americana” – is based around a yodeling hillbilly singer from the 1920s who finds himself immortal, playing his music down the years and intersecting with some present-day musicologists. One of Beth’s most well-known films is The Winding Stream: The Carters, the Cashes, and the Course of Country Music, and a lot of the research that went into this Carter Family film found its way into The Musicianer, especially the history of the early recording industry, talking pictures, etc. Beth will share the story behind the making of the film, how it intersects with the work she did on The Winding Stream, and much more!
The Musicianer has been part of numerous film festivals as an official selection, and it has won several awards, including Best Short at Rails to Reel in Meridian, Mississippi (Jimmie Rodgers’ hometown!), Best Music Film at the Franklin International Indie Film Festival, and Winner at the Director’s Cut International Film Festival.
May 2021 – A Brief Tour of Virginia’s Cultural Festivals
Pat Jarrett, Interim Director of the Virginia Folklife Program, offers
“A Brief Tour of Virginia’s Cultural Festivals” in this edition of the Virtual Speaker Series.
For its entire existence, the Virginia Folklife Program has documented folklife activities, filmed musicians and festivals, and recorded traditional artists all across the Commonwealth. Many of these recordings have remained on physical tapes since the time they were recorded. It’s only in the last 10 years that they’ve started to digitize and preserve these recordings, making them publicly available whenever possible on their YouTube channel. For as many hours as there are publicly accessible recordings, there are still big piles of tapes on their shelves. During this time of lockdown when many have been missing public events, live music, and festivals, the Virginia Folklife Program staff have been bringing these tapes online and premiering them digitally. With this Virtual Speaker Series, Pat Jarrett will be sharing some recordings of festivals never before seen and talking about these hidden gems with Dr. Rene Rodgers.
Pat Jarrett is a photographer and filmmaker who has been working for the Virginia Folklife Program at Virginia Humanities for the last decade.
April 2021 – Unlikely Angel: The Songs of Dolly Parton
Dolly Parton’s success as a performer and pop culture phenomenon has overshadowed her achievements as a songwriter. But she sees herself as a songwriter first, and with good reason. Parton’s compositions like “I Will Always Love You” and “Jolene” have become American standards with an impact far beyond country music. Hamessley will share insights into the impact of Parton’s background on her songs; the ways that those songs have explored women’s lives, poverty, love and heartbreak; and the genius and creativity of Parton’s songwriting.
Lydia Hamessley is Professor of Music at Hamilton College (Clinton, NY) where she teaches courses in country music, medieval and Renaissance music, music in film, and world music. She received her Ph.D. in musicology from the University of Minnesota in 1991. She writes on old-time and bluegrass music, with an emphasis on women and Southern Appalachia. She has also written about the banjo in nineteenth-century America; Appalachian murder ballads; and Peggy Seeger. She appeared in the BBC2 documentary Dolly Parton: Here I Am, which is currently available on Netflix. She is also a clawhammer banjo player.
March 2021 – Black in Appalachia: Uncovering & Sharing Regional Black Narratives
Join Black in Appalachia’s Alona Norwood and William Isom as they will discuss the public history research and educational components developed in Northeastern Tennessee in their work to uncover and share the Black stories and histories of our region. From school records and community partnerships to racial atrocities, Norwood and Isom will also share the tools, methods and obstacles to making our region’s Black narratives more accessible. Black in Appalachia works to highlight the history of African-Americans in the development of our region and its culture. Through research, local narratives, public engagement, and exhibition, this project aims to raise the visibility and contributions of the Black communities of the Mountain South. This project is a community service for Appalachian residents and families with roots in and through the region.
Alona Norwood is a graduate of Berea College and a native of Elizabethton, Tennessee. She has been working to research the history of Black schools in her hometown and in Eastern Kentucky.William Isom II is the director of the Black in Appalachia project. He coordinates the project’s research, community database development, documentary film and photography production, oral history collection, and educational events with residents.
February 2021 – Before Coal Miner’s Daughters and Many-Colored Coats: Pioneering Women in Country Music
Details about February’s Topic: Listen to this fascinating talk by Bailey George about the women who made their mark in early country music. Traditionally the role and widespread recognition of women in country music has been relegated to a handful of “superstars” who rose to fame in the 1960s and 1970s. But female country artists have been making recordings since the beginnings of country music recording. The impact of these pioneering artists has been somewhat overshadowed by flashier, pop-oriented female artists in recent years, but without these trailblazing recordings, the country music industry as we know it would not exist. With this talk, Bailey George will take a look at some of the forgotten female artists, musicians, writers, and performers from days long before there were coal miner’s daughters or many-colored coats.
Bailey George has been collecting and researching vintage music since he was 11 years old. He is the host of the popular Honky Tonk Hit Parade on Radio Bristol, playing country music from the 1940s and 1950s every Wednesday, 3:00–5:00pm. In addition to his archival work and his time on-air, Bailey also performs in a duo with Jessica Stiles as “Bailey George and Jukebox Jess.”
January 2021 – Food Matters: Exploring History Through Food
About January’s Topic: Paula Johnson, Food History Curator at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, and Rene Rodgers, Head Curator at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum discuss the power of food as a lens for exploring history. We’ll hear about the National Museum of American History’s robust food history offerings, from Julia Child’s home kitchen to programs on food justice to live cooking demonstrations that feature chefs, home cooks, and recipes from regional cuisines across the country. Find out how what’s on your plate relates to many strands of economic, political, technological, and social history.
This program is part of a partnership with the Smithsonian’s American Women’s History Initiative.