2019 Visiting Masters

 Mt Sinai SpiritualsMt. Sinai Spirituals (Visiting Master performance Tuesday, 1:30) are a powerful group of a capella singers from Lynch, in Harlan County Kentucky.  They perform traditional and contemporary spirituals and gospel songs at the Mt. Sinai Baptist Church in Lynch each Sunday and have also taken their music and message to a number of regional festivals including the Berea College Celebration of Tradition Music, the Kentucky Folklife Festival, and Appalshop’s Seedtime on the Cumberland.  


Sue MassekSue Massek (Master-in-Residence performance Wednesday 1:30) has been a banjo performer, teacher and folklorist for over 50 years. She performs solo and with the Reel World String Band, “Kentucky’s feminist hillbilly band”, a gig that has lasted four decades.  Her performance credits range from picket lines to the Lincoln Center with innumerable international and regional festivals, concerts and square dances in between.  Sue was a Kentucky Folklife apprentice to Blanche Coldiron, one of the original Coon Creek Girls, and has herself served as a banjo mentor.  Along with Frank X Walker, she received the 2011 Lauren K. Weinberg Humanitarian Award given by the Kentucky Conference for Community and Justice. Sue’s picking and original songs can be heard of seven Reel World albums and three solo projects including Precious Memories: The Songs of Sarah Ogan Gunninga companion recording to her one-woman play.  


Roger CooperRoger Cooper (Visiting Master performance Thursday 1:30)  from Lewis County, Kentucky learned fiddle as a teenager from his neighbor Buddy Thomas.  Roger’s fiddling also draws from Ed Haley, George Lee Hawkins and other northeast Kentucky fiddlers but he also ventures into jazz and country fiddling.  Roger has performed at the Lincoln Center in New York City, Celtic Fest Chicago, the Roots Festival in San Diego and the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes in Port Townsend, Washington.  His recordings include Snakewinder on Berea College’s AC series, and Going Back to Old Kentucky and Essence of Old Kentucky on Rounder Records. For Roger’s lasting contribution to Kentucky tradition music was recognized with the Governor’s Award for the Arts in 2017.  



And just a few of our workshop leaders…

RANDY WILSONRandy Wilson (Roving Storyteller) from Leslie County, Kentucky, is a talented multi-instrumentalist, dance caller and story teller.  He is a director of folk arts programs at the Hindman Settlement School and teaches at its Family Folk Week.  Randy also produces “Kids Radio” a weekly program on WMMT 88.7 FM.  Randy performed and recorded Heritage on June Appal Records with the late poet James Still.  In 2003 he appeared at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C. and in 2007 at the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes. 


james caudillBrother James Caudill & Congregation (Singing at the Big Cowan Old Regular Baptist Church Tuesday 3:30) Each year we are welcomed by the moderators and congregation of the Big Cowan Old Regular Baptist Church to join in a very special singing.  The Old Regular Baptist singing tradition is among the oldest in North America.  It features “lined out” hymns sung a cappella for all to join in.  Caudill and other Letcher Countians can be heard on a Smithsonian Folkways recording Songs of the Old Regular Baptists.  

Not familiar with Old Regular Baptist Singing? Take a listen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vrDLj_dmugE

George GibsonGeorge Gibson (Masters of the Two-Finger Banjo, Thursday 3:30) grew up on Burgey’s Creek in Knott County, Kentucky, a community with a rich musical heritage. He learned banjo from listening to his father, uncle and many neighbors. George’s playing uses a driving and complex drop-thumb style strum, two- and three-finger picking and a wide variety of tunings. He has performed widely at regional festivals including the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes, the Florida Old Time Music Championships, Augusta, and Home Craft Days. His 2000 June Appal release Last Possum Up the Tree reflects the unique repertoire of Knott County.



meleading438-1Ben Fink (Shape Note Singing, Thursday, 3:30 pm) has sung with professional and amateur vocal ensembles for more than 20 years.  Since discovering shape note singing in 2012, he has sung with groups across the eastern United States.  Ben co-founded the Whitesburg shape note singing and will chair the first-annual East Kentucky All-Day Singing on August 12, 2017.  Originally from Connecticut, Ben holds a PhD in cultural studies from the University of Minnesota. He now makes his home on Little Cowan and works at Appalshop, where he directs community economic development projects such as the Letcher County Culture Hub.

Not familiar with shape note?  Take a listen:


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