ETSU Bluegrass Band to close Broad Street summer concerts
Aug 23, 2011 at 4:06 AM
In 1982, when Jack Tottle initiated the East Tennessee State University Bluegrass, Old Time and Country Music program, no four-year university had ever attempted anything like it. In fact, there were more than a few in the academic community — some highly placed — who were quite dismissive of the notion that these musical styles were appropriate for university level study. Nearly three decades later, the program is still playing a major role in the renewed excitement about the region’s music. It regularly attracts students from ETSU’s traditional East Tennessee service area, but also from across the United States and abroad. Its alumni — including Kenney Chesney, Tim Stafford, Barry Bales, Adam Steffey, Beth Stevens, Roy Andrade, Jill Andrews and Hunter Berry — have won Grammy awards, and honors from the International Bluegrass Music Association, the Academy of Country Music and the Country Music Association. One alumna, Jennifer Mc-Carter, caused quite a stir both on campus and in the community when she and her twin sisters were signed by Warner Bros. Records. Their first album featured three different songs that showed up on the national Billboard Country Music charts. Two of the songs reached the No. 4 and No. 5 positions, respectively. Soon afterward, they were seen nationwide on Dolly Parton’s television show, and began touring as the opening act for Kenny Rogers. The ETSU Bluegrass Band, comprised of members of the Bluegrass, Old Time and Country Music program, will cap the 2011 Bluegrass on Broad summer concert series with a performance at 7 p.m., Friday, on Broad Street in downtown Kingsport. The event is free. Bring your lawn chairs, but leave the pets and coolers at home. ETSU students have performed at a variety of venues and events, including the academically respected Sonneck Society in Nashville, the Moscow Folk Arts Festival, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Smithsonian Institution’s National Folklife Festival, NATO Headquarters in Brussels and at several locations in Japan, including the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo.