FSU Celebrates Region’s Unique Culture With Virtual Appalachian Festival

Sep 3, 2020 11:00 AM

Frostburg State University's much-anticipated Appalachian Festival is going virtual this year. Returning for its 15th year, the event will take place from Thursday, Sept. 17, to Saturday, Sept. 19. All program offerings can be accessed through the festival's website at www.frostburg.edu/events/afestival.

The festival will use its website as a launching off point for all festival-related programs, presentations, workshops and performances. In addition, festival artisans will be featured through the event's Facebook Page at https://www.facebook.com/fsuappalachianfest throughout the week.

The three-day event kicks off with the Mountain Traditions Film Festival on Thursday, Sept. 17, at 7 p.m., continues with the symposium, "African Americans in Appalachia," on Friday, Sept. 18, from 6 to 9 p.m. and culminates in a full day of workshops, presentations and musical performances on Saturday, Sept. 19, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Thursday evening features the Mountain Traditions Film Festival produced by filmmaker Mike Snyder and FSU graduates Sidney Beeman and Alexander Beeman. The five short films feature regional traditions and residents, including "Fly Fishing" with John Kirby, "Ramp Harvesting" with Caroline Blizzard, "Beekeeping" with Ben Cooper, "Barn Dance Calling" with Slim Harrison and "Old-Time Musicians" with Pete Hobbie and Dakota Karper. A live discussion with the filmmakers will follow the film screenings. The project is supported by the Community Trust Foundation.

Friday's symposium takes on pressing contemporary issues, focusing on the topic of "African Americans in Appalachia." The event begins with keynote speaker Frank X Walker, founder of the term and movement, Affrilachia. In his talk, "Affrilachian Lives Matter, Too: Myths, Lies and Historical Truths," Walker will read from his new collection, "Masked Man, Black: Pandemic and Protest Poems," and discuss little-known significant histories that shatter deeply rooted caricatures and stereotypes about race in Appalachia. Two panel presentations will follow his talk. The first features local activists. The second features regional student leaders and activists. Musical performances, a "Mind-and-Body Meditation" and "Art With a Message" will also be woven into the evening program.

Saturday's festival highlights the mountain region's music, dance and storytelling traditions with a series of live performances and workshops, discussions and presentations, and a puppet show. This year's live music lineup includes bluegrass, old-time and folk music by the Hickory Bottom Band, Ken and Brad Kolodner, Mountain Echoes, Day Old News, Michael and Carrie Kline, Davis Bradley, Frankie Revell, Loretta Hummel, the Barnstormers and RockCandy Cloggers and Black Guy Fawkes.

Dancer Becky Hill will offer the workshop, "Flatfooting From Scratch," where participants can learn the Appalachian percussive dance basics, spending an afternoon together working on the clogging fundamentals, and Robert Dotson's Tennessee Walking Step. No prior experience is necessary.

Internationally known groundbreaking songwriter and musician Kyshona will offer a songwriting workshop, "We the People: Voices for Change," co-hosted by FSU's Cultural Events Series, on Saturday afternoon. The workshop will focus on the importance of using one's voice and art as a motivator for change. Participants will begin the process of writing a modern-day song of protest as a group. The goal is to complete at least a verse and chorus that attendees can walk away with and continue to build upon.

Born and raised in South Carolina into a family of gospel musicians, Kyshona found her musical footing in the classical world through oboe and piano. It was during her studies at the University of Georgia that she learned more about Appalachian folk songs and instrumentation. As a songwriter, Kyshona has worked with adults and youth experiencing homelessness, incarceration, trauma and isolation. As a music therapist, she worked for more than 13 years in treatment facilities, rehabilitation programs, mental health facilities, forensics units, nursing homes and special needs schools. With more than 10 years of songwriting experience, Kyshona has merged her two worlds to focus on one mission: to be a voice and a vessel for those who feel lost, forgotten and silenced, and who are hurting.

Silly Goose and Val will provide a live puppet show. Award-winning ventriloquist, musician, composer and performer Valerie Leonhart Smalkin will present "Silly Goose and Val's Fall Is Comin'," where they will take the audience on a sing, play, laugh and dance-along adventure. Using ventriloquism, puppets, original and traditional music, Smalkin engages her virtual audience by asking them to sing, dance and play along. Her skills as a ventriloquist, along with Silly Goose, Rufus the Reluctant Dragon, Cyleena the Sloth, Grasshopper Gary and Anthony Ant, will delight the child in every audience member as they celebrate the coming of fall.

Michael and Carrie Kline, with "Talking Across Lines," will share materials from their most recent documentation project on Appalachia's back-to-the-land movement, and community discussions will give participants an opportunity to explore regional and national issues. The session, "How Should Communities Reduce Violence? A Deliberative Community Discussion About Safety and Justice," is a Choose Civility event facilitated by FSU's Communication Leadership Lab designed to support civil conversations in Allegany County. Also, an exploratory steering committee will engage in a discussion, "Creating a Community Café in Allegany County," inviting community feedback on the project.

The festival and its programming are supported by a grant from the Maryland Traditions Program of the Maryland State Arts Council, FSU's Cultural Events Series, the FSU Foundation, Thomas Automotive, the Community Trust Foundation, the Allegany County Branch of the NAACP, the Allegany County Women's Action Coalition, Allegany College of Maryland, the Democracy Commitment, the ACM Peace Studies Club, Choose Civility, the FSU Center for Literary Arts, the FSU Honors Program, FSU's University Council for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and FSU's Philosophy Department, Cultural Anthropology Minor and African American Studies Program.

To learn more about the FSU Appalachian Festival, visit www.frostburg.edu/events/afestival or email Dr. Kara Rogers Thomas at krogersthomas@frostburg.edu.