The Pocahontas Opera House Foundation expands the Story Sessions Project into a podcast and five more video episodes. Beginning Monday, May 9, the brand-new podcast will be aired on the Opera House Radio Hour on Allegheny Mountain Radio at 1 p.m. – or wherever you listen to podcasts. The podcast and season two videos will be released each week from May through August. Season one videos are available on Youtube, Facebook, Instagram and or the Opera House website.
Season one of the podcast will feature Richard Hefner on May 9, Jake Krack on May 16, Trevor Hammons on May 23, Kelsey Beverage on May 30, and Mike Burns on June 6. The podcast focuses on their early influences, life in Pocahontas County, and many have stories to share about their times with the Hammons family.
The project, which was successfully piloted in 2021, gathers the stories of those musicians who continue to play and pass down the music that dates back to the early settlers. The videos weave together song and story to tell the ongoing tale of mountain music and its influence on Appalachian culture, emphasizing Pocahontas County.
This new phase of the project will produce five more stories about musicians who have played a key role in studying and preserving traditional mountain music. After successfully piloting the first phase of the Story Sessions, the Opera House secured support and funding from the West Virginia Humanities Council, West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History and the Snowshoe Foundation to continue with phase two of the project.
The Opera House has also teamed up with podcast producer Emily Chen-Newton to revisit the first five episodes and interviews so that they can be adapted into a podcast series.
Emily is a co-founder of the Traveling 219 series broadcast on West Virginia Public Radio. Since then, she has worked with Omaha Public Radio in producing the radio show Made in the Middle. She has also covered several news events for National Public Radio and produced several other podcasts through her media company, Figure Podcasts.
This project was conceived of and managed by Ryan Krofchek, who serves as the Opera House Marketing Director.
Krofchek interviewed each of the musicians, engaging in a dialogue that generated the stories each told about their musical journey and the origins of the songs they played. His questions were edited out of the final videos to keep the focus on the musician and the history of the music.
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Phase two will feature Mike Bing, Dave Bing, Mary Sue Burns, Dwight Diller and Homer Hunter.
Each of these musicians has their own stories and experiences to share. Their lives have been shaped by the music and culture that surrounds them in their everyday life.
Brothers Mike and Dave Bing began traveling with their father on fishing trips to Williams River in the early 1970s. They were introduced to the Hammons family by buying night-crawlers from Sherman Hammons, who lived close by. After a few pickin’ parties on the Williams, they were hooked on old-time music.
Since then, Mike has helped create and curate Allegheny Echoes, a summer workshop that celebrates and teaches the musical culture and traditions born out of these hills and hollers.
Dave Bing is among West Virginia’s finest traditional musicians – playing banjo, fiddle and guitar. Officials at the West Virginia Folklife Center awarded Bing the Traditions Salute Award for embodying West Virginia and Appalachian culture.
Dwight Diller has been credited in the Library of Congress recordings of The Hammons Family: A Study of a West Virginia Family’s Traditions. Diller has taught banjo for more than four decades and is considered one of the most prominent exponents of the clawhammer banjo tradition. He was referred to as the “guardian of traditional West Virginia Music” in a 1997 issue of Sing Out and was chosen as a representative of the Appalachian region at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C.
Homer Hunter is a well-known bluegrass and gospel musician from Stony Bot-tom, along the Greenbrier River in Pocahontas County. Hunter is mainly known for organizing the Hunter Family Reunion held in Stony Bottom each year. He has played with many groups, including the Stony Bottom Boys and the Flat Top Pickers.
Mary Sue Burns, who accompanied her husband, Mike Burns, in season one, will be brought back for season two to share her songs and stories. Mary Sue, who is a retired teacher, has had a long career in old-time music, playing banjo with Juanita Fireball and the Continental Drifters. Her love for old-time banjo music started in the early 1970s and eventually led her to her husband and then to Pocahontas County.
This series will not only archive this history but will make it accessible to a greater audience through multiple medias.
This project will benefit the public in several ways, including archiving history, showcasing our culture, providing enriching entertainment, and promoting more exposure for traditional musicians.
For more information about the Pocahontas County Opera House or the Story Sessions, please contact Ryan Krofcheck at 304-552-3446 or via email email@example.com
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