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PASS sponsors 18th annual Appalachian Heritage Festival

ISSUED: 17 September 2013
MEDIA CONTACT: Valerie Owens

SHEPHERDSTOWN, WV — The Performing Arts Series at Shepherd will sponsor the 18th annual Appalachian Heritage Festival comprised of two concerts, a workshop, and discussion Friday, September 27 and Saturday, September 28 on campus.

Three Shepherdstown artists are scheduled to perform Friday, Sept. 27 at 8 p.m. at the Frank Center. They are Chelsea McBee and the Random Assortment, Paul Kessler, and bluegrass band the Hillybilly Gypsies featuring award-winning banjo artist Dave Asti.

Scheduled to perform Saturday, Sept. 28 at 8 p.m. at the Frank Center are legendary West Virginia fiddler Lester McCumbers and Nora Jane Struthers and the Party line.

Award-winning songwriter and musician John Lilly is scheduled to host both concerts.

Born and raised in Shepherdstown, McBee cites the old-time West Virginia banjo tunes as major influences in her style of playing and her songwriting. She began playing clawhammer banjo in 2005 and has been working on traditional tunes as well as writing original songs since then. The Random Assortment consists of McBee on banjo, Ben Witman on mandolin, Jeremy Rodgers on upright bass, and McBee’s mother, Teresa McBee, and younger sister, Melody Massimino, providing vocal harmonies.

Paul Kessler is scheduled to give a reading. His story, “The Mountains of a Quiet Earth,” took first prize in the West Virginia Fiction Competition sponsored by the West Virginia Center for the Book and the Appalachian Heritage Writers Project. He is an alumnus of Shepherd University’s creative writing program.

The Hillbilly Gypsies play an eclectic mix of traditional and non-traditional bluegrass standards. The band has performed with national acts Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Patty Loveless, Rhonda Vincent and the Rage, Tony Rice and Peter Rowan, and IIIrd Tyme Out, among others.

Lester McCumbers, a 92-year-old fiddler from Nicut in Calhoun County, is one of the grand masters of traditional West Virginia music, and he carries on the music tradition that his family has passed down for generations. He has won numerous fiddle contests and was honored with the 2005 Vandalia Award, West Virginia’s lifetime achievement award for outstanding contributions to the state’s folk heritage.

Rooted in old-time branches that cross genres, Nora Jane Struthers and the Party Line have skyrocketed up the Americana charts with their newest album, “Carnival.” The high energy, Nashville-based quintet performs Struthers’s original story-songs with tight, three-part harmonies,fiddle, claw hammer banjo, acoustic guitar, bass, and drums. Struthers was catapulted into the spotlight when she led her band to a blue ribbon at the 2010 Telluride Bluegrass Festival band competition. (Previous winners include Nickel Creek and the Dixie Chicks.)

Host John Lilly is a performing songwriter, musician, and folklorist. He is the 2010 acoustic winner of the “Next Great Road Song” contest, sponsored by Midas and Spin, for his original song “Come and Go.” He is a former member of the Green Grass Cloggers dance team. He spent years playing traditional string band music with groups including Ralph Blizard and the New Southern Ramblers, is a former tour guide at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, and is editor of West Virginia’s “Goldenseal” magazine.

Also scheduled Saturday, Sept. 28 are a free demonstration workshop and discussion with Lester McCumbers at 1p.m.; a songwriting workshop with Nora Jane Struthers, Chelsea McBee, and John Lilly at 2:30 p.m.; and an open jam session with the festival artists at 4 p.m. All workshops are in Reynolds Hall and are free.

Festival passes for admission to both concerts are $20 general admission, $15 seniors/Shepherd staff, and $5kids under 18. Single concert tickets are $15 general admission, $10 seniors/Shepherd staff, and $5 kids under 18. The concerts are free to Shepherd students with a valid Rambler ID. Tickets are available at the Shepherd University Bookstore, by phone at 304-876-5219, or online at

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