2023 Appalachian Heritage Festival – Saturday, September 23
The 7 pm Showcase Concert will now be held INDOORS in the Frank Arts Center Theater on West Campus (260 University Drive, Shepherd University, Shepherdstown, WV)
The Appalachian Heritage Festival at Shepherd University was founded 27 years ago. Over that time, thousands of community members, schoolchildren, and students have been introduced to the diverse culture of Appalachia and our state through workshops, lectures, and concert performances by our region’s most outstanding artists, historians, and cultural ambassadors. This year’s Festival is paired with Shepherd’s Family Day and will offer a great FREE series of events on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2023.
Saturday, the Festival will feature free workshops on Saturday afternoon held in the Frank Center Shipley Recital Hall including an introduction to unaccompanied Appalachian singing at 1 pm, a presentation about songs of struggle and civil rights with Sparky and Rhonda Rucker at 2:30 pm, a conversation with award-winning songwriter John Lilly at 4 pm.
At 7 pm, the community is invited to join us inside to the Frank Center Theater for a special showcase concert. The event is free to Shepherd students and their families and pay-what-you-can donations accepted. An open jam session led by Chance and Tessa McCoy will also follow the concert at 9:30 pm at Alba Bea Restaurant, 202 E. Washington Street.
The Schedule of events for Saturday include:
- 1 p.m. — Introduction to Unaccompanied Singing with Georgia Lilly, Shipley Recital Hall (Frank Arts Center, West Campus)
- 2:30 p.m. — Songs of Struggle and Civil Rights with Sparky and Rhonda Rucker, Shipley Rectital Hall (Frank Arts Center, West Campus)
- 4:00 p.m. — Songwriting: A Conversation with John Lilly, Shipley Recital Hall (Frank Arts Center, West Campus). Get a sneak peek into the songwriting process with John Lilly .
- 7 p.m.— Festival Showcase Concert: Celebrating Families | Frank Arts Center Theater Enjoy a concert featuring Chance and Tessa McCoy, Sparky and Rhonda Rucker, and Just Us Lillys. Free and open to the public but pay-what-you-can donations gratefully accepted. NOTE: Due to predictions of cooler temperatures and possible rain, this event has been moved indoors into the Frank Center Theater.
- 9:30 pm – Post-Concert Jam Session with Chance and Tessa McCoy — Alma Bea Restaurant, 202 E. Washington Street, Shepherdstown, WV — $5 cover charge may apply
About the Festival artists:
Chance McCoy and Tessa Dillon McCoy
Chance and Tessa McCoy are today’s torchbearers of West Virginia traditional music. Both West Virginia natives, they have been awarded the highest honors in traditional music– a Grammy for best folk album through Chance’s work with Old Crow Medicine Show and an exhaustive list of blue ribbon wins for Tessa including five-time record as West Virginia State Fiddle Champion. Chance McCoy is a Grammy winning artist, music producer and film composer who was raised in a musical family in Harpers Ferry. He has recorded and performed with a diverse roster of artists including Old Crow Medicine Show, Willie Nelson, Tyler Childers, Mumford and Sons, Kesha, The Lumineers, Rhiannon Giddens and more. His solo recordings have been met with critical acclaim and span from traditional Appalachian string band music to genre bending Americana.
Mentored by some of the greatest players in Appalachia, they are part of an unbroken chain of traditional music and culture. The two married this summer and now are partners in life as well as in music.
Raised in Saint Albans, West Virginia, Tessa traces her lineage through the Kanawha Valley fiddling traditions of Bobby Taylor and Clark Kessinger. Her mastery of this unique and technical old-time fiddling style has positioned her as one of the most significant fiddlers living in Appalachia today. heir extraordinary musical chemistry was brought to a new level when they got married this summer.
Check out Chance and Tessa’s version of Danville Girl
Just Us Lillys
Just Us Lillys is a true family band from West Virginia led by award-winning singer, songwriter and folklorist John Lilly and his two multi-instrumentalist children Mason and Georgia. Featuring three-part harmonies, lonesome melodies, and of course some of John’s phenomenal original songs, Just Us Lillys are rooted in West Virginia traditional music, country, and bluegrass traditions.
John Lilly is a renowned songwriter, performer, and retired editor of Goldenseal magazine. When John developed Parkinson’s disease, it opened the door for Georgia and Mason to step to the musical forefront by playing mandolin, fiddle, banjo, guitar, and more. This year they released their first recording, Not Far from the Tree. As Ron Sowell, the director for WV Public Radio’s Mountain Stage says, “Start with great songs, add tightly crafted family harmonies, creative instrumentation and impressive production, you end up with something special.”
Sparky and Rhonda Rucker
James “Sparky” Rucker has been performing for more than 50 years received dozens of awards, been recognized by the Smithsonian and the NAACP, and has dedicated his life to sharing the music that tells the stories of America from the slavery and the Civil War through the Civil Rights movement. Sparky has been active in the civil rights movement since the 1950s, participated in workshops at the Highlander Center, and marched and sang along with Pete Singer, Bernice Reagon, and Guy Carawan. His wife Rhonda Rucker is an accomplished musician, author, and storyteller. Their music ranges from bottleneck guitar slide blues to heart-rending songs of struggle and redemption. As a duo they have recorded ten albums, been nominated for a W.C. Handy Award, and performed for audiences around the world from the Kennedy Center to Mountain Stage, A Prairie Home Companion, and the National Folk Festival.