July 23, 2009
Stephenson Center for Appalachia series wraps up July 29 with a performance by Beech Mountain Echoes

Music has accompanied Appalachian life since the earliest settlers carved their own violins and covered their banjoes with possum hides. Musicians Susan Pepper and Rick Ward bring the old-time music to life with their duo, Beech Mountain Echoes. The Stephenson Center for Appalachia at Lees-McRae College will present their music in a program on July 29 in Evans Auditorium.

Beech Mountain Echoes performs traditional folk music from the Beech Mountain region of western North Carolina, where Rick's family has lived for well over two centuries. Rick and Susan perform unaccompanied mountain ballads, harmony singing, dulcimer, fretless mountain banjo and guitar.

Rick plays a unique mountain banjo style called "double knock" passed on to him by his grandfather, Tab Ward. Rick is a third generation banjo and dulcimer builder. His grandfather's music was collected by East Tennessee State University in the 1960s and was featured on the album "Walking in the Parlor" recorded by Jack Guy.

Rick also sings the ballads of his Great-Great Uncle Lee Monroe Presnell of Beech Mountain. Rick Ward is a featured musician in the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area's Traditional Artists Directory as well as the Southern Arts Federation's Regional Directory.

Susan, originally from Ohio, sings ballads and folk songs she learned from several elderly women singers in western North Carolina, including the late Pearl Hicks from Beech Mountain. She recently completed a Master's Thesis in Appalachian Studies about traditional ballad singers.

Susan has taught mountain music to young students at Junior Appalachian Musicians (J.A.M.) programs in Watauga, Ashe and Alleghany Counties and is the new director of the Alleghany J.A.M. program in Sparta, NC.

"Susan and Rick bring both talent and understanding to their renderings of the songs sung by mountain folks for centuries," said Dr. Michael Joslin, director of the Stephenson Center for Appalachia. "Their audience will hear songs and music that have echoed through Appalachia for generations. This program will provide a wonderful opportunity to experience our musical heritage."

Beech Mountain Echoes will present their program of Appalachian music in Evans Auditorium in the Cannon Student Center on the Lees-McRae campus on Wednesday, July 29, at 7:00 p.m. The Stephenson Center for Appalachia Lecture Series is open to the public and free of charge. For information call Meghan Wright at 898-8729.

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