We have written a number of times about the four year degree in bluegrass which is now available at East Tennessee State University. The folks at ETSU are understandably proud of getting state approval for this degree program, and have crowed a bit about it being the first of its kind.
But in fact, the first 4 year degree in bluegrass was established in the Fall semester of 2007 at Glenville State College in West Virginia, where a certificate program had been offered since 2002.
Technically, they are both firsts. Glenville State offers a Bachelor of Arts in Music with Bluegrass Concentration, while ETSU’s is a Bachelor of Arts degree in Bluegrass, Old Time, and Country Music Studies. ETSU has had a bluegrass program for 30 years, so I guess they get that medal.
Though now directed by Megan Darby, the program at Glenville State was started by noted fiddler Buddy Griffin, who invested a great deal of time and personal funds to get things up and running. Darby has just completed her first year at the helm, and college officials are well pleased with the growth in the program.
One example is seeing legendary songwriter and bluegrass philanthropist Tom T. Hall donating studio time to the GSC Bluegrass Band. The generous donation was arranged by Alumna Rebekha Long, who works as an engineer and graphic designer at Hall’s Blue Circle Records. She has the distinction of being the very first graduate with the bluegrass degree, and was proud to be able to get the students in to record.
Darby was especially pleased to see the band members off to Nashville for the trip.
“Part of the history of our Bluegrass Program has been to perform and learn from some of the legendary people in the industry. This amazing opportunity to work with the Halls will add to the prestige of the GSC Bluegrass Program.
It will also serve as a good transition for me taking over the program from the wonderful job that retiring Buddy Griffin has done.”
Band members have been raising funds to cover the costs of CD design and manufacture, and anyone who would like to make a contribution to that effort is invited to contact Megan Darby by email.
Here’s a video shot during this past semester showing typical college life at Glenville State – if you’re in a bluegrass band.