Behind The Mic with Rita Small

Rita SmallBeing a bluegrass fan can be a curious thing. Some folks are born into it, listening to mom and dad play Flatt & Scruggs before they’re even out of the hospital. Others sort of just fall into it – perhaps they heard it on the radio, perhaps a friend dragged them to a festival, perhaps they heard about Steve Martin’s banjo playing and decided to look a little closer. Nonetheless, once you learn to love bluegrass, it seems that you’re stuck for life.

Rita Small is part of the second category. A bluegrass fan of ten years, she still considers herself a newbie to the music. According to Small, a little over a decade ago, she was asked to go with a friend to a local public radio station in the Cincinnati area and fill in for a DJ. “Broadcasting was actually something I thought about as a high school student, but knew I didn’t have the face for television,” she jokes. “Every once in a while, I would think about checking into radio broadcasting school, but never put action to the thought.”

However, after visiting the station that day, she was hooked. Not long afterwards, she began hosting Bluegrass in the Valley with the friend who had first invited her to the station – guitarist Tim Strong, who currently plays with the Missy Werner Band. The two started with a two-hour show on Saturday mornings on Cincinnati’s WAIF in fall 2005, and just over a year ago began a second weekly show on WOBO in Batavia, Ohio, broadcasting on Thursday nights.

Small says that she welcomes all forms of bluegrass music on her show and likes getting to hear both new and established artists. “I enjoy all forms of bluegrass, and try not to limit myself to a certain style,” she says. “From the traditional to the new acoustic, every style has something to contribute to furthering the music we all enjoy.”

We recently had the chance to ask Small a few questions about her thoughts on bluegrass music. Here’s what she had to say.

How would you define bluegrass music as a genre?

“As we all know, defining bluegrass music can spark a huge debate. I think that bluegrass music is continually evolving and I really can’t put a definition to it. Since my taste runs from traditional to contemporary, it’s more of the ‘I know it when I hear it’ school of thought.”

What form of bluegrass do you most enjoy?


What bands do you consider examples of the form you most enjoy?

“Turning Ground, Balsam Range, Dale Ann Bradley.”

If you could only listen to one album for the rest of your life, which one would it be?

“There is no way to pick only one. My mood has a lot to do with what I am listening to at the moment.”

What album is currently in your car stereo?

“The Missy Werner Band’s Turn This Heart Around.”


Artists who are interested in submitting their music to Small for airplay consideration can send CDs of their music to her at the following address:

5594 Taylor Mill Road
Taylor Mill, KY 41015


If you host a bluegrass radio show and would like to participate in our chart as a weekly reporter, please fill out this form and we’ll get right back to you.

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About the Author

John Curtis Goad

John Goad is a graduate of the East Tennessee State University Bluegrass, Old Time & Country Music program, with a Masters degree in both History and Appalachian Studies from ETSU.