ETSU photomural debuts this week

Panel from The ETSU Walls of Time: A Bluegrass, Old-Time and Country Music PhotomuralEast Tennessee State University dedicated The ETSU Walls of Time: A Bluegrass, Old-Time and Country Music Photomural earlier today, September 17.

A formal ceremony was held at 12:30pm in front of Memorial Hall. Speakers included ETSU President Dr. Paul E. Stanton Jr., with music provided by students in the university’s popular Bluegrass, Old-Time and Country Music Program.

Following the dedication, participants were invited to the third floor to view the photomural, which consists of 10 panels spaced along the length of the building. Most panels are eight feet high, with the exception of 14-foot end panels at both stairwells.

This artful collage of 222 large and small photographs portrays more than 600 individuals. Identifying plaques provide names and other information keyed to figures showcased on the walls outside the Jack Tottle Bluegrass Suite, which houses the musical program’s office and rehearsal areas.

The photomural, named after The Walls of Time, the famous song by Bill Monroe and Peter Rowan, has two major components, according to professor emeritus Jack Tottle, the ETSU program’s retired founding director.

The first component is a photographic history of the “brilliant first generation” of bluegrass musicians, as well as old-time and early commercial country musicians. These include such legends as Monroe, Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs, Ralph Stanley, the A.P. Carter Family, Benny Martin, Scott Stoneman and many others whose careers began in the 1940s and ’50s, like Uncle Dave Macon and regional favorites Curly King and the Tennessee Hilltoppers, and Bonnie Lou and Buster Moore.

“The photos portray literally hundreds of men and women – both well-known and obscure – whose musical gifts and sustained commitments to excellence underlie the entire field of bluegrass music,” Tottle said.

The second principal focus of the piece is the evolution of ETSU’s well-respected and world-renowned program, with pictures of students, faculty and supporters dating from the program’s humble beginnings in 1982. Also shown are various ETSU bluegrass alumni, both as students and as very successful professional musicians.

Former students featured include Tim Stafford, founder of the IBMA Award-winning band Blue Highway; IBMA award winners Adam Steffey and Barry Bales, who, like Stafford, have enjoyed success with Alison Krauss and Union Station; Jennifer McCarter of The McCarters; Beth Stevens of The Stevens Sisters; Becky Buller of Valerie Smith and Liberty Pike; and Martha Scanlan, formerly of The Reeltime Travelers and now a solo artist.

The above is taken from East Tennessean, the official student newspaper of East Tennessee State University. The complete article can be read on the ETSU website.

Share this:

About the Author

Richard Thompson

Richard F. Thompson is a long-standing free-lance writer specialising in bluegrass music topics. A two-time Editor of British Bluegrass News, he has been seriously interested in bluegrass music since about 1970. As well as contributing to that magazine, he has, in the past 30 plus years, had articles published by Country Music World, International Country Music News, Country Music People, Bluegrass Unlimited, MoonShiner (the Japanese bluegrass music journal) and Bluegrass Europe. He wrote the annotated series I'm On My Way Back To Old Kentucky, a daily memorial to Bill Monroe that culminated with an acknowledgement of what would have been his 100th birthday, on September 13, 2011.