Noted bluegrass songwriter Rick Lang, and his wife, Wendy, have endowed a scholarship for students in the Bluegrass, Old Time, and Country Music Studies program at East Tennessee State University who have an interest in songwriting.
Their gift will allow for an annual award of roughly $2,000 to some deserving student.
Rick has been involved in bluegrass for three decades, with songs of his recorded by Donna Ulisse, Lonesome River Band, Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out, Larry Stephenson, Ralph Stanley II, Sideline, Junior Sisk, and many others. He has also recorded many of them himself on a series of songwriter concept albums, starting with The Season Of My Heart in 2003 through to his most recent, Undertow, released earlier in 2018.
Thinking over his career, Lang feels fortunate that he is able to give back in this way.
“For the last 30-plus years, writing and recording bluegrass music has become one of my greatest passions. It actually changed my life and led to many exciting and rewarding experiences. When I started out on my musical journey, I had no one to help, encourage, teach or guide me along the way. Through years of persistence and perseverance, I eventually started making progress toward achieving my musical goals.”
Being involved in the industry for so long has given him the opportunity to meet and work with a number of graduates of the ETSU program, and he reports being quite impressed with their talent and preparation.
“I gained an understanding of how much they learned from and valued this program, and it became clear to me this is where I wanted to establish a scholarship. At this point in my life, my focus is to give something back to the bluegrass music community, and help young people who have a passion and a love for bluegrass as I do. My intention with this scholarship is to help new generations of young musicians hoping to pursue a career in bluegrass music by helping to make it affordable to study in the esteemed ETSU Bluegrass, Old Time and Country Music program.”
The program has been in operation since 1992, and is currently managed by Ron Roach, Chair of the ETSU Appalachian Studies Department, and Don Boner, Director of the program. The current faculty includes scholars in the world of bluegrass, as well as current practitioners like Hunter Berry, Adam Steffey, Wyatt Rice, and Jason Davis, all of whom teach private lessons on campus.
Graduates and former students populate many of the bands touring now in the bluegrass world, with stars like Barry Bales, Tim Stafford, Adam Steffey, and Becky Buller among them.
You can learn more about bluegrass at ETSU online.