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MTSU partners with Americana Music Association (+V...

MTSU partners with Americana Music Association (+VIDEO)

This weekend’s Americana Music Festival and Conference marked the beginning of a unique educational partnership between the festival’s organizer, the Americana Music Association, and MTSU’s College of Mass Communication.

The collaboration between MTSU and the association, based in Franklin, Tenn., will bring special learning opportunities to students pursuing careers in music, said Mass Communication Dean Ken Paulson.

British singer-songwriter Billy Bragg, left, was the inaugural guest speaker Thursday for a new Americana Music series at Middle Tennessee State University. Ken Paulson, dean of the MTSU College of Mass Communication, facilitated Bragg's lecture, which is also part of the Tom T. Hall Lecture Series at the university. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

British singer-songwriter Billy Bragg, left, was the inaugural guest speaker Thursday for a new Americana Music series at Middle Tennessee State University. Ken Paulson, dean of the MTSU College of Mass Communication, facilitated Bragg’s lecture, which is also part of the Tom T. Hall Lecture Series at the university. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

Under the partnership, Paulson said, prominent artists will participate in special lectures at the university. Students also got to attend the Americana Music Festival and Conference, which ran this year from Wednesday to Sunday in Nashville, featuring about 130 live performances at six music venues.

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“We’re indebted to the Americana Music Association for its commitment to a new generation of recording industry and music professionals,” Paulson said. “It’s a great fit on so many levels.

“The Americana Music Association has energized an entire genre of music through fresh approaches and a collaborative spirit, just as our goal at MTSU is to provide an education in innovation.”

Jed Hilly, executive director of the Americana Music Association, said the partnership is a logical extension of the association’s overall mission.

The association describes Americana as “contemporary music that incorporates elements of various American roots music styles, including country, roots-rock, folk, bluegrass, R&B and blues, resulting in a distinctive roots-oriented sound that lives in a world apart from the pure forms of the genres upon which it may draw.”

Students listen Thursday as British singer-songwriter Billy Bragg plays in tune inside the College of Education Building. Bragg was the inaugural guest speaker for a new Americana Music series at Middle Tennessee State University.

Students listen Thursday as British singer-songwriter Billy Bragg plays in tune inside the College of Education Building.

“Americana Music readily spans generations and we’re proud to establish this dynamic educational partnership with the students and faculty of the College of Mass Communication at Middle Tennessee State University,” Hilly said.

As part of the festival, Paulson on Wednesday presented the Spirit of Americana Freedom of Speech Award to artist Stephen Stills during the Honors & Awards Show at Ryman Auditorium. The award was given by the association and the Freedom Forum’s First Amendment Center.AMA logo-web

The award spotlights and celebrates Stills’ contributions to some of the most thought-provoking and observational songs of the 60s and 70s, as a member of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and beyond. Among them: “For What It’s Worth,” “Wooden Ships,” and “The Ecology Song.”

On Thursday, British singer-songwriter Billy Bragg was the inaugural guest speaker for the new Americana Music series at MTSU.

Bragg is best known for his topical songs over his 20-year recording career and for his collaboration with Wilco on “Mermaid Avenue,” a project that married unpublished lyrics by Woody Guthrie with new music.

“Billy Bragg’s appearance at MTSU was a rare opportunity for our students to hear firsthand from an artist who has consistently made music with meaning, drawing on the day’s headlines for politically potent and thought-provoking songs,” Paulson said.

Bragg began his recording career in 1983. His 1986 “Talking With the Taxman About Poetry” was a Top 10 album in Great Britain.

Bragg’s MTSU appearance was also a part of the Tom T. Hall Lecture Series, which brings noted writers and authors to campus.

The Tom T. Hall Writers Series in the College of Mass Communication celebrates songwriters, authors, poets and screenwriters and offers students, faculty, staff and the public a chance to learn more about the creative process as well as the business end of success.

Previous Hall Writers Series guests have included country superstar Vince Gill, acclaimed songwriter John Hiatt, bluegrass impresario Ricky Skaggs and the Emmy-nominated creative team behind the HBO Films movie “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee,” which included MTSU alumnus and composer George S. Clinton.

— Andrew Oppmann (andrew.oppmann@mtsu.edu)

Ken Paulson presents Stephen Stills with the Spirit of Americana Award at the 12th Annual Americana Music Honors And Awards Ceremony Presented By Nissan on September 18, 2013 in Nashville, United States.  (Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images for Americana Music Festival)

Ken Paulson presents Stephen Stills with the Spirit of Americana Award at the 12th annual Americana Music Honors and Awards Ceremony presented by Nissan Sept. 18 in Nashville. (Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images for Americana Music Festival)


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