Music in the Mountains

By Angie DeWitt

When you hear the ‘Sound of Morgantown,’ what do you picture? What do you think of? For some, the sound of Appalachian Music comes to mind.

Having become wildly popular among some groups, while still remaining an ‘underground’ scene, Appalachian music, or bluegrass, has its roots here in West Virginia.

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The Hammons family of Pocahontas County, WV / photo courtesy of Pinterest.

Morgantown, WV hosts the annual Gardner Winter Music Festival.

Started in 1978 by Worley Gardner, the Festival features non-stop Appalachian music, workshops, “jam sessions,” and the luxury of socializing with others who share your same interests. This year the event was held at the end of February, and featured an extended set by LoganTown as they performed a tribute to famed fiddler, Elmer Rich.

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Elmer Rich in his living room in 2001 / photo courtesy of WV Culture and History.

The Festival sticks to their theme when it comes to the food, as well: pepperoni rolls – a West Virginia favorite, sausage gravy and biscuits, and cream chicken and biscuits.

Morgantown Friends of Old Time Music and Dance is another organization here in Morgantown that is dedicated to celebrating our famed heritage. They host frequent community square and contra dances at Marilla Park in Sabraton. They can be found on Facebook here, and also be sure to check out June Moon Dance Weekend!

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Photo courtesy of Morgantown Friends of Old Time Music and Dance.

In 2014, West Virginia University dedicated part of its Mountaineer Week to music, square dancing, and crafting and quilting of the Appalachian heritage.

“Our West Virginia hills will ring with the sounds of fiddles, banjos and dulcimers during Mountaineer Week this year as we celebrate Appalachian Music.” – Sonja Wilson

Wilson felt it was important for students to understand the homeland of West Virginian natives. Taylor Runner and Chris Haddox helped out immensely with the square dance segment, encouraging students to “come one, come all.”

Musical traditions from our homeland are important links to the past and must be cherished and passed through generations.” – Sonja Wilson

To learn more about the Appalachian culture, take a look at the Appalachian Music Project as Juliana and Jordan search for what it means to be Appalachian.

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The West Virginia University Bluegrass Band / photo courtesy of the Charleston Gazette.

4 thoughts on “Music in the Mountains”

  1. Angie,

    Such a good topic for this week! Though we all live here in Morgantown, many may not be aware of our culture background and the music that surrounds Morgantown. I personally know nothing of Appalachian music and it’s cool that Morgantown still honors our musical roots through the various organizations and music events that you mentioned. I feel like our Appalachian music roots are something that we all know exists here in Morgantown, but is almost unseen unless you actively search it out. I’m happy you did a post addressing the topic and how it is still celebrated today.


  2. I secretly love listening to folk and bluegrass, so I really liked your article. I have never heard of the Gardner Winter Music Festival, but it sounds like a lot of fun and I want to attend at some point. I love how Mountaineer Week incorporates local artists, music, and just all around Appalachian heritage in the Mountain Lair. I think it helps define the word “Mountaineer” and contributes to even better week!


  3. I love bluegrass music, and anytime it is in our area and if I have heard of them you will bet I’ll be there. One of the best shows I have seen in morgantown was Cabinet, then followed by Keller Williams and the Keels. More people need to know about how much fun Bluegrass music can be, and if they have never been to a show they need to. That is why I really like this post because maybe it will shed some light on this type of music and it could get a bigger following.


  4. I was actually working for Up All Night for their Mountaineer Week in 2014 when they featured a band that was popular for their Appalachian sound. Although I wasn’t a fan of what they were playing, they had a tremendous amount of talent and passion for their music. I got to talk to them for a while since I was there to help them out and they have such a great appreciation for WV and the Appalachian history and it was amazing to talk to them. I had no idea that this was really big and popular here in WV so I really enjoyed reading this piece.


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