It’s hard to believe this semester is coming to a close and my studies with Bluegrass are ending (for now). Although it’s impossible to articulate the sum of my experiences over the course of a few months, this final post is an attempt to reflect on what I’ve learned and what has impacted me the most.
I’ve felt moved by the connective bridges that music can build, as evidenced by Abigail Washburn’s beautiful work with the Sichuan Quake Relief in China (as well as the tremendous music that emerged from her experience there). I’ve felt at home in the familiar sounds of Allison Krauss, Ralph Stanley, The Osborne Brothers, and so many others that I grew up with. I’ve been challenged by the stereotypes of Bluegrass as a genre, by the space allowed to particular kinds of performers and politics, as well as the space not allowed. I’ve grown with the empowerment that icons like Hazel Dickens inspire. Above all, I’ve been inspired to dig deeper, look further, and listen more carefully to not only Bluegrass or music in general, but the everyday sights and sounds that shape my life.
This is the second Appalachian Studies class that I’ve taken since starting college, and I can say with confidence that both have changed my experience at Virginia Tech for the better. Not only do I find it important to study Appalachia as a region of natural, social, historical, and political value, but I think it is even more crucial to do so as I work to develop a sense of belonging and place, even if I’ll only be staying here as a (potentially) temporary resident. There is much to be learned and loved in the rich culture of the mountains, and I wish more students took advantage of the opportunity that classes like these present to engage with Blacksburg and Appalachia as a whole. For now, I’m happy to have shared in this tiny sliver of Bluegrass, Blacksburg, and Virginia Tech, and I look forward to applying my knowledge and absorbing even more in the future.