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Event Details

DATE: 05/23/2023 19:00

TIME: 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm


LOCATION: Birthplace of Country Music Museum


Join us on Tuesday, May 23, 2023 at 7:00pm for a fascinating discussion on “Music as Work,” in partnership with the Arts Alliance Mountain Empire (AAME)!

Coming from a variety of different perspectives, the panelists will discuss what it is like to work in the music field, how they engage others with their creative vision, the challenges and joys of dealing with the day-to-day realities of their careers, and more. The group will include Carla Gover, Dr. Dena Jennings, and Emily Spencer (see artist bios below).

This program is complementary programming to our I’ve Endured: Women in Old-Time Music special exhibit, currently on display at the museum through December 31, 2023. Interested in-person attendees can participate in a curator-guided tour of the exhibit at 6:15pm before the program starts.

Virtual (via Zoom): https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZwrd-mgrj8pGNHHFsuBouqE3fgEi-yc7Qhc#/registration

In-person (Museum’s Performance Theater): https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/597GB9M


Carla Gover

Carla Gover is an 8th-generation Kentuckian, who shares flatfooting, ballads, and banjo through her performances, recordings, collaborations, and online courses. With Yani Vozos, Carla coordinates Cornbread & Tortillas, a collective of Appalachian and Latino artists based in Kentucky whose mission is to build community by sharing art, music, dance, and cultural heritage. Through outreach events, educational shows, workshops, and performances, they celebrate our similarities and differences to create unity in a diverse world. The centerpiece of their work together is the Cornbread & Tortillas theatrical show, a dynamic bilingual production that features stories, music, and dancing. Audiences journey from the Appalachian region of Eastern Kentucky to Mexico, Nicaragua, Ecuador, and beyond, exploring connections and celebrating our shared human experience.

Dr. Dena Jennings

Dena Jennings is a physician and artist in Central Virginia who can trace her ancestry in Appalachia back five generations through her mother’s family. Twenty years after establishing her medical practice and ImaniWorks, a non-profit organization for conflict transformation and human rights advocacy, Jennings moved to Ontario, Canada, where she entered a four-year arts apprenticeship. There, she learned to hand carve modern instruments made from gourds and other natural fibers in the style of traditional instruments from around the world. At the end of her apprenticeship, she opened a workshop, studio, and retail music store in a small town in Central Ontario.

Upon meeting her husband who had developed an herb farm and retreat center in Central Virginia, she relocated the workshop and studio where she could grow her own gourds and mill her own wood. She re-opened her practice in Orange and its waiting room is a gallery for her sculpted instruments and a listening room for Appalachian and Black American roots music. Through ImaniWorks, Jennings conducts instrument building workshops, conflict transformation retreats, and hosts the Affrolachian On-Time Music Gathering at the farm. She also makes sculptures and performs Appalachian and folk Bengali music on gourd instruments. Jennings is the Vice Chair of the Virginia Commission for the Arts, and she has served as a commissioner since 2019. As she explains, she “endeavors to build the Beloved Community through my devotion to music, culture, and social justice.”

Emily Spencer

Emily Spencer has played and taught music for a good portion of her life. She was born and grew up in Arlington, Virginia, and always had a love for the mountains and music. She moved to Southwest Virginia to attend college and to live where the mountain music could be found. She graduated from UVA-Wise in 1975 with a BS in Social Welfare and completed her education requirements to become certified in K-12 music from there many years later.

She met her late husband, Thornton Spencer, in 1975, and they soon formed the Whitetop
Mountain Band along with the renowned fiddler Albert Hash. The band continues to perform to this day, and has performed widely in the region and other countries. In 1980, she began teaching mountain music in a community music program at the Mount Rogers Fire Department. This program eventually became the Albert Hash Memorial Band program in Grayson County Schools. She was a part of the program there from its inception until March 2020 when the pandemic struck.

She is currently an instructor in both the Ashe and Alleghany JAM programs in North Carolina and has also taught through Wilkes Community College in Ashe, Alleghany, and Wilkes, and at Wytheville Community College. Emily has also led many workshops at various festivals and events.

Event Location

Birthplace of Country Music Museum

520 Birthplace Of Country Music Way
Bristol, Virginia 24201

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