My life as a musician in Southwest Virginia intersects with so many other industries, organizations, and realms. It was through music that I became interested in cultural tourism. The idea of cultural tourism is nothing new for the Appalachian region, from Cherokee to Dollywood, it's been going on for years. However, when the notion began to capitalize on the distinct features of Southwest Virginia, I began to pay attention. It was and still is important to me that we market an authentic version of ourselves and avoid the Pigeon Forge route filled with hillbilly caricatures and moonshine jugs. As an artist, it's also important that cultural tourism fosters a supportive economy for its biggest asset, the artists, musicians, dancers, and story-tellers. That's why I'm so proud to work with The Crooked Road in Virginia. This tourism initiative markets venues, musicians, camps, and festivals spanning all 19 counties and 4 independent cities in Southwest Virginia. I'm proud to serve as their education committee chair. We're working to strengthen the area's youth musician programs and offer professional development workshops for musicians and venue owners wanting to stake their claim in the creative economy. This weekend we held our first professional development series to offer young musicians tools needed to market themselves as a working artist in the region. We teamed up with local musicians, Barter Theater, and others to to offer workshops in writing bios, marketing online, and booking yourself as a working musician. It was a big success! We also celebrated the rebranding of Heartwood, now known as the Southwest Virginia Cultural Center & Marketplace. I was on hand as a councilman to witness the ribbon cutting and then returned in the afternoon as square dance caller to celebrate all the hard work with some fiddle tunes and dancing.
The weather didn't stop a larger crowd of local community leaders, artists, and residents from enjoying the unveiling of the new signage at the Southwest Virginia Cultural Center & Marketplace.
Ryan Nickerson, Andrew Barnes, and James Edgar provided lively music for Friday night's square dance!
Couples waltzing across the dance floor on Friday night.
The weekend wrapped up with a quiet St. Patrick's Day in Big Stone Gap. I celebrated as I usually do, playing a few tunes that crossed over the pond with Scots-Irish and Irish settlers into the Appalachian mountains. Enjoy a sample below!
Well, that wraps up another week for me! I'll be writing from a special place next Tuesday, so tune in! As always, thank you for reading this and thanks for your support. -Tyler