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 home >> events >> ola belle reed symposium

Ola Belle Reed and Southern Mountain Music on the Mason-Dixon Line

American Folklife Center
September 10, 2015. 1:00-4:30
Montpelier Room, Madison Building, Library of Congress

Ola Belle Reed playing a banjo.
Ola Belle Reed at Campbell's Corner, Oxford, Pennsylvania, June 1, 1967. Photo by Henry Glassie, used with permission.

Born to a musical family in the mountains of Ashe County, North Carolina in 1913, Ola Belle Reed became a prolific songwriter and performer. Known for her unique style of banjo playing and singing, she became a mainstay of traditional old-time music on the radio, and inspired generations of bluegrass and old-time players. She was awarded a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1986. Ola Belle Reed died in 2002, yet her influence is still reverberating throughout old time and traditional music.

Cover of Ola Belle Reed and Southern Mountain Music on the Mason-Dixon Line with a photo of Ola Belle Reed playing the guitar.
Cover: Ola Belle Reed and Southern Mountain Music on the Mason-Dixon Line. This publication will be available August 21, 2015.

In 1966, folklorist Henry Glassie traveled from Philadelphia to the town of Oxford, Pennsylvania to see Alex & Ola Belle and the New River Boys and Girls play their exciting brand of Southern mountain music live, on the air, in the back of the Campbell's Corner general store. Over the next two years, Glassie would record the deep repertoire of Ola Belle Reed – folk ballads, minstrel songs, country standards, and originals like "I’ve Endured," penned by Ola Belle herself. Glassie also chronicled the remarkable story of the migration of communities from the Blue Ridge Mountains toward the Mason-Dixon Line prior to World War II. Over four decades later, in 2009, Maryland state folklorist Clifford Murphy struck out to discover if this rich musical tradition still existed in the small Maryland, Delaware, and Pennsylvania towns where it once flourished. Murphy, amazed by what he encountered, began making audio recordings to document the descendants of Ola Belle’s musical legacy.

This symposium will feature Glassie, Murphy, and other scholars of music and folklore discussing the impact of Ola Belle Reed’s legacy on traditional music today and talking about the new publication Ola Belle Reed and Southern Mountain Music on the Mason-Dixon Line, which features the recordings made by Glassie and Murphy. The symposium is free and open to the public.

There will also be a pre-symposium concert on September 9 at noon in the Coolidge Auditorium, Thomas Jefferson Building: The Legacy of Ola Belle Reed | Featuring David Reed, Hugh Campbell, and Other Friends and Family.


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