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Students Capture Musical Heritage of Swannanoa Valley through Album Production Project

November 18, 2011

Music Business Professor Kevin Auman wanted his students to go beyond tests and papers in his class: he challenged them to produce a music album that they could bring to the market, an album that would be both meaningful and profitable. Through the diligent work of Montreat seniors Kelly Jo Santos, Krystalynne Schultz, Dyllan Hensley, Chris Henson, and Mykia Russell, “In the Land of the Sky” was created, the first album in history to capture the voices and songs of music native to the Swannanoa Valley, the Blue Ridge Mountain valley where Montreat College resides.

The goal of the project was to highlight the rich musical culture found in the Swannanoa Valley. The students state, “As music lovers and residents of the Valley, it is not only our privilege, but our responsibility to carry on the musical traditions of those who came before us. The Swannanoa Valley would not be what it is today without the passion to be a part of preserving the artistic treasures of our mountain community.”

To begin, the students asked if anyone had recorded a music album rooted in the Swannanoa Valley that traces its musical history. Discovering that this had never been done, they contacted local artists in the area to see if they could bring them in; nearly all of the artists agreed to be a part of the project. The students drew up contractual agreements with the artists, one requirement of the project.

The album production project immerses students in the “real world,” so much so that if the album generates a profit, the students can collect royalties. Professor Auman states, “It’s not just ‘We gotta get a good grade;’ they’ve (the students) got a stake in it. If it works, it’s going to work for them. That’s as close to real world as I can get.”

“In the Land of the Sky: Songs and Stories of the Swannanoa Valley” is a full-length album highlighting the music, culture, and history of the Swannanoa Valley. It is a compilation of artists who are native to the valley, including Matt Attauen, Burt Brown, Wayne Erbsen, David Holt, and Bob McMillian. The album not only features the folk music of the valley, but also communicates the story behind the Swannanoa Valley through narrated storytelling. The product has seventeen tracks and comes with a full color booklet containing historical pictures and information regarding the songs on the CD.

The student team will host a release party and live show for “In the Land of the Sky” on December 1, 2011 at 8 p.m. at The White Horse of Black Mountain, NC. There will be a $10 cover charge. The event will feature live performances from the artists, and guests can purchase the album on compact disc. Contact Mykiea Russell at russellmr@montreat.edu for more information.

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