The 14-time Grammy Award winner Ricky Skaggs performed at ETSU on Saturday as the featured entertainment for the Appalachian Studies Association Conference.
Anita DeAngelis director of the Mary B. Martin School of the Arts, welcomed Skaggs and the opener for the evening: ETSU’s Bluegrass Pride Band.
Student members of the group included: Calder Baker from Grand Rapids, Michigan, on banjo; Jamie Carter from Spartanburg, on bass; Tennessee State Champion fiddler Aynsley Porchak of Woodstock, Ontario; Karl Smakula from Montrose, West Virginia, on mandolin; and Ben Watlington from Mocksville, North Carolina, on guitar.
The Pride Band was led by the program director Daniel Boner, who also joined the band in a fiddler duo and introduced the headliners: Ricky Skaggs and his band Kentucky Thunder.
“It’s great to be here at ETSU,” Skaggs said. “The spirit of this campus feels so good to me.”
During his performance, Skaggs openly expressed his admiration for ETSU’s Pride Band and even showed his excitement for the anticipated performing arts center.
“I’m excited about the future here [at ETSU],” Skaggs said.
Throughout his career, Skaggs has drawn influences from a variety of musical genres with it beginning in bluegrass.
Skaggs was able to explore new areas of music by combining his bluegrass and traditional country music roots with a more contemporary Nashville sound.
The eight-time winners of the International Bluegrass Music Association Instrumental Group of the Year, Kentucky Thunder, featured members Paul Brewster from Knoxville, Tennessee, on rhythm guitar and tenor vocals; Andy Leftwich from White House, Tennessee, on fiddle; Cody Kilby from Cowan, Tennessee, on lead guitar; Eddie Faris from Ozawkie, Kansas, on guitar and bass vocals; Scott Mulvahill from Houston, Texas, on bass and bass vocals; and Russ Carson from Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, on banjo.
Skaggs played with enthusiasm throughout the evening and spoke fondly of his father and mother, who was an old-time mountain singer.
“Her voice cut like a knife,” Skaggs said.
The performance even featured guest artist 11-year-old Carson Peters, also known as “Fiddlin’ Carson Peters,” who has played at the Grand Ole Opry and joined Skaggs for a song.
The performance featured several inspirations of Bill Monroe and the Stanley Brothers, as well as concluded with an encore.
“We were just so proud to be here,” Skaggs said.