Born in Spartanburg, SC in 1927, Don Reno was a bluegrass banjo pioneer whose style was widely admired. In 1948 Reno became a member of Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Boys. Two years later with Red Smiley, he formed “Reno and Smiley and the Tennessee Cutups”, a partnership that lasted fourteen years and recorded over 100 influential albums. In 1964, after the retirement of Red Smiley, Reno and guitarist Bill Harrell formed “Reno and Harrell” followed by a solo career that lasted until his death in 1984. Reno accompanied Arthur Smith on Smith’s well-known recording of “Feuding Banjos”.

The importance of Don Reno – especially his work with Red Smiley – in the spreading of bluegrass music and its development as a defined genre of music is often underrated.  Not only was he a brilliant and innovative 5-string banjo player, he was also a great bluegrass lead guitar picker – in the days when lead guitar in bluegrass was very rare.  In fact, Don was the first to play lead guitar with a flat pick on a bluegrass recording. He could play all the instruments in a bluegrass line-up to a professional standard, was an excellent tenor singer and prolific composer.  It’s interesting to note that having written his first song, ‘Jesus will Save Your Soul’, at the age of thirteen, his songwriting tally, by the end of his career, reached 500.

Born in Spartanburg, South Carolina on February 21, 1926, Don started playing music at the age of five and grew up enjoying the influences of J.E. Mainer’s Mountaineers, the Delmore Brothers, the Blue Sky Boys, Jimmy Rogers and the Monroe Brothers.  He became one of the North Carolina school of the three finger banjo pickers after being tutored by Snuffy Jenkins, the great banjo player from those parts, who was also the main influence on banjo player, Earl Scruggs. Don had replaced Hoke Jenkins as banjo player with the Morris Brothers’ band around 1941 and by 1943, long before Scruggs, he was playing the smooth 3-finger roll, now recognized as an essential ingredient of bluegrass music.

The creator of bluegrass music, Bill Monroe, invited Don to join his band in 1943 but Don declined as he had applied to join the army and was waiting to see if his application was successful.  He had told Monroe that if the military would not take him, he would take the job.

Don was drafted and thereby hangs a tale as, eventually in late 1945, when the position of banjo player with Monroe was vacated by David “Stringbean” Akeman, it was taken by a young Earl Scruggs, who was exempted from military duty to look after his widowed mother.  The Grand Ole Opry was taken by storm by the combination of Monroe’s hot mandolin playing and high lonesome singing together with the exhilarating new 3-finger banjo style of Earl Scruggs.

Don did work with Monroe later, after returning from military duty in 1948.  By then, Scruggs was a star in his own right and had left Monroe along with guitarist/singer Lester Flatt to perform in the band, Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs and the Foggy Mountain Boys.

In the early days, Don Reno’s banjo playing was very similar to that of Earl Scruggs, but by the early 1950s, Don had purposely created a style all his own.  His innovations included the use of two and three note chords in the construction of solos or, for slow songs, he would sometimes accompany them double time, using the thumb and one finger of his right hand on single strings to play runs similar to those played on guitar.

On leaving Monroe’s band in 1949, Don met Red Smiley, when they worked together in the bands of Tommy Magnus and Toby Stroud and in 1951 they formed their own band.  Reno’s high, clear tenor singing and inventive banjo picking, together with Smiley’s distinctively smooth lead singing and solid guitar playing, created an irresistible combination.

Their first recording with King Records in 1952 was the Reno composition, ‘I’m Using My Bible for a Roadmap’, which became a bluegrass standard.  During this period they took other work and came together just to record. Throughout the years 1952-53 they recorded sixty sides with King, who, over the next twelve years, released an average of twelve singles a year by the band.

By 1955, to take further advantage of their successful recordings, Reno and Smiley formed a band (at the time they had a hit with their cover of Allen Shelton’s version of ‘Home Sweet Home’).  By the summer of that year, they were performing on a Saturday night barn dance at WRVA in Richmond, Virginia on a program on WXEX, Petersburg, Virginia and touring country music parks.

The new band was called Don Reno, Red Smiley and the Tennessee Cutups.  It’s interesting to note that their manager at that time was Carlton Haney, the visionary destined to become the organizer of the first 3-day bluegrass festival in 1965 at Roanoke, Virginia.  An event that started the festival movement, which in turn provided a home and culture in which bluegrass music was able to support itself and become clearly recognized as a separate genre.

There is an important Dimension to bluegrass music, not always appreciated by its exponents, and that is, as “Entertainment”.  Don Reno recognized and fulfilled that requirement to the letter. He acted as emcee and created elaborate comedy routines in which every member of the band dressed in costume.  Don’s innate ability to entertain enabled the band to establish a successful country music career at a time when the trend was away from the original ‘Old-Timey’ sound.

It was Don who, in 1955, played on ‘Feuding Banjos’, later to be called ‘Dueling Banjos’ and to be made famous when played by banjo player Eric Weissberg and guitarist Steve Mandrell fro us in the film ‘Deliverance’.  This was when Don was working with Arthur “Guitar Boogie” Smith, the man who wrote that famous tune. On the original version, Don played 5-string banjo and Arthur played tenor banjo.

Don left Red Smiley and after leading a number of short-lived bands, joined up with Bill Harrell in 1966 for a fruitful 11-year partnership.  Don knew Bill Harrell from when he (Bill) had worked as a mandolin player with him and Smiley back in 1955. Under the name the Tennessee Cutups, they initially recorded well known songs written by other groups, with an assortment of minor labels, in 1968 they produced the first three albums of new songs in a style similar to that of the old Reno and Smiley repertoire.  In 1969 Smiley returned and began touring and recording with them, until his death in 1972.

While together, Reno and Harrell earned the honor of being the first American country band to perform at the United Nations headquarters in New York.  They also played at the presidential inauguration of Richard Nixon in 1973. Although using the instrumentation of a bluegrass band, they did see themselves as a country band, as that was the area in which they enjoyed their greatest success.

In 1976, Reno and Harrell signed with CMR Records before their partnership came to an end in 1977.  The reason for their parting was Bill Harrell’s involvement in a car crash in 1976 where he suffered a serious injury.  Don used a replacement until Bill recovered, but during Bill’s recovery period, Don moved to live in Lynchburg, Virginia.  By the time Bill was ready to return, they lived so far apart that Don thought it better to dissolve the partnership.

Don died on October 16, 1984 as a result of sugar diabetes.  He left behind a legacy of sixty albums. The world lost an exuberant, witty and creative musician as well as an entertainer worthy of the description “A True Bluegrass Hero”.

Born in Bristol, TN in 1895, Clarence “Tom” Ashley was an American clawhammer banjo player, guitarist and singer whose musical career began at the early age of sixteen. He met Doc Walsh and formed the Carolina Tar Heels who recorded many hit albums of the 1930s including his famous song “The Coo-Coo Bird”. He recorded two albums with Folkways Records and spent the last years of his life playing internationally at folk music concerts. Ashley’s appearances included venues such as Carnegie Hall in New York and the Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island.

"Tom" Clarence Ashley (September 29, 1895 – June 2, 1967) was an American clawhammer banjo player, guitarist and singer. He began performing at medicine shows in the Southern Appalachian region as early as 1911, and gained initial fame during the late 1920s as both a solo recording artist and as a member of various string bands. After his "rediscovery" during the folk revival of the 1960s, Ashley spent the last years of his life playing at folk music concerts, including appearances at Carnegie Hall in New York and at the Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island.

Clarence Ashley was born Clarence Earl McCurry in Bristol, Tennessee in 1895, the only child of George McCurry and Rose-Belle Ashley. Those who knew George McCurry described him variously as a "one-eyed fiddler, hell-raiser, and big talker."[2] Shortly before Clarence was born, Rose-Belle's father, Enoch Ashley, discovered that George was an adulterer, and George was forced to leave town. Rose-Belle moved back in with her father, and around 1900, the family relocated to Shouns, Tennessee, a crossroads just south of Mountain City, where Enoch ran a boarding house. When Clarence was very young, he was nicknamed "Tommy Tiddy Waddy" (after a nursery rhyme) by his grandfather Enoch, and thus became known to friends and acquaintances as 'Tom'. As he was raised by the parents of his mother, the name "McCurry" was dropped in favour of "Ashley".

From infancy, Tom was acquainted with musicians. His grandfather bought him a banjo when he was eight years old, and his mother and aunts taught him to play traditional Appalachian folk songs and ballads. He also learned a number of songs and techniques from itinerant lumberjacks and railroad workers lodging at his grandfather's boarding house. In 1911, Tom joined a medicine show that happened to be passing through Mountain City. He played banjo and guitar, and also performed blackface comedy. Tom would play with medicine shows every summer until the early 1940s. During winters, he organized local concerts at rural schools. He would also play for money at coal camps and rayon mills, often accompanied by influential Johnson County fiddler G. B. Grayson.

Tom made his first recordings for Gennett Records during February 1928 with the Blue Ridge Mountain Entertainers, which then consisted of Ashley on banjo or guitar, Garley Foster on harmonica, and Clarence Green on fiddle. Later that year, with the help of Victor producer Ralph Peer, Ashley made several recordings with the Carolina Tar Heels, which consisted of Tom on guitar and vocals, his friend Dock Walsh on banjo, and Gwen or Garley Foster on harmonica. In 1929, Columbia Records recruited Ashley to make his first solo recordings, as will as to record with a trio called "Byrd Moore and His Hot Shots." During the early 1930s, Ashley again recorded with the Blue Ridge Entertainers, this time for the American Record Corporation. The final recordings from his early era were a series of duets with harmonica player Gwen Foster in 1933.

The effects of the Great Depression made money scarce throughout the early 1930s. Not only was Ashley no longer recruited to make records, it was virtually impossible to earn money playing at coal camps or on street corners. The Depression (along with government regulations) also greatly reduced the crowds that attended medicine shows. Ashley worked briefly as a coal miner in West Virginia, and did odd jobs back in Shouns to support his wife, Hettie, and their two children. In 1937, he established a trucking business in Mountain City that hauled furniture and crops to various cities around the region. Throughout the following decade, Ashley performed as a comedian with the Stanley Brothers. He also formed a local string band, the Tennessee Merrymakers.

During the folk music revival of the late 1950s and early 1960s, urban ethnomusicologists rediscovered Ashley's music. By this time, Ashley was well-known among folk music enthusiasts due in large part to Harry Smith's 1951 Anthology of American Folk Music, which included some of Ashley's early recordings. In 1960 Ralph Rinzler met Ashley at the Old Time Fiddler's Convention in Union Grove, North Carolina. He eventually persuaded him to start playing banjo again and to record his repertoire of songs. Over the next few years Ashley and his friends Doc Watson, Clint Howard, and Fred Price played at numerous urban folk festivals, including the Chicago Folk Festival during 1962 and the Newport Folk Festival in 1963. They also made two records for Folkways Records. A compilation of the two records plus other recordings are available on Original Folkways Recordings: 1960-1962.

Ashley continued touring the folk circuit throughout the mid-1960s. He appeared at Carnegie Hall in New York and played at dozens of venues in California. In 1966, Ashley and Reidsville, North Carolina guitarist Tex Isley toured England. A second tour of England was planned for 1967, but Ashley grew ill and discovered he had cancer before he departed.[3] He died in 1967, at the Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Ashley learned much of his repertoire from his grandfather and aunts and itinerant musicians lodging at his grandfather's boarding house in the early 1900s.[1] His unique G-modal banjo tuning style, which he called "sawmill" (gDGCD from fifth string to the first), was likely taught to him by family members. He recorded several songs derived from English or Irish ballads that were passed down through generations in Appalachia, the most well-known of which included "Coo Coo Bird" (which he learned from his mother), "House Carpenter", and "Rude and Rambling Man". Other recordings included the murder ballads "Naomi Wise", "Little Sadie", and "John Hardy", and the folk songs "Frankie Silvers" and "Greenback Dollar". An African-American influence can be heard on Ashley's renderings of "Dark Holler", "Haunted Road Blues", and "Corrina, Corrina". During 1933, Ashley made the first known recording of "House of the Rising Sun", which he claimed he learned from his grandfather, Enoch. During the folk revival years of the 1960s, Ashley and his band helped to popularize the Southern hymn, "Amazing Grace."

Several notable musicians cite Ashley as an important influence. Country music singer Roy Acuff once worked medicine shows with Ashley, and Ashley probably taught him "House of the Rising Sun" (which Acuff recorded during 1938) and "Greenback Dollar." Folk musician Doc Watson began his recording career with Ashley in 1960 and played in Ashley's band throughout much of the decade. Grateful Dead frontman Jerry Garcia once said in an interview that he learned clawhammer picking from "listening to Clarence Ashley." Other folk musicians influenced by Ashley include Joan Baez, Judy Collins, and Jean Ritchie.

Bobby Hicks is a Grammy Award winning bluegrass fiddler and professional musician with more than fifty years of experience. He still inspires awe in his audiences. His career as a fiddler has paired him with other country music and bluegrass greats such as Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys, Earl Scruggs, Tony Rice, J. D. Crowe, Ricky Skaggs and many more. Born in Newton, NC in 1933, Hicks took up the fiddle at the age of nine and created a style all his own. He was inducted into the “Fiddlers Hall of Fame” in 2002 and today Hicks is teaching as well as performing.

Bobby was born in Newton, North Carolina in 1933 and started playing fiddle when he was nine years old.  He is self taught and was hired by Bluegrass legend Bill Monroe in 1954 to play bass, but switched to fiddle after fiddler Gordon Terry was drafted into the military. Bobby spent the 1960's through the middle 70's in Iowa, Montana, Oregon and Las Vegas. 

In 1975 he returned home to North Carolina, where he met Ricky Skaggs at Camp Springs, North Carolina.  In 1981, Bobby joined the Ricky Skaggs Band, which was one of the hottest country bands of the 1980's and received many, many awards including three time winners of the CMA "Instrumental Group of the Year", three time winners of Music City News "Bluegrass Act of the Year", the five time winners of the Academy of Country Music 's "Touring Band of the Year".

The Ricky Skaggs Band transitioned to Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder and became an award winning Bluegrass band - twice winning the IBMA and SPBGMA's "Instrumental Group of the Year" in 1999 and 2000.  Additionally, they have won GRAMMY awards for Bluegrass Rules!, Ancient Tones, Soldiers of the Cross, History of the Future and Live from Charleston Music Hall (Bobby's last album with Ricky).

In many ways, Bobby has come full circle - back to Bluegrass music where he started years ago.  Bluegrass music is enjoying a resurgence in popularity not seen since the 1950's. Whether it's teaching young fiddlers or playing a hot fiddle break on stage, Bobby Hicks is a living legend and  continues to contribute to the enjoyment of fans everywhere.

Born in Whitetop Mountain, VA in 1917, Albert Hash was a skilled instrument maker by trade. The fiddles he built have inspired many generations of craftsmen within the Appalachian region. A veteran string band performer, Hash was a founding member of the “Whitetop Mountain Band” as well as a recording artist. His fiddling and repertoire of tunes, known as the Grayson County style, has been an inspiration to musicians around certain Virginia areas that has become synonymous with old-time string music.

Born in 1917 in Rugby Virginia, Albert Hash was a well-known and beloved fiddler and instrument maker. He learned to play fiddle from Corbit Stamper, Jim Reedy, his uncle George Finley, and was influenced by G.B. Grayson. After Grayson was killed, Albert played with Henry Whitter. Albert also played with many other musicians through the years, including the Virginia Carolina Boys with Wayne and Max Henderson, and of course the Whitetop Mountain Band with Flurry Dowe, Emily and Thornton Spencer, and Tom and Becky Barr. Albert Hash made his first fiddle at age ten, at the height of the Depression. He enrolled in the U.S. Navy and learned to be a machinist, something that would be an integral part of his later fiddle making. He worked in the naval shipyard and torpedo facility in northern Virginia. While in the Navy, he married Ethel Ruth Spencer in 1944, and the two of them had two daughters: Joyce Mae and Audrey Marie. After being in the Navy, he moved to back to Fees Branch area and then to neighboring Lansing, NC. During the folklife revival of the 1960s and 70s, many musicians sought his expertise, seeking history, an impromptu jam session, one of his handcrafted instruments or instructions on how to craft an instrument. In 1967, Hash and his wife moved back to Whitetop, Virginia. He continued to visit local craft fairs, music festivals and fiddler's conventions in Virginia and northwestern North Carolina and was a regular at the Blue Ridge Folklife Festival in Virginia and the Ashe County Fiddlers’ Convention. His talents have been the showcase for the 1982 World's Fair, the Smithsonian Institute and the Grayson Highlands State Park in Mouth of Wilson, Virginia. After his death in 1983, the Commonwealth of Virginia presented Ethel with a framed copy of House Resolution 18, proclaiming a moment of silence in his honor. Albert also helped start the old time music program at Mt. Rogers Combined School in Whitetop, VA. Albert, his daughter Audrey, Thornton Spencer and Emily Spencer started volunteering at the local fire department teaching old time music lessons to the community. Later, he began giving lessons at Mt. Rogers School to the students there. After he passed away, Audrey carried on the music program until she moved to Lansing, NC. Emily Spencer now carries on the old time music program and it has become an everyday class that students get credit. It also has been featured on television, newspapers, radio and got nominated for a Grammy for schools. The school band is named the Albert Hash Memorial String Band.

Albert Hash was a famous fiddle player and maker from Whitetop. He was born in 1917. He learned to play from Corbit Stamper, Jim Reedy, his uncle George Finley, and was influenced by G.B. Grayson. After Grayson was killed, Albert played with Henry Whitter. Albert also played with many other musicians through the years, including the Virginia Carolina Boys with Wayne and Max Henderson, and of course the Whitetop Mountain Band with Flurry Dowe, Emily and Thornton Spencer, and Tom and Becky Barr. Albert's kindness and willingness to help all is well-known. Much more will be added about Albert in the near future. The song above is "Did You Ever See the Devil, Uncle Joe?" from a fiddler's convention recording. Albert-fiddle, Thornton Spencer-fiddle, Flurry Dowe-banjo, Becky Barr and Emily Spencer-guitar, Tom Barr-bass

The band originated with Albert Hash in the 1940s, a well-known and beloved fiddler and luthier. When he was a teenager, Albert played fiddle with Henry Whitter of “Grayson & Whitter” which recorded during the 1920’s. Albert had a tremendous impact on the old time and bluegrass scene. The tune, “Hangman’s Reel” that Albert recorded is the version played by so many old time musicians today. He also taught such luthiers as Wayne Henderson, Audrey Ham, and many others to build instruments.

In the 1970s, Albert’s brother-in-law, Thornton Spencer (twin fiddle), and his wife, Emily Spencer (banjo, vocals), joined Albert in the Whitetop Mountain Band. The three also started an old time music program at Mt. Rogers School, a small k-12 public school, in Whitetop. The students learn fiddle, banjo, guitar, bass, etc. and dancing. Emily Spencer carries on the program and it has received a lot of regional and national attention for its uniqueness (Grammy award nomination, CMT, numerous articles and radio shows

The Whitetop Mountain Band is one of the most popular dance bands of the Appalachian Mountains. They have a great following at square dances all over Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Kentucky at venues like the Carter Family Fold. The band has also performed at all sorts of venues throughout the United States from festivals to concerts, competitions, and colleges. The Smithsonian Folklife Festival, National Folklife Festival, World Music Institute in NYC, Carter Family Festival, Dock Boggs Festival, World Fair, Virginia Arts Festival, Floydfest, Ola Belle Reed Festival and Merlefest are a few of the many festivals the band has performed at. They recently were featured on the NCTA Crooked Road Music tour of California, Nevada, Oregon, and Idaho in October 2007. In September 2007, Members also toured the United Kingdom and Ireland playing the Cornish Bluegrass Festival and Open House Festival along with venues through England, Wales, and Ireland. In January 2008, members of the band also played at the Illawarra Folk Festival and Tamworth Country Music Festival in New South Wales, Australia. The band has also taught and been master musicians/dancers for workshops and classes in fiddle, banjo, guitar, vocals, and dance all over the US. Some of these include Swannanoa Gathering in Asheville, NC, Cowan Creek Music School in KY, Mountain Music School in Big Stone Gap, and Mt. Rogers Combined School.

“B” Townes, a native of Danville, VA, began his career at Wilkes Community College as a Horticulture Instructor. Through his efforts, a million dollar fundraising campaign for the WCC Gardens was launched in 1985 with construction and endowments exceeding all goals. As an outgrowth of the garden campaign, he developed the idea of MerleFest which is one of the foremost music events in the country. The festival now draws over 75,000 participants over 4 days from all over the world and has a local economic impact from $12 to $15 million.

“B” Townes, a native of Danville, VA, has been a resident of Wilkes County since 1973 in the employment of Wilkes Community College.  He holds degrees from NC State University, Wilkes Community College, Appalachian State University, NC A and T University, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University VPI in Horticulture, Agricultural Education, Environmental Science, Community College Education and Community College Administration.  He resides in the community of Boomer with his wife, the former Martha Ham. They have two children, William and Charlotte. As a family they manage one of the first Stewardship Forestry Farms awarded in Wilkes County and they have placed their property in a conservation easement. The Townes’ family is a member of Little Rock Baptist Church. 

“B” began his career at Wilkes Community College as a Horticulture Instructor in the Life Sciences Department.  He was instrumental in developing the program and received a national award for Excellence in Instruction and Programming from the National Council for Horticulture Therapy.  Mr. Townes involved the college for five years by participating with his students in the Southern Living Show. The college won several awards for garden displays at the annual event in Charlotte.

Through his efforts a $1 million fundraising campaign for the WCC Gardens was launched in 1985.  Since then construction and endowments have exceeded all goals. As an outgrowth of the garden campaign, he developed the idea of MerleFest  (now in its 23rd year) which is one of the foremost acoustic music events in the country. The festival now draws over 65,000 participants from all over the world and has a local economic impact ranging from $12 to $15 million.

Townes currently serves as the Vice President of Development for Wilkes Community College.  His responsibilities include serving as Executive Director of the Wilkes Community College Endowment Corporation which to date has raised over $23.7 million in assets for the college.  In addition, Townes oversees the college’s festival and events, marketing, public relations and external funding efforts. He serves on the Walker Events Board and has been responsible for leadership that has seen membership grow exponentially.  He has been responsible for land acquisition, which has resulted in doubling the size of Wilkes Community College. Through his efforts the Endowment Corporation has been involved with campaigns for the Performing Arts, Endowed Scholarships, building acquisition including the Beacon Hill facilities and its renovation to childcare and healthcare and renovations to the John A. Walker Community Center.

“B” is the past president of the Wilkes YMCA Board of Directors; Director of the NC Festival Association; is past president of the State Public Relations, Marketing and Information of Community Colleges; past President of Edgemont Ltd.  He is a former member of the North Wilkesboro Lions Club, teacher for Boy Scout merit badge college, past president of the Piedmont Nurserymen’s Association, and recipient of the National Award for Excellence in Programming in Horticulture Therapy. He is active in  land preservation and serves as President of the Blue Ridge Rural Land Trust board which serves 7 counties. He was recognized as the “Citizen of the year” by North Wilkesboro Rotary for his service to the community and he and his family were selected as “marshals” for the annual Christmas parade. He and his son thru hiked the 2,175 mile Appalachian Trail in 2005. Townes serves on the North Carolina Mountains to the Sea Board of Directors which is responsible for construction and maintenance of the 1,000 mile trail across North Carolina.

In 2002 he was recognized as “volunteer of the year” by the Greater Winston Salem YMCA for his efforts in spearheading the capital campaign to build a new YMCA in Wilkesboro. He also was awarded the George Williams service award by the YMCA of Greater Charlotte for his leadership and work with the Camp Herring Ridge development in 2005. He currently serves on the Charlotte YMCA Camping Services Board.

Townes was chosen to be a participant in the North Carolina Community College leadership program.  He most recently was involved with developing and coordinating the fundraising for the college’s Master Facilities Plan. Phase One, which included what is now Lowe’s Hall, was a $9.4 million campaign. Currently, Townes is involved with the planning of Phase Two which includes a 50,000 square foot Health Technologies building for the college.

In 2007, Townes was elected to the NC Council for Public Policy and Research Board for a three year term. He served as Chair of Wilkes Vision 20/20 in 2008 and is President Elect for the Wilkes County Chamber of Commerce.

According to Dr. Gordon Burns, President of Wilkes Community College, “the college community is proud of “B” Townes’ accomplishments and consider him a tremendous asset.  Under his leadership, the college has realized significant growth in the activities for which he is responsible. The WCC Endowment Corporation has transferred over 23.7 million dollars in assets to the college.  Walker Events has seen a growth in season ticket patronship from an average of 400 to over 1,000 participants. “B” has been the driving force behind the development of MerleFest, which now has an annual documented economic impact of over $12 million for our community.  Our endowed scholarship funds average $1.5 million and we have seen the physical size of the college property double under his direction. His leadership and vision for the development of this college is unparalleled.”