Here’s a round-up of news briefs from around Southwest and Southside. Send yours for possible inclusion to

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Blue Ridge Music Center produces video series on diversity in American roots music

 The Blue Ridge Music Center in Galax just released the first two episodes of its Deep Roots, Many Voices video seriesfeaturing a conversation with heralded musicians Dom Flemons and Rissi Palmer. The five-part virtual discussion series explores issues related to diversity and inclusion in American roots-based music with episodes premiering each week through April 21.

The first two videos are available on the Blue Ridge Music Center’s YouTube channel, and links are posted at These discussions, along with an online conference on April 21 and summer concerts, are all part of the Deep Roots, Many Voices project.

In each installment, Blue Ridge Music Center Associate Program Director Marianne Kovatch speaks with two musicians about issues related to race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation, how these issues have been part of their personal stories, and the importance of celebrating diversity in the music world.

The first video release is a two-part video featuring a discussion with Rissi Palmer and Dom Flemons.

Palmer made her mark in country music and has played on the Grand Ole Opry stage. She has gone on to create her own sound incorporating R&B into her country style in a genre she has dubbed “Southern Soul.” Palmer is also the host of Color Me Country Radio on Apple Country Radio, where she features country music’s underrepresented voices.

Grammy award-winner, two-time Emmy nominee, 2020 United States Artists Fellow, and founding member of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Flemons has branded the moniker “The American Songster.” This name is in reference to his musical repertoire, which covers more than 100 years of American folklore, ballads, and tunes. He is a songwriter, music scholar, historian, record collector, and a multi-instrumentalist on banjo, fife, guitar, harmonica, jug, percussion, quills, and rhythm bones.

Deep Roots, Many Voices was produced by  Blue Ridge Music Center Associate Program Director Marianne Kovatch and Richard Emmett, Program Director of the Music Center. The project is sponsored and supported by the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, the National Park Service, National Endowment for the Arts, and The Bluegrass Situation.

The interview videos were edited by Joe Dejarnette of Studio 808A with graphic design by Jacob LeBlanc of the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation.

Deep Roots, Many Voices discussion series lineup and schedule:

Tuesday, March 22: Rissi Palmer & Dom Flemons

Tuesday, March 29: Pura Fé & Charly Lowry

Tuesday, April 5: Joe Troop & Sam Gleaves

Tuesday, April 12: Earl White & Tray Wellington

Tuesday, April 19: Joseph Kwon & AJ Lee

Thursday, April 21: Deep Roots, Many Voices Virtual Symposium, 2 p.m.

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Opera Roanoke sponsors high school art contest

For the first time in its history, Opera Roanoke is hosting a high school art contest to find next season’s artwork designer. Art students in grades 9-12 from any local high school can submit drawings, paintings, graphic designs, or photographs for consideration in Opera Roanoke’s 22/23 season marketing materials. Up to three winners will be chosen by Opera Roanoke staff and awarded a cash prize of $300 each.

“We believe in the creativity of our region’s young people. We’re offering them the chance to showcase that creativity and hopefully get them connected to what we do at the Opera,” said Brooke Tolley, General Director in a statement.  All submitted designs will have a dedicated page on Opera Roanoke’s website and will be displayed for the entire season.  Winning artwork will be featured in Opera Roanoke’s 22/23 season brochure, on posters, website, and social media.

All rules and regulations can be found at For additional questions, contact Opera Roanoke directly at 540-982-2742 or email

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W&L presents public reading March 31

Washington and Lee University presents a public reading with Brittany Hailer, an award-winning journalist and director of the Pittsburgh Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, on March 31 at 6 p.m. in Northen Auditorium on the W&L campus.

Brittany Hailer. Courtesy of W&L

Hailer will read from her memoir and poetry collection, “Animal You’ll Surely Become.” The lecture is free and open to the public, and there will be books for sale following the event.

“In her innovative memoir, Brittany Hailer uses fairy tales to frame and interpret trauma, addiction, and what it means to be a woman in this world,” said Lesley Wheeler, Henry S. Fox Professor of English at W&L and poetry editor for Shenandoah magazine.

Hailer won a Golden Quill Award from the Press Club of Western Pennsylvania in 2019 and a Robert L. Vann Award of Excellence for investigative/enterprise reporting from the Pittsburgh Black Media Federation for her stories on people impacted by the opioid epidemic. She received another Golden Quill Award in 2020 for her essay narrating her experience investigating the opioid crisis while her father struggled with alcoholism and homelessness.

Hailer was selected to be a Justice Reporting Fellow in 2018 as part of the John Jay/Langeloth Foundation Fellowship on “Reinventing Solitary Confinement” and again in 2020 for “Justice and the Pandemic.” She taught creative writing classes at the Allegheny County Jail and Sojourner House, and now teaches creative writing and journalism at the University of Pittsburgh.

The event is sponsored by the Glasgow Endowment.