TTU professor organizes 18th Annual International Country Music Conference

Want to learn more about the assertive female identity in country music during the 1950s? Or how about the impact the film, "O Brother Where Art Thou?" and its soundtrack has had on the revival of old time country music?

If so, make plans to attend the 18th Annual International Country Music Conference set for May 31-June 2 in Nashville. Founded by James Akenson, professor of curriculum and instruction at Tennessee Tech University, the conference brings together country music scholars from several countries to share their studies and thoughts about a passion they all share -- country music and the statements it makes about our culture.

"This conference came about because no obvious organization such as the Country Music Foundation or a university with an interest in country music was doing an annual conference," Akenson explained.

"It seemed as if there would be an audience which would want to get together and discuss their country music research. I also wanted to have a setting in which I could share my ideas about the educational applications of country music," he added.

The conference will be held at Belmont University.

The keynote speaker for the conference this year is Ulrich Dieter Einbrodt from the University of Giessen in Germany, whose topic is "Country in the Web: The New MP3 Stars and their Music." Einbrodt's research will detail how the World Wide Web has influenced the rise of country music musicians.

Expected to generate a lot of energy, said Akenson, is the panel discussion on "O Brother, Where Art Thou? The Revival of Interest in Old Time Country." Moderated by Ronnie Pugh of the Country Music Association, the panel includes Kris McCusker of Middle Tennessee State University; Jay Orr of country.com; and Charles K. Wolfe, a renowned country music scholar also from MTSU.

This discussion will center around the renewed interest in 1930s country music featured heavily throughout the Coen Brothers film about a trio of escaped convicts and their adventures on a hot summer in Mississippi, loosely based on the epic "The Odyssey" by Homer.

Other topics to be discussed include "Rowdy Camp and Lyrical Hyperbole: Negotiations of Meaning in Atlanta's Redneck Underground," "Feminism in Country Music: From Tammy Wynette's 'Stand By Your Man' to the Dixie Chicks 'Goodbye Earl,'" and even the role of the environment in some country music tunes in a talk titled, "The Green, Green Grass of Home: Ecocentrism in Country Songs."

Akenson himself will close the conference with his talk, "The Use of Graphic Organizers in Teaching About Country Music in Grades K-12."

Expected to be on the bookshelves soon is the second Country Music Annual (University Press of Kentucky, 2001), compiled and edited by Akenson and Charles Wolfe, which includes essays on the influence of NASCAR on country music all the way to international opinions on country music.

For more information about the conference, call Akenson at (931) 372-3066.