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The West Virginia Music Hall of Fame was established in 2005 to recognize musical achievement among performing artists with close ties to the state. The Music Hall of Fame also seeks to educate the public regarding the range and depth of musical styles in West Virginia, including classical, gospel, jazz and rock, as well as country, folk and bluegrass music.

The Music Hall of Fame is operated by an independent nonprofit organization, governed by a volunteer board of directors. Founder and executive director Michael Lipton leads the organization and has guided it through the nomination, selection and induction process since 2007. Nominations are accepted from the public in separate categories for living and dead artists. Nominees are expected to have significant ties to the state, generally having been born in West Virginia, grown up in the state, or lived here for a large portion of their lives, and to have attained substantial success in music.

Induction ceremonies, held biennially at the Culture Center Theater in Charleston, have been gala affairs, hosted by celebrities and broadcast statewide by West Virginia Public Broadcasting. Honorees include bluegrass songwriter and performer Hazel Dickens (2007); rhythm and blues songwriter and performer Bill Withers (2007); classical composer George Crumb (2007); polka performer Frankie Yankovic (2008); opera singer Eleanor Steber (2013); old-time fiddler Clark Kessinger (2007); country music singer Connie Smith (2011); jazz drummer Butch Miles (2011); pop songwriter Jack Rollins (2011); entertainer Ada “Bricktop” Smith (2013); fiddler “Blind Ed” Haley (2015); and country musician Buddy Starcher (2015). Forty-six inductees have been honored through 2015.

Working with the West Virginia Department of Education, the Hall of Fame is developing a curriculum for teaching the history of West Virginia music to elementary school students. The Music Hall of Fame traveling museum and recording studio, created in 2007, has visited more than 350 schools. An extensive website includes detailed information about the organization, inductees, and special projects. An interactive display, available both on location and online, offers photos, brief biographies and sound samples from artists in all 55 counties. A trailer and portable stage provide a mobile venue for live performances.

In 2007, the Music Hall of Fame produced a CD recording titled Always Lift Him Up, a tribute to 2007 inductee Blind Alfred Reed, which included performances by West Virginia artists Tim O’Brien, Kathy Mattea, Larry Groce, Connie Smith, Charlie McCoy and many others. A 2008 CD featured the unaccompanied singing of the Nichols Family. The Hall of Fame is producing a film titled West Virginia, My Home: The Film History of West Virginia Music, funded in part by the West Virginia Humanities Council.

The Music Hall of Fame is seeking a permanent home for its extensive collection of recordings, print materials, stage wear and personal effects. The organization maintains a rotating display of musical artifacts and memorabilia at the Hulett C. Smith Theater, located in Tamarack at Beckley.

Visit the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame website.

This Article was written by John Lilly

Last Revised on January 21, 2016


Cite This Article

Lilly, John "West Virginia Music Hall of Fame." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 21 January 2016. Web. 13 December 2018.

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