Friday, April 12, 2024

Global music phenomenon: A preview of MTSU’s String Band Summit


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Featured photo by The Center for Popular Music and The Center for Chinese Music and Culture

Story by Bailey Brantingham

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Musical cultures from around the globe will flock to the Middle Tennessee State University campus from April 4 through April 6 for the third annual String Band Summit.

After two years of successfully hosting the Summit, East Tennessee State University has decided to pass the torch to Murfreesboro to continue the string-plucking expo. Both MTSU’s Center for Popular Music and Center for Chinese Music and Culture will combine their musical research mastery to host the event.

The principle idea of the Summit is to celebrate and explore global string band phenomena, including its various cultures and how they overlap. With musical connections across the globe, the String Band Summit finds a home in a state with strong roots to Appalachian string band music: Tennessee.

“A string band is any ensemble that is composed primarily of string instruments. It’s a phenomenon that exists all around the world in just about every musical culture,” said Greg Reish, director of MTSU’s Center for Popular Music. “We’re very familiar with a lot of string band music here in Tennessee and the Southeast with Bluegrass and old-time music.”

The event aims to bring both ends of the musical spectrum, including listeners and teachers, together to collectively indulge in the rich culture that is string band music, with an emphasis on musical interaction and collaboration throughout the event.

The Summit features a jam-packed schedule over the course of three days, including an album release show, exhibits, scholarly discussions, concerts and even guided tours of the hosting centers. The event also welcomes keynote speaker Larry Witzleben, professor at the University of Maryland and an expert on traditional Chinese music

Every year, the Summit highlights a specific regional culture that is heavily influenced by string band music. On top of hosting this year’s event, MTSU’s Center for Chinese Music and Culture will aid in bringing that extra flare to this year’s highlight: Chinese and East Asian traditions.

“Part of it was planning, to bring the Chinese elements to this Summit. That’s the big part of it, to make it more of a dialogue between cultures and among cultures,” said Mei Han, director of MTSU’s Center for Chinese Music and Culture. 

Along with running the Center by herself, Han plans on giving a lecture and performing at the Summit, showcasing her skills on the traditional Chinese zheng with the Hakka Ensemble.

“Always wearing too many hats,” Han said.

Both centers continue to work tirelessly to bring their combined dream of music appreciation to life. They hope to showcase the diverse faces of string band music to the community and students alike, as well as have some fun while doing it.

“We have Chinese musicians, we have Mexican musicians. We have one of the best Bluegrass musicians working today who’s coming. So that’s going to be a whole lot of fun,” Reish said.

The String Band Summit will kick off at 7:00 p.m. on Apr. 4 in the Chris Young Cafe. Registration is now open and free for all students. The full Summit schedule can be found at:

To contact Lifestyles Editor Destiny Mizell and Assistant Lifestyles Editor Shamani Salahuddin, email For more news, visit, or follow us on Instagram at MTSUSidelines or on X at @MTSUSidelines.

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