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Hillsborough residents establish scholarship in honor of Doc Watson

BOONE—John L. and Marjorie Idol of Hillsborough and Watauga County have established the Arthel “Doc” Watson Scholarship Endowment for Traditional Mountain Music at Appalachian State University.

Proceeds from the endowment will fund a scholarship to be awarded annually to a full-time student at Appalachian who is studying or displays talent in traditional mountain music. The first scholarship will be awarded in 2009.

John Idol is a 1958 graduate of Appalachian. He is a retired professor of English from Clemson University and a noted expert on the life and writings of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Thomas Wolfe. Idol is vice chair of Belk Library and Information Common’s advisory board. The couple help sponsor the university’s Hughlene Bostian Frank Visiting Writers Series.

The Idols are longtime admirers of Watson and his music.

John Idol recalled his years as a student at Deep Gap Elementary School when Watson would play for the students. “I heard him sing a number of times,” Idol said. “He played my kind of mountain music.”

Idol says traditional mountain music is in his blood. As a 13-year-old, Idol worked as a water boy on a construction site in Boone. Workers would often sing traditional hymns and mountain ballads while on the job and during work breaks.

“My wife, Marjorie, and I were interested in a way to help promote and preserve the tradition of mountain music and benefit a student who has an interest in the music who might otherwise not be able to complete a college degree,” Idol said.

“One of the sad things in my life has been to watch hard rock invade country music,” Idol said.

“Musicians can make more money as crossover artists, but it offends my sensibilities. I’m glad to be able to take whatever small means I can to help keep the mountain music tradition going.”

Appalachian offers a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies with a concentration in Appalachian studies that includes a course in Appalachian music. In addition, the university offers an undergraduate minor in “Appalachian Music: Roots and Influences” and a master’s degree with a concentration in “Appalachian Music Roots and Influences.” ###