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Doster Edgerton receives Berea Fellowship

doster2_t.jpgBOONE— Meredith Doster Edgerton has received an Appalachian Sound Archives Fellowship at Berea College.

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Appalachian State University graduate student Meredith Doster Edgerton is researching the shape note singing tradition in the South, particularly at two churches in Watauga County. Her work is supported by an Appalachian Sound Archives Fellowship at Berea College.

hymnal.jpgShaped notes, such as these in a hymnal in Appalachian State University’s Appalachian Collection, help singers more quickly read the vocal sections of a hymn. Appalachian State University graduate student Meredith Doster Edgerton is researching the shape note singing tradition in the South.

The fellowship program encourages scholarly use of Berea’s non-commercial audio collections that document Appalachian history and culture, especially the areas of traditional music, religious expression, spoken lore and radio programs. The fellowship will support four weeks of research in the college’s archives.

Edgerton is a student in the master’s degree program in Appalachian studies at Appalachian State University. She is also a fourth-generation shape note singer. The fellowship will allow her to incorporate extensive archival research into her master’s thesis on the study of music in two Independent Baptist Churches in Watauga County.

“The archives at Berea are a great resource. Their collection includes papers presented at a hymn symposium held on campus in the late 1970s, and archived sound files,” Doster Edgerton said.

Doster Edgerton’s interest in shape note singing brought her to Appalachian. “There are not a lot of places in the country where you can see the seven-shape tradition actively practiced,” she said. “I knew there were active congregations in the region that incorporated shape-note signing in their services.”

Edgerton’s research focuses on the conflicts between the four- and seven-shape traditions of the 19th century as one example of the tension created when traditions and their rituals change.

She is studying two rural churches whose singing traditions have their roots in the seven-shape Gospel tradition. The stories of sacred song and singing in Mount Lebanon Baptist Church and Mountain Dale Baptist Church in Watauga County, N.C., highlight the evolution of sacred music traditions at the local level. Her study also analyzes the deep-seated ties between land, culture and religion in small, rural communities and the collective impact of those Appalachian qualities on worship practices.

Doster Edgerton plans to continue exploring these themes in a doctoral program after completing her master’s degree.

Doster Edgerton was the Cratis D. Williams Scholar for the 2008-09 academic year, the highest honor bestowed upon a student entering the Appalachian studies program.  She earned a bachelor’s degree in music from Columbia University in New York.

The Appalachian studies master’s degree program is administered through the Center for Appalachian Studies, a unit within Appalachian’s University College. The center develops, coordinates and facilitates curricula and programs that deal with the Appalachian region.