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MSU Traditional Music student receives international recognition  

Hallie Adams

Senior Traditional Music student, Lucy Becker, was awarded two International Bluegrass Music Association scholarships, the Sally Ann Forrester Scholarship and the Rick Lang Music Songwriter Scholarship. Becker is a songwriter and fiddler, something she insisted upon at a young age.

“As a kid, I guess I went up to my parents and I was like ‘I’m going to play the fiddle!’ And my parents were like ‘Aw, that’s cute.’ And I think about a year passed and I went right back up to them, they said, and I’ll never forget, I went right straight up to them and I said, ‘what did you not understand about, I want to play the fiddle?,” said Becker.

Becker said the rest was history. She worked her way through classical, opera, and other genres before she found herself in her roots, studying traditional music at MSU. That’s where one of her mentors, Ruth McLain Smith, told her about international scholarship opportunities.

“We had a recital class with her and she kind of brought it up to our entire class, letting us know that IBMA had many scholarships to offer and that we should all look into them and apply to them as musicians. So, that was how I originally learned about the opportunity,” said Becker.

Becker submitted essays explaining her musical journey and how she came to where she is today musically.

“I grew up in a very musical household. There was constantly music playing, my dad singing, playing guitar, my grandma played piano,” said Becker.

Becker also submitted some of her original music in order to be in the running for the scholarships.

The two IBMA scholarships are named for Sally Ann Forrester, the first female professional bluegrass musician in history, playing the accordion and singing for Bill Monroe and His Blue Grass Boys in the 1940s. Rick Lang is a Grammy-nominated writer, chair of the IBMA Songwriter Committee and a volunteer with the IBMA Songwriter Mentor Program. Becker said receiving the IMBA scholarships will help her further achieve her educational dreams.

“The fact that we have so many people invested in young people and music just you know speaks words for itself,” Becker said. “These scholarships have been permanently endowed and to have a whole community surrounding us that are just doing everything they can to support us and encourage us to peruse music. Often the world is telling us not to, so it is just really allowing us to follow our dreams and do what brings us the most joy.”

Daxson Lewis is the director of the Kentucky Center for Traditional Music. He said, to his knowledge, this is the first time a traditional music student at Morehead State University has received two IBMA scholarships simultaneously.

He said he encourages students to go out and try new things, no matter if it's local or international.

“This type of recognition is both academic and prestigious, I think it reflects so well on our students and their hard work, dedication and their passion for what they are studying. I am extremely proud of all our students,” said Lewis. “I think Lucy Becker has worked very hard and that hard work is showing up through this recognition. It is unique I think for a student to receive both of these scholarships.”

Lewis added, three of the last four recipients of the Rick Lang Songwriter Scholarship have been students of the Kentucky Center for Traditional Music. The musician and teacher said there are many reasons why this kind of student recognition is important to him as a mentor.

“The best thing we can do for one another is to lift each other up just fundamentally, as people. To be supportive of one another, to be respectful and kind to one another is just something that is important to me in general. In terms of this music, it is important to me to lift up folks that are doing good work, passionate work, within our music community,” said Lewis. “I am so proud of everybody and I always want to share their successes.”

The importance of kindness and mentorship was echoed by Becker.

“I’ve gained an incredible amount of just, confidence and just lifelong mentorship through just one year at KCTM has been absolutely life-altering for me,” said Becker.

Becker and other members of the KCTM will be recognized at the International Bluegrass Music Association Festival in Raleigh, North Carolina this September.