Dale Morris has been playing and judging at our region’s fiddlers conventions for almost forty years. He also has been serving as a festival emcee for over a dozen years, and his experience as a musician, convention judge, and music historian gives him a unique background as a Master of Ceremonies.
Trevor McKenzie is a multi-instrumentalist and singer originally from southwest Virginia. Encouraged initially by family and church music, his formal musical training began at Jim Lloyd’s Barbershop in Rural Retreat, Virginia. Trevor currently lives in western North Carolina where he performs as a sideman with several regional acts including the Elkville String Band and the Laurel Creek String Band. On weekdays, he puts his historical knowledge and dusting skills to work in the archives of the W. L. Eury Appalachian Collection at Appalachian State University
Instrumental Specialty: fiddle
Kyle Dean Smith has played music for a little over 35 years. He grew up in Galax, Virginia tagging along with his father Snake Smith when he played gigs with some of the greats of old-time music such as Fred Cockerham, Kyle Creed, Roy Martin, Wood Blevins and Wilson Ramey. Kyle Dean started out on guitar then switched to banjo which has been his main instrument throughout the years. He plays 3-finger or Scruggs style. He can also be seen frequently playing guitar or bass fiddle with different bands of the region.
Instrumental Specialty: guitar, banjo
For more than thirty years, Cindy has pursued her passion for Bluegrass Music as an award winning broadcaster, producer, promoter, singer, musician, writer, photographer and MC. Her national radio show, "Knee-Deep In Bluegrass", went into syndication in 2003 with distribution by the John Boy & Billy Radio Network. Now heard weekly in nearly a hundred radio markets, Cindy uses her knowledge of the music and enthusiasm to entertain and educate the listeners of her show. Her radio career started at the age of seventeen at her hometown station, WKSK in West Jefferson, NC. Her radio work continued regionally over the next fifteen years at WKBC, North Wilkesboro, NC and WFMX, Statesville, NC, preparing her for her ultimate broadcasting goal of national syndication.
Cindy was elected to the Board of Directors of the International Bluegrass Music Association and served two, 3-year terms consecutively, including one year as the IBMA Board’s vice-chair. She was producer of the 2008, 2009 and 2010 IBMA Awards Show at the Ryman Auditorium, Nashville, TN.
Cindy has been involved with Merlefest since its beginning in 1988 and started serving as MC in 1990. Her MC work has taken her to a variety of stages and venues over the years. She credits her early love for Bluegrass 100% to her father, Jim Brooks, who played banjo, fiddle, guitar and mandolin and built stringed instruments. As a teenager she performed in a band with her dad and went on to work in other regional bands, singing and playing bass and guitar. She feels fortunate to have been presented the opportunities to promote the music she has loved all her life.
While being blessed with many accomplishments, Cindy is most proud of her family – children, Houston, Molly and Hunter, grandson, Kayden and husband, Terry. She thanks her mother and brothers for tolerating her Bluegrass obsession when she was relentlessly thumping bass to albums late into the night; carrying around a cassette recorder insisting on an interview; having jam sessions in the den; and begging to attend the next festival or show. She dedicates her work in Bluegrass to the loving memory of her dad, Jim Brooks, who taught her that music is less about notes and lyrics and more about the bond it creates among those we share it with.
While her Dad performed with the Tarheel Travelers, Cindy attended the very first Ashe County Fiddler Convention at 4 years old. Throughout the history of the convention she also competed in band and individual competition and when her radio career was established, came back to serve as MC. Cindy says she is always thrilled to come back to Ashe County – and to get to take part in the Ashe County Fiddlers’ Convention again is really an honor she is looking forward to…especially to help celebrate the 50th Anniversary!
Instrumental Specialty: guitar
John Turner is from Boone and has performed and participated in all levels of competition for over twenty years. His specialty is a cross between flat foot dancing and buck dancing. John is also a familiar caller of dances in the area. You can find him at the Todd Mercantile for their community dances on the ‘teenth Friday of each month. He conducts workshops and teaches freshmen classes in traditional dance at ASU.