Partnership with area sponsors expands MMF’s mission to bring music education to people of all ages in southeastern Kentucky
SOMERSET, KENTUCKY (April 17, 2023) — Leaning on its mission to bring multicultural music to people of all ages in southeastern Kentucky, the Master Musicians Festival announced today that, with the help of three generous sponsors, every 2023 high school graduate in Pulaski, Wayne and McCreary counties will receive a free weekend pass.
The regional initiative is one MMF Executive Director Tiffany Finley has dreamed of for some time. As the festival celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, Finley said she felt the time was right to find businesses interested in inspiring the next generation of festival-goers and leaders. Pulaski County graduates are sponsored by Somerset Pellet Fuel, Wayne County graduates by the Law Office of Rhonda Hatfield-Jeffers, and McCreary County graduates by McCreary County Hardwoods.
While children 12 and younger are always admitted free to MMF, Finley said, this initiative gives the festival a way to connect with a different segment of young people — a segment community leaders hope will choose the Lake Cumberland region as their home post-graduation.
“The overwhelming support from our community, our region, and our volunteers is the reason MMF continues to thrive three decades later,” Finley said. “They believe in our mission to bring musical excellence to rural Kentucky at an affordable price. Not only is it our responsibility to continue delivering that mission, but we need to look toward the future and invest in our young people — educating them about the music that makes our state so special, showing them our region offers an outstanding quality of life, and inspiring them to carry the torch for this festival we all love so much.”
Students who attend this year’s festival — scheduled July 13-15 at Somerset Community College’s Festival Field — will experience a lineup that is packed with Kentucky musicians, including headliner and country music star Wynonna Judd, Appalachian singer-songwriter Ian Noe and Kentucky hip hop group Nappy Roots, among others. In all, the three-day festival will highlight 29 acts on four stages, only two of which hail from other states.
Each participating high school will provide MMF with a list of graduates when school ends in May. To claim their weekend pass, students simply have to bring an ID to the entrance gate on the Friday or Saturday of the festival. Passes will only be released to the student and are non-transferrable.
For Hatfield-Jeffers, who also serves on the MMF board of directors, this is an opportunity to give back to the community that raised her.
“I am very excited to sponsor tickets to the Master Musicians Festival for the Wayne County High School graduating seniors,” she said. “I am a proud graduate of Wayne County High School and a proud supporter of MMF. I have had the privilege of attending MMF, volunteering at MMF and sharing this experience with my family for many years. The art, culture and music that MMF brings to the Lake Cumberland area are phenomenal. I want to share this experience with the Wayne County High School Senior class and hope that they will become lifelong attendees and supporters of the festival.”
Wayne County Superintendent Wayne Roberts expressed his appreciation for Hatfield-Jeffers’s sponsorship.
“Wayne County Schools is extremely grateful to Mrs. Hatfield-Jeffers for her very generous contribution,” Roberts said. “What a gracious gift for our students to have this type of experience.”
Somerset Pellet Fuel CEO Steve Merrick said being able to participate in the musical arts in Pulaski County is a pleasure and something he is proud to pass on to the next generation.
“I can’t think of a more worthy cause than to pass this down to our high school seniors,” Merrick said. “We are proud to be involved in such an event as MMF, which has become one of Somerset’s premier functions.”
The superintendents of Somerset Independent and Pulaski County Schools both expressed their gratitude to Merrick and Somerset Pellet Fuel for supporting local graduates.
“Providing Master Musician Festival tickets to all graduating seniors will allow them an opportunity to experience art and culture in their hometown,” said Kyle Lively, Somerset Independent Schools superintendent. “Furthermore, attending the MMF will expose graduates to one of many great events happening locally. Seeing these events firsthand will hopefully instill a sense of pride in our community which is an important part of maintaining our local brain trust and workforce. We are thankful to all those involved with MMF for finding a way to offer Somerset graduates this great opportunity free of charge.”
Pulaski County Schools Superintendent Patrick Richardson echoed Lively’s sentiments.
“This opportunity is not only a reward but also allows the graduates of both Pulaski County and Southwestern high schools to experience the cultural riches and pride found in our great community,” Richardson said.
Vannie Hatfield, owner of McCreary County Hardwoods, found the opportunity as an excellent way to give back to the community and encourage those students who have worked so hard to get to this milestone.
“McCreary County has been the home to McCreary County Hardwoods for over 50 years,” Hatfield said. “We feel it is important to give back to the community and would like to say congratulations to the graduating senior class of McCreary County High School. Best of luck!”
McCreary County Interim Superintendent Larry Hammond said McCreary County Hardwoods’s willingness to provide this gift for graduating seniors is greatly appreciated.
“The opportunity for the entire class to attend the festival with their friends is noteworthy. This generous gift will provide fond memories for the senior class,” Hammond said. “McCreary County Hardwoods, Inc., has been vital part of the economy in the McCreary community for approximately 50 years. This example of giving back signifies their ongoing commitment to partnering with future generations.”
MMF President Julie Nelson Harris applauded Finley for the vision to introduce the festival to the region’s young people in such a creative way, and the sponsors for their generous contributions that made it possible.
“Tiffany has a huge heart for southeastern Kentucky and this festival,” Harris said. “It shows through her excitement and energy to have a successful festival year after year and share MMF’s story with anyone who will listen. On behalf of our board of directors, I would like to thank each school system and each sponsor for making it possible for us to share our love of music with high school graduates in the Lake Cumberland region.”
Sponsorships are still available for businesses in other communities that wish to support their graduating seniors. For more information, email Finley at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Held annually in July, the Master Musicians Festival has been named Southeast Tourism Society’s Festival of the Year and the Governor’s Awards for the Arts Outstanding Community Arts Organization. In addition to two days of eclectic, diverse music, MMF offers meet-and-greet workshops hosted by artisans and musicians, as well as a wide variety of art and food vendors. MMF also showcases artisans and craftsmen, and recognizes a Kentucky artist whose festival-themed work is auctioned and featured on merchandise. Tickets to the 30th annual festival sponsored by the City of Somerset are on sale now at mastermusiciansfestival.org.