KY Old Time, Inc. is a nonprofit organization dedicated to highlighting Kentucky's traditional music as a diverse and influential voice on the local/global stage. The organization's effort supports a network among artists and opportunities, broadening the community's reach, honoring the complex histories that continue to shape these traditions. In these ways, KY Old Time, Inc. works to dispel common stereotypes that damage how others view Kentucky and how Kentuckians view themselves. Brett Ratliff is the co-founder of this organization and the current President of the Board of Directors.
Hindman Settlement School, which was established in 1902 as the earliest rural settlement school in the United States, serves as a vibrant beacon for progressive learning, community enrichment, and cultural exploration in the Central Appalachian region. Hindman provides practical courses, programs, and services designed to inspire collaboration and improve the lives of the people in East Kentucky. While in service to Hindman, Ratliff directed the following programs: Appalachian Family Folk Week (est. 1977), an opportunity for members of the community and guests from all around the world to share in a week of traditional Appalachian music, dance, crafts, storytelling, instrument playing, and special children’s activities; and Grow Appalachia, a partnership with Berea College, which seeks to solve persistent food insecurity issues in the Appalachian region by restoring the historic relationship between people and land. Ratliff also founded Dumplin's and Dancin', a weekend winter gathering of farmers, musicians, chefs, square dance callers, seed savers, dancers, and food activists, all committed to the preservation of Appalachian foodways and dance traditions; and Knott County Pick and Bow, a low-to-no-cost after-school music education program that teaches local youth Appalachian old-time music in Letcher and Knott Counties in Kentucky. The Pick & Bow Program was launched in 2003 Letcher County through the Traditional Music Project with Appalshop and WMMT-FM. In 2016, Hindman Settlement School partnered with the Project to expand the program into Knott County Schools. Each semester begins with an assembly performance by our instructors in schools where the program operates.
Founded the Lexington Old-Time Music Gathering, a four-day city-wide music festival bringing Kentucky's traditional music and dance to the Commonwealth's largest urban epicenter. In 2015, this grassroots event brought hundreds of visitors into Lexington from across the country and featured “old masters” of traditional mountain music; dance callers from throughout the state; performances by accomplished old time string bands; youth workshops and performances; academic presentations; jamming for all skill levels; dance, singing and instrument workshops; musical instrument vendors and more. Kentucky’s rural diaspora, whose lineage was largely responsible for the development of our rich and unique cultural heritage, migrated to places like Lexington for work and other opportunities, making Lexington a perfect home for the contemporary revival of these arts.
Acted as general manager and program director for WMMT, Appalshop's long-running mountain community radio, serving the tri-state area. Community radio stations at their core are operated and owned by the communities they serve, while broadcasting content that are relative to local interests often overlooked by mainstream media. WMMT's mission is to provide broadcast space for creative expression and community involvement in making radio and to be an active participant in discussions of public policies that benefit the community. Also directed Seedtime on the Cumberland, a thirty year old music festival of traditional arts, as well as the Pick & Bow project, a public education traditional music curriculum. Since 1969, Appalshop has been enacting cultural organizing and place-based media, arts, and education to document the life, celebrate the culture, and voice the concerns of people living in Appalachia and rural America.
MOREHEAD OLD TIME MUSIC FESTIVAL
MOREHEAD, KENTUCKY 2006 - 2016
The now defunct Morehead Old Time Music Festival was founded in 2006 as the Morehead Old Time Fiddlers Convention. Upon its founding, the Morehead gathering was the first old time music style camp out in the Commonwealth focusing on regional fiddling traditions. The festival ran for 11 years and offered music contests, educational workshops, dancing, and camping to an international audience. The Morehead Old Time Music Festival was held on the Jaycee's Farm, just east of Morehead’s city limits, each summer in July.