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Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Awards

Published: March 26, 2015

Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Awards

2015 Recipients: Betty McDaniel

Betty McDaniel
Advocacy - Southern Appalachian Culture

Betty McDaniel, a resident of Pickens, S.C., is a life-long educator. She has degrees from the University of North Carolina, Clemson, and the University of South Carolina. She started her teaching career in 1974 and retired in 2012. For more than 35 years, McDaniel has pursued a passion for cultural heritage and traditional music in the Upstate.

From 1979-2012, she organized annual heritage festivals at Holly Springs Elementary School to celebrate local culture in Pickens County. For several years, with the support of The Humanities CouncilSC, she had children interview families in the area, write articles and develop presentations titled “Portrait of a Southern Appalachian Community.” For over 25 years, McDaniel has taught clogging to students a varying ages.

Since retirement, McDaniel has continued to be a tireless advocate for folklife and traditional arts. In 2008, she organized the Young Appalachian Musicians (YAM) program. Geared toward elementary school students, the program involves weekly classes on traditional music taught by experienced bluegrass and old-time musicians. Children are taught to play one of four instruments by ear: fiddle, banjo, mandolin, or guitar.

McDaniel also led the formation of the nonprofit Preserving Our Southern Appalachian Music (POSAM), the parent organization for the YAM program. Under her leadership, the YAM program has grown from 32 students at one school to more 300 students at 10 schools in Pickens County. In order for the students to have continued exposure to the music, McDaniel organized a week-long summer camp in 2010. The Traditional Arts and Music – Young Appalachian Musicians (TAM-YAM) Camp is open to any child in third through eighth grade, whether in the YAM program or not.

Several years ago, McDaniel expanded the YAM program to include the formation of a band called the Sweet Potato Pie Kids. Any YAM student has the chance to audition in the spring for the band, which normally features about a dozen students. The Sweet Potato Pie Kids perform on a regular basis throughout the region.

McDaniel has written numerous grants to support and further develop her ideas and has received grants from The Humanities CouncilSC, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the South Carolina Arts Commission. She has received numerous awards and honors and continues to work tirelessly with young people in the South Carolina Upstate.