What they’re saying about us.  We promise we didn’t pay them off.

general / making connections / hot 88.7 & calls from home / pick and bow program

general press

The New York Times, from “An Appalachian Radio Voice Threatened From Afar,” a feature run on April 4, 2011 (read the whole story here):

. . .WMMT, which reaches across the mountains, coal fields and hollows of eastern Kentucky, southwestern Virginia and southern West Virginia, creates a connective tissue for its far-flung, geographically isolated listeners. It also offers respite from the daily grind. Like the redbud trees that are starting to burst forth in violet patches along the scrubby hillsides here, the sounds from the radio can be, if not essential, at least life-affirming.

The New York Times again, from a piece titled “88.7 on Appalachia’s Dial” highlighting WMMT programming:

WMMT, at 88.7 on your FM dial or on the Internet, is a rural station that dishes up almost all original programming. . . on a recent morning, while the NPR station in Charleston, W. Va., which is three hours away, reported on the federal budget, WMMT offered up Wanda Jackson, who yodeled her way through this lament: “I wish a tornado would blow my blues away.”

From a story the National Center for Media Engagement did on the Pick and Bow after-school program:

WMMT, licensed to Appalshop in Whitesburg, Kentucky, is an old-fashioned community radio station, with a broadcast schedule diverse and cozy as a patchwork quilt and an unshakeable commitment to be the authentic voice of the people of Appalachia. Part of that commitment is to preserve and celebrate the traditional culture of mountain communities.

Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine on “The Next Great Mountain Towns”:


You probably wouldn’t expect a small town in coal country to be a thriving arts community. And yet Whitesburg is widely recognized as one of the greatest arts communities in the Appalachians. . . Tune your radio to WMMT 88.7, Appalshop’s community radio station where volunteers spin the music they like. “

making connections

  • The Rural Blog, the Institute for Rural Journalism & Community Issues‘s blog highlighting journalism “from and about rural America,” featured a story on WMMT’s Making Connections radio piece about the potential closure of nine post offices here in Letcher County, Ky.  The piece, produced by Sylvia Ryerson, with Mimi Pickering, originally aired on WMMT’s Mountain News & World Report on December 1, 2011, as well as on West Virginia Public Radio’s Inside Appalachia.  Interestingly enough, soon after the piece ran, the USPS announced a 5-month moratorium on the closure of post offices & distribution centers.
  • The Daily Yonder, the multimedia blog published by the Center for Rural Strategies, also ran a story on the post office piece.
  • The blog The Art Of The Rural also featured a great writeup on the post office piece, the challenges facing rural post offices, and the Making Connections project.


hot 88.7 – hip hop from the hilltop & calls from home

Most public radio stations don’t give much thought to engaging their listening population behind bars. But WMMT, the community station licensed to Appalshop in Whitesburg, Kentucky is different.

Located in the heart of Appalachia, the station’s signal reaches more than eight prisons in Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia, including federal penitentiaries, state correctional facilities, private, supermax, regional jails and detention centers. (See list here). As the coal economy began to sag, the region has come to depend on prisons for job creation. Many of the convicts are sent from urban areas out of state to these remote, rural facilities.

And those inmates have come to depend on WMMT for its popular 2-hour hip hop show on Mondays nights. Hip Hop from the Hilltop is followed by Calls From Home, a program which for more than a decade, has recorded and aired toll-free telephone messages from prisoners’ family members from all over the country.


passing the pick and bow after-school program

Besides playing traditional music on the air, over the years WMMT has sponsored community square dances, teaching workshops, monthly jams, and partners with a community organization in a summer old-time music camp. But Rich Kirby, a long-time producer, realized that if old-time string band music is going to survive, they needed to reach out and engage young people.

So, WMMT launched Pick and Bow, an opportunity for middle school-age students to learn guitar, banjo or fiddle. The station has assembled a stock of instruments and offers rentals and group lessons at area elementary schools and to home school groups. Pick and Bow is funded by the National Endowment for the Arts. Students pay $25 for the whole semester.

“This music is a participatory thing,” explained Kirby. “Having the experience of sitting down face to face making music is the most important single part of traditional music. It resonates very deeply with people here.”

“Public radio has long been a champion of Americana and roots music. But WMMT in Whitesburg, Kentucky, has decided to go beyond the power of the airwaves as it partners with local schools to connect students with musicians. In doing so, WMMT is sustaining its commitment to “passing the pick and bow,” the region’s revered Appalachian oral tradition.”