MTSU School of Music's 'Dolly Project' CD inspired by Parton works

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From left to right, MTSU School of Music faculty members Rebecca Murphy on flute, Windell Little on piano, and Deanna Little on flute perform a song from "The Dolly Project" for the Live in Studio C program for Nashville Public Radio's WFCL-FM Classical 91.1. (Photo courtesy of Nina Cardona/Nashville Public Radio)

"Inspirations from Tennessee," an arts-inclusive project funded by an MTSU grant, is releasing a musical CD with the same title in January 2017 featuring seven newly commissioned works inspired by country music superstar Dolly Parton's repertoire.

Songwriters, artists, composers and musicians from Tennessee, including MTSU music faculty, have been the building blocks toward creating musical works drawing inspiration from other Tennessee artists. Dubbed "The Dolly Project," the initiative first premiered in October 2015.

Spearheaded by Deanna Little, a professor of flute in the MTSU School of Music, project composers include MTSU School of Music faculty and/or graduates Cedric Dent, Bruce Dudley, Paul Osterfield, Jamey Simmons, Andy Smith, and Kristy Sullivan, plus Recording Industry faculty member Joseph Akins.

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Some of the other performers include Akins and music faculty and/or graduates Todd Waldecker, Christine Kim and Celine Thackston. Recording Industry faculty member John Hill recorded the new works this past summer.

Six of the project's pieces use Parton's song, "Coat of Many Colors," as their inspiration. The other piece, at Osterfield's request, uses her children's book "I Am a Rainbow."

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For Little, "Inspirations from Tennessee" is an idea she had "for a long time."

"I wanted to connect different elements of the arts based on Tennessee culture. I originally was looking for a poet to start with but didn't find anyone I connected with," she said.

"One day it dawned on me to use lyrics and the work of Dolly Parton as the root of my project. I admire her because she has contributed much to the people of Tennessee and the world through her music, movies, Imagination Library (literacy initiative) and is a role model we can all look up to. She came from a poor family and worked hard to make her life what it now is. That is an inspiration to me and a value I strive for ... work hard, do good things and be happy!"

The project is funded through an MTSU Faculty Research and Creative Project grant. The idea is to link different forms of art though Tennessee artists -- Parton, composers, performers, recording artists and CD artwork.

Little believes the joining of the creative and performing arts, as well as the creation of art inspired from people that are immersed in Tennessee's culture, will not only contribute to the enrichment of music-making, but also will show how art of all kinds are connected to the lives we live and that one is not separate from the other.

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