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American film series explores roots of bluegrass music
UNG student Dustin Wilkes to speak at program
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Dustin Wilkes, a University of North Georgia student who has performed with music legends such as Willie Nelson, will be a guest performer as the university explores American music Saturday at the UNG campus in Gainesville.

Wilkes, who grew up in nearby Jackson County, Ga., worked in the music industry for several years and in 2007 was a finalist on “Nashville Star,” a reality competition show patterned after “American Idol” featured country and bluegrass musicians. Prior to that, Wilkes served in the U.S. Marine Corps for five years and wrote the song “One Toy at a Time,” while volunteering for Toys for Tots. The song was used in the organization’s national campaign.

UNG is one of 50 sites selected nationwide to host “America’s Music: A Film History of Our Most Popular Music,” a six-session program featuring documentary film screenings and scholar-led discussions of 20th-century music. The free Oct. 26 screening focuses on country and bluegrass and features a screening of “High Lonesome: The Story of Bluegrass Music.”

Dr. Benjamin Schoening, an assistant professor of music at UNG, leads discussions about the historical context and social impact of each musical genre throughout the series.

“When looking at any culture, an exploration and understanding of music is paramount to understanding the overall historical fabric, values and norms of that culture,” Schoening said. “The popular musical genres and styles that developed within the United States are both a fusion of many world cultures coming together in the United States and yet, at the same time, something that is uniquely our own that others around the world have chosen to emulate.”

The “America’s Music” series explores a different, uniquely American musical genre’s influence on American life during sessions held every other Saturday. Funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, all sessions are free and open to the public and take place on UNG’s Gainesville Campus in the Martha T. Nesbitt Academic Building.

Participants are welcome to join any number of sessions, which start at 4 p.m. and will last about 90 minutes to two hours. Light refreshments will be provided, and RSVPs are appreciated to or 678-717-3658.

The remaining “America’s Music” sessions are:

• Nov. 9: The emergence of rock and roll is featured in an episode of “The History of Rock and Roll.”

• Nov. 23: Latin rhythms from mambo to hip hop are the subject of an episode of “Latin Music USA” and the award-winning film “From Mambo to Hip-Hop: A South Bronx Tale.”

“America’s Music” is a project by the Tribeca Film Institute in collaboration with the American Library Association, Tribeca Flashpoint and the Society for American Music. For more information, visit

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