Serving as Program Director for WMMT, Appalshop's long-running mountain community radio, serving the tri-state area, as well as Director of WMMT’s Traditional Music Project. 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. Acted as Coordinator for 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.
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.
Serving as Artistic Director of Cowan Creek Mountain Music School, where some of the country’s finest old-time musicians and students of all ages and levels gather to celebrate our rich cultural mountain traditions of lively tunes, heart-felt singing, spirited square dancing and storytelling. At CCMMS, students have the opportunity to dig deep into the mountain repertoire and gain experience playing with other musicians.
Mountain music has been passed down through the generations as young learners listened to and played along with their older family members and neighbors. In keeping with this tradition, classes are taught in call and response, rather than written music. Whatever your age or level, this will improve your ear for music!
Cowan is a jam-packed week with five full days of music classes for all levels. Each morning we offer intensive instrument classes in various skill levels, as well as singing and ensemble classes. And each afternoon students can choose between jam sessions for all levels, including a youth jam, and a wide variety of one-shot workshops including dancing, singing, fiddle, banjo and much more!