The Multi-talented Sarah Morgan

Sarah Morgan performs on stage

Union County holds bragging rights for a long list of famous artists. Multi-talented musician/singer/songwriter Sarah Morgan has more than earned her place on that renowned register. The Union County native has just returned from a three-week-stint in the UK that included teaching, performing and sightseeing.

“I was hired to teach mountain dulcimer courses at a weeklong traditional music festival in southern England, and I also played at a couple of folk clubs,” said Morgan. “In between, I had time to relax so I did some hiking and explored a couple of castles.”

Morgan began playing at seven years old on a dulcimer built by her grandfather. After he passed, her parents decided the instrument would be a good way to incorporate music into her home school education. The first song she loved playing was titled, “We Shall Stay Here.”

“I didn’t enjoy playing the dulcimer at first,” said Morgan. “It required patience and dedication and seven year old Sarah didn’t have much of either. But eventually I fell in love with it.”
The dulcimer is Morgan’s instrument of choice but she also plays the upright bass and banjo. She spends a lot of time on her music, but says that lately square dancing has caught her attention. She constantly explores avenues that continue to take her music to the next level.

“Right now I’m obsessed with fiddler George Lee Hawkins from Kentucky. I love learning his tunes.”

Although Morgan’s music is steeped in traditional Appalachian folk music, she enjoys listening to all genres, but says she will always come back to bluegrass and old time music.

“I think over time my sound has narrowed into the more specific genre of Old-Time Appalachian music. Early on, I played a wider variety of songs, but over the years I’ve honed in on the music that I really connect with, and the sound I want as a performer. But I’m still learning.”

Morgan is enrolled at Morehead State University where she is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Traditional Music with minors in Appalachian Studies and Arts Entrepreneurship.

She takes songwriting classes as part of her degree program and shares her talents by giving lessons to others. She has written more than a dozen songs that she incorporates into her performances. Her set list includes about 50 songs that are in rotation. Always in tune with her audience, Morgan adds or takes away songs from a performance depending on what she thinks her listeners might enjoy. She says songwriting is a skill she finds rewarding, but one she is still developing.

“I also work as the archival assistant at the Kentucky Center for Traditional Music. A lot of my material comes from listening to field and archival recordings of traditional folk musicians.”

After a brief few days of visiting with friends and family in Union County, it’s back to Kentucky for the artist, where summer classes await.

“I have a few fun gigs lined up too. I will be performing and teaching in Kentucky, Illinois and Oregon this summer.”

Morgan says she is excited about the Oregon trip because she will take a flight out but will travel back to Tennessee on Amtrak. She tours alone for the most part and says she loves the independence that brings.

“I still love performing locally and regionally, but most of my gigs take place on weekends and during the summer since I’m still in school.”

When asked if she has ever made a mistake on stage, or gets nervous before performing, Morgan answers with full disclosure.

“Even though I do my best before a show to practice and to warm up, I often make mistakes. Once I’m on stage, my goal is to just relax and make a meaningful, even if brief, connection with my audience. If I do make mistakes, I know many folks won’t even notice and if they do, it doesn’t seem to bother them.

“I don’t think being nervous before a show is necessarily a bad thing. It shows that you care. Pre-show nerves are basically adrenaline. In the same way adrenaline can help you run faster, it can also help you play better. I always perform better when I’m feeling a little nervous. It’s about controlling that adrenaline and using it in a positive way.”
Morgan says she is blessed to have parents who support her music career, and credits her first dulcimer teacher, June Goforth, with helping her discover a lifelong passion for music.
For a list of future performances, to follow Sarah’s career, or to purchase her music, go to www.sarahmorganmusic.com.

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