JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) Homecoming Week 2022 at East Tennessee State University will include a homecoming four decades in the making for the university’s legendary Bluegrass, Old-Time and Roots music program.

A concert will be held Friday night to celebrate the 40th anniversary of ETSU’s Bluegrass, Old-Time and Roots Music Studies program.

The concert will begin at 7 p.m. at the ETSU Martin Center for the Arts.

“I cannot wait to play music on stage again with some of my friends from 20 years ago,” said program director and ETSU alumnus Dr. Dan Boner. “And there will be some incredibly well-known artists at this anniversary concert, a couple of whom I will be meeting for the very first time myself.”

Another graduate will serve as the concert’s artistic director.

“It’s gonna be a family reunion,” said Becky Buller, ETSU alumna and 10-time International Bluegrass Music Association award-winner. “We have folks participating from literally all over the world, representing all decades of the program and the various styles of Appalachian American music we study.”

During an appearance on News Channel 11’s First at Four, Boner and Buller said the highlight of the evening will be an appearance by Dr. Jack Tottle. The renowned musician founded the program. He’s traveled from his home in Hawaii to join the celebration and receive an honorary doctorate from ETSU.

Jack Tottle founded the ETSU Bluegrass program 40 years ago. (Photo: ETSU)

“A friend of mine said, ‘Always go where the good energy is.’ This became my guiding principle when I started teaching at ETSU,” said Tottle. “The growth of the program over these 40 years is truly astonishing. Whenever I return to East Tennessee, I feel like I’ve come home.”

ETSU’s program was the first of its kind at a four-year college when it was founded in 1982. Since a Bachelor of Arts degree was launched 12 years ago, more than 120 degrees in Bluegrass, Old-Time and Roots Music Studies have been awarded.

Students gather to perform and study bluegrass music in this archive ETSU photo.

“It cannot be overstated the influence ETSU has had on American music over these past 40 years,” Boner said. “ETSU students and alumni have impacted the music world, performing on the largest international stages and garnering hundreds of industry awards.”

Events at the ETSU Martin Center will begin with a VIP reception at 5:30 p.m. VIP tickets are $75, concert-only tickets are $40 for adults and $15 for ETSU students with a valid ID. Children 12 and under are free.