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Ben Sollee Raises Awareness about Appalachia’s Beauty

Ben Sollee, the cellist and vocalist known for his political activism, performed his music at Berea College’s Mountain Day Festival this year.

Ben Sollee at Mountain Day 2010

On October 6, Berea College celebrated its 135th Mountain Day with music, crafts, and festivities and many in attendance congregated at Indian Fort Theatre to hear Sollee play.

A thrilled sensation passed over the audience when Sollee and his accompanying drummer, Jordan Ellis, rode their bikes on stage.

Since August, Sollee, Ellis, and the sibling pair Katie and Marty Benson (who primarily take videos of the performances) have been bicycling to performances on their “Ditch the Van Tour.”

“I was a musician way before I was a cyclist,” Sollee laughed. Both music and bicycling seem to be working for Sollee, who is also an activist and outspoken opponent of mountaintop removal.

In February, Ben Sollee released his third record, Dear Companion. The focus of this album was to raise awareness about the beauty of Appalachia.
Looking around that clear autumn day, the natural beauty was not hard to find. Iron weed and goldenrod were in full bloom. Dragonflies skimmed over the heads of audience members. Brightly colored butterflies and moths rested gently on bare feet. Overhead a kettle of turkey vultures circled; the birds it seems were interested in the festivities below. The drilling sound of a Pileated Woodpecker could be heard coming from the forest. The sounds reverberated with Sollee’s harmony, mixing together seamlessly and peacefully.

Later, Sollee hiked to Indian Fort Lookout and participated in a recording of Berea College's "Head of the Holler," a 30-minute talk that airs on Kentucky Educational Television.

Co-author: Marcus Plumlee

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