CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In its 32 years of existence, FOOTMAD has been powered by an all-volunteer crew in its aim to serve as a conduit for, well, friends of old-time music and dance in the Greater Kanawha Valley.
Starting in August, FOOTMAD brought on board its first-ever paid professional staff member in the form of new arts administrator Burr Beard.
"I'm glad to be part of a community organization that builds community," said Beard, who relocated from Pittsburgh to Charleston.
In his new position, made possible partly by a grant for staff support from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts, Burr said he hopes to further FOOTMAD's musical and dance-centric mission.
"The economy has caused a downturn in attendance for FOOTMAD events, and I'd like to see that rebound and grow through more concerted marketing of what I think is already a great product."
The organization's musical offerings mesh squarely within his own tastes, said Beard, who himself plays hammered dulcimer with the band Devilish Mary.
"I like the term 'Americana,' which I see as encompassing various kinds of American roots music. So to me, what FOOTMAD is doing -- with old-time music, Celtic, blues, bluegrass, Cajun, zydeco -- fits firmly under the heading of 'Americana.' I like all of it."
Speaking of headings, Beard's unusual first name is a family legacy. "It's a family name. It was my father's and a great-uncle's before -- there are three 'Burr Beards' that I know of."
Beard, 60, has more than 35 years' experience in communications, public radio broadcasting and station management. He has a BA in history education from the University of Pittsburgh and earned a master's in communication from the University of North Carolina in 1980.
He went on to develop and become the first station manager of WNCW-FM, in Spindale, N.C., in 1988, where he designed a music format with NPR News that would become one of the first AAA (adult album alternative) stations combined with what would later become the Americana format.