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MSU traditional music student, graduates receive IBMA honors

Heather Alley PictureThis year, the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) honored one current student and two alumni from Morehead State University’s Kentucky Center for Traditional Music.  

The IBMA awarded its Rick Lang Music Songwriter Scholarship to Heather Alley, a senior traditional music major and health minor from Miamisburg, Ohio. For the IBMA’s 2020 Industry and Momentum Awards, they nominated Leanna Price (17) and Lauren Price Napier (17), otherwise known as bluegrass duo The Price Sisters, for Vocalist of the Year and Instrumentalist of the Year, respectively.  

Alley plays fiddle, mandolin and guitar, and is also a member of the band Mountain Time. She came to MSU because of its unique traditional music program and to pursue the music she was most passionate about in an academic setting.   

“When I came to the center to audition for the program, I immediately got the feeling that I belonged,” Alley said. “There was and still is a very strong sense of family at the Kentucky Center for Traditional Music that I believe would be hard to find anywhere else.”  

Alley learned about being the Rick Lang Music Songwriter Scholarship recipient through her traditional music professor Ruth McClain, who encouraged her to apply. The scholarship, funded by songwriter Rick and Wendy Lang, is awarded to young artists with promising bluegrass songwriting skills and a passion for bluegrass music.  

"When I got the phone call that I had received the scholarship, I was at a loss for words,” Alley said. “To have an original song that I had written on my own recognized in this way is a huge blessing and an incredible encouragement to continue pursuing this dream that I’ve been chasing practically my whole life.”  

The Price Sisters PictureTwin sisters Leanna Price and Lauren Price Napier, both from Sardis, Ohio, graduated from MSU with bachelor’s degrees in traditional music with minors in business. They formed The Price Sisters in 2012 before attending college as undecided majors at Davis and Elkins College in Elkins, West Virginia. The group was scheduled to play at the Jerusalem Ridge Bluegrass Celebration in Rosine, Kentucky. A musician performing at the festival was also an MSU student and asked if the sisters would want to meet up before traveling to Rosine to rehearse the day before their festival performances.  

“The traditional music center at MSU let us use their building for practice space and upon doing so, we ended up taking an impromptu tour of the music center and learning about the program through director Raymond McClain,” Napier said. “After that day, something inside us just felt like MSU’s Kentucky Center for Traditional Music was where we needed to be.”  

During their time at MSU, The Price Sisters were signed to Rebel Records in 2016. They recorded and released their first EP that same year. They went on to tour professionally in the states and abroad and release their first full-length album, “A Heart Never Knows,” in 2018.  

The Price Sisters found out about their respective 2020 nominations through the IBMA’s Facebook page. The prior year, The Price Sisters’ five-piece band was nominated for Momentum Band of the Year and Napier received a Momentum Vocalist of the Year nomination.  

While the duo didn’t take home any awards this year, the recognition still holds significance.  

“I feel these nominations show that both as The Price Sisters band collectively and as individual artists that our music and presence is being noticed by fans and industry professionals alike, and that it’s having a positive impact and is beginning to make a statement in the bluegrass community – that our group and individual members are working to creatively be viable and fresh as an artist,” Napier said. “These nominations certainly feel to me it’s pointing in that direction.”  

For more information about the KCTM and its programs, visit, email or call 606-783-9001. 

Photos: Current MSU traditional music student Heather Alley (right) and traditional music alumni Leanna Price (17) and Lauren Price Napier (17), otherwise as bluegrass duo The Price Sisters (left), were honored this year by the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA).