The Ralph Rinzler Memorial concert series celebrates the achievements of the founding director of the Smithsonian Center for Folklife Programs & Cultural Studies and of the Festival of American Folklife, Ralph Rinzler, who died in July 1994. The concerts seek to document the unique voices and home-grown musics that touched and were touched by Ralph's life work and to commemorate the fruits of thirty years of the Festival's advocacy of these artists and musical forms.
Hazel Dickens, the featured artist for 1996's second annual Rinzler Memorial concert, was a longtime friend of Ralph's and a powerful singer, songwriter, and spokesperson for women's and workers' rights whom Ralph held in high esteem. The performers at the concert represented both the continuity of Appalachian musical traditions and the flourishing of female-led bluegrass bands, spearheaded by the early collaboration between Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerrard. In addition to their own repertoire, each performer and group sang songs from Hazel's unique opus of original works and comment on her influence on their musical lives. Crowning the evening were performances by Hazel and Alice and members of the Johnson Mountain Boys who often played backup for Dickens over the years.
Hazel Dickens and Kate Rinzler were Special Concert Coordinators for the Rinzler Memorial Concert; David Bosserman, Olivia Cadaval, James Early, and Richard Kennedy were Evening Programs Coordinators.
The concert was made possible with funds from the Friends of the FestivaI, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, Kate Rinzler, The Recording Industries Music Performance Trust Funds, and the United Mine Workers of America.