Warren Wilson College Announces New Director of the Swannanoa Gathering

Warren Wilson College

After 33 years of dedicated service, Jim Magill will step down from his role as Swannanoa Gathering director at the end of the summer season. Dr. Kevin Kehrberg, an acclaimed musician and professor at Warren Wilson, has accepted a two-year appointment as the new interim director.

Magill will continue to serve as Swannanoa Gathering director emeritus to aid in the transition and fundraising efforts.

Under Magill’s leadership, the Swannanoa Gathering has become one of the largest and most successful music camps in this country. It is recognized across the globe for its contributions to the preservation and advancement of folk music.


Founded in 1991 by then President Doug Orr, the Swannanoa Gathering is an educational program of summer folk arts workshops held on the campus of Warren Wilson College. Each year the Gathering attracts more than 900 participants to its week-long programs in folk music and dance over a five-week period in July and August. The workshops are taught by some of the finest folk artists and instructors in the world. The program includes fiddle week, mando and banjo week, traditional song week, Celtic week, old-time week, contemporary folk week and guitar week.

“Anyone who has attended a workshop or a concert will agree that the Swannanoa Gathering provides consistent excellence in music,” said Dr. Damián Fernández, the current president of Warren Wilson College. “We are thankful to Jim for his immeasurable impact on American musical tradition, and we look forward to the ways Kevin will build on Jim’s legacy to advance the Swannanoa Gathering in its mission to preserve, promote and pass on the traditions of folk music.”

Kehrberg, an acclaimed musician and professor at Warren Wilson, has accepted a two-year appointment as the new director.

Kehrberg joined the music faculty at Warren Wilson College in 2010 and chaired the Department of Music for 10 years, from 2013 to 2023. As chair, he expanded the program’s offerings in bluegrass and traditional music. This culminated in the launch of an innovative new major in music in 2018, a degree that at the time had been unavailable at Warren Wilson College since the 1990s. Kehrberg holds a Ph.D. in musicology and has produced work as both a scholar and performer that has received honors and awards. His co-authored article “Somebody Died, Babe,” published in “The Bitter Southerner,” offers a critical examination of the regional folk song “Swannanoa Tunnel.” In 2021, Kehrberg’s collaborative recording of “Ground Speed” won the International Bluegrass Music Association’s (IBMA) award for Instrumental Recording of the Year.

“I’ve been an instructor at every Swannanoa Gathering except one since I arrived at Warren Wilson College in 2010. It’s an incredible experience and the premier program of its kind thanks to Jim’s long and dedicated leadership,” Kehrberg said. “I’m honored for the opportunity to carry Jim’s success forward and explore ways to expand the Gathering’s model and mesh its programming with our thriving music curriculum.”

Kehrberg’s vision includes seeking synergy between the Swannanoa Gathering and Warren Wilson College’s music program, aiming to enrich both entities and provide enhanced opportunities for students and musicians alike.

Magill offered some reflections on the past 33 years: “I had trained as an anthropologist before I embarked on a musical career, so when President Doug Orr asked me to create the workshops that became the Swannanoa Gathering, I saw the broader implications for it immediately. When I went home that night, I told my wife Beth that I’d just been given the opportunity to create a cultural institution. How many people get to do that?

“Some 30-odd years later, I can look back with satisfaction on the nearly 30,000 folks who have come through our programs and had their lives changed by the music. They are my legacy.

“Dr. Kevin Kehrberg is an educator who shares my passion for the mission that has guided me for all these years: to preserve, promote and pass on our priceless folk heritage. As one of our long-time instructors he understands that mission down to his bones, and I couldn’t be more pleased that the future of the Gathering will be in his capable hands.”

For more information about the Swannanoa Gathering and upcoming programs, please visit www.swangathering.com. To register, visit swangathering.com/register/general-registration.

Warren Wilson College is a vibrant, independent college with an innovative curriculum that purposefully integrates the liberal arts with community engagement and work experiences to prepare students for not only professional success, but also a life of meaning. Visit www.warren-wilson.edu.

Written by Warren Wilson College.