The Gloria Belle Memorial Scholarship


 The Gloria Belle Memorial Scholarship

  The Gloria Belle Memorial Scholarship was created to honor and remember the groundbreaking bluegrass musician and singer Gloria Bernadette Flickinger, best known for her work with Jimmy Martin and The Sunny Mountain Boys. She has also been credited as the first lead-singing female bandleader, fronting her Green Mountain Travelers as early as 1957.

This will be a $1,000 scholarship awarded annually to a student enrolled in a college, tech, or trade school, who is also engaged in the bluegrass music community, either as a musician/singer or behind the scenes as a DJ, event promoter, graphic designer, videographer, photographer, luthier, etc.

Since June 1, 2024, $23,600 has been raised, surpassing the initial goal of $20,000 in the first month of fundraising! A new endowment fund at the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee will support the annual $1,000 scholarship beginning in 2025. Our next goal is $40,000, to fund an annual $2,000 scholarship!

How You Can Help

Gifts below $100:

If you’d like help us honor the memory and music of Gloria Belle by encouraging the next generation of bluegrass music, please consider making a tax-deductible donation of any amount by clicking here.

Gifts of $100 or more:

For gifts of $100 or more, we would like to thank you with one of these Gloria Belle Memorial Scholarship t-shirts.

Click here to make a donation of $100 or more to the Gloria Belle Memorial Scholarship and receive a Gloria Belle t-shirt. Please also email with your t-shirt size and mailing address.

About Gloria Belle:

Gloria Belle LOVED bluegrass music. She was determined to make a career in the music at a time when female bandleaders were frowned up, unless part of a family band. She had a strong voice, styled after her heroes, Molly O’Day and Wilma Lee Cooper. In 1950 at age 11, Gloria was learning basic mandolin and guitar from her mother and beginning to pick out melodies  learned from Bill Clifton and Mother Maybelle Carter. In a 2006 interview with Murphy Henry, Gloria said it was a Bailey Brothers show at Valley View Park in Pennsylvania that put her over the edge. “When I saw that show, I said, ‘That’s it.’”

At 15, Gloria dropped out of high school to pursue her music, working odd jobs—including at a potato chip factory—to pay the bills. Her parents were always supportive of her aspirations. One particular vacation brought the family south to Cas Walker’s Farm And Home Hour radio show in Knoxville, Tennessee, where Danny Bailey invited Gloria and her mother on stage for a few tunes.

Six months later, Gloria was asked to get back to Knoxville as soon as possible to join the radio and television show’s cast. She remained with Cas Walker’s show for five years. Cas dubbed her “Gloria Belle” because he couldn’t pronounce Flickinger.

Gloria gained greater public visibility during her two stints with Jimmy Martin and the Sunny Mountain Boys (1968-73 and 1975-78), one of the hottest bands on the bluegrass circuit at that time. She also toured with Charlie Monroe during the 1973 season.

Gloria was one of the earliest female side persons in an otherwise all-male band that wasn’t made up of family members. This was very unusual at the time. And she pushed beyond the boundaries of the typical “girl singer” with her expertise as a harmony singer as well as adept instrumental performances on bass, banjo, mandolin, and guitar.

In her definitive work on the female side of bluegrass music, Pretty Good For A Girl, Murphy Henry wrote:  “What we are seeing here is a picture of the quintessential bluegrass side musician, only this had never been done before by a woman in bluegrass…Gloria Belle went where the work was.” Her 1967 Rebel Records album, Gloria Belle Sings And Plays Bluegrass In The Country, showcased her lead instrumental work, a first for a woman in the genre. Other solo albums include: A Good Hearted Woman (1978) and The Love Of The Mountains (1986).In 1989, Gloria married guitar luthier Mike Long and settled in Nashville. Soon thereafter, they formed the band, Tennessee Sunshine. The group recorded several albums between 1992 and 2001.

Gloria received a 1999 IBMA Distinguished Achievement Award as well as 2001 and 2009 IBMA Recorded EVent of the Year awards for her work with the Daughters of Bluegrass.

Because of her great admiration for Gloria’s musicianship, professionalism, sweet spirit, and tenacity, IBMA Foundation board member Becky Buller set out to create this scholarship in Gloria’s honor. Thank YOU for helping us to make it a reality!  .

Gloria Belle’s story in her own words.

Gloria in performance with Jimmy Martin and the Sunny Mountain Boys,
Berryville, VA, 1969

Gloria Belle sings “Banjo Pickin’ Girl” from her Gloria Belle Sings Bluegrass album.

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