Pellissippi State, Rocky Top Wine Trail partner on new grape and wine industry apprentice program

Jacob Lindsey and Nick Gipson sign papers to start grape and wine industry apprenticeship
Pellissippi State alumni Jacob Lindsey and Nick Gipson, seated, sign papers to become apprentices in the grape and wine industry. The registered apprenticeship, a new partnership between Rocky Top Wine Trail Inc. and Pellissippi State, kicked off June 1 with a signing ceremony celebrated by (standing, from left) Todd Evans, director of workforce solutions and program manager for apprenticeships at Pellissippi State; Teri Brahams, executive director of Economic and Workforce Development at Pellissippi State; Michael Coombs, winemaker for Hillside Winery, where Lindsey works; Don Collier, owner of Rocky Top Wine Trail Inc.; William Grogan, winemaker at Mountain Valley Winery, where Gipson works; Chris Milne, a Pellissippi State biology professor and vintner who teaches classes for Viticulture Enology Science and Technology Alliance (VESTA); and Kane Barker, dean of Natural and Behavioral Sciences for Pellissippi State.

Those who want to advance in their careers with the grape and wine industry can now do so through Pellissippi State Community College. 

Pellissippi State’s Business & Community Services has partnered with Rocky Top Wine Trail Inc. to begin the first registered apprenticeship program in East Tennessee for those interested in a career in the grape and wine industry. 

Pellissippi State alumni Nick Gipson and Jacob Lindsey, both of whom earned their associate degrees in fall 2018 and are currently employed by wineries, began the 12- to 18-month apprentice program as cellar workers June 1.  

The new grape and wine industry apprentice program, registered through the U.S. Department of Labor, combines online classes and testing with hands-on practice and training. Once they complete the program, Gipson and Lindsey will become journeyworkers at the wineries where they work. 

“This partnership shows the strength of Pellissippi State’s resources to best support and grow the changing needs of a well-trained workforce in East Tennessee,” said Todd Evans, director of workforce solutions and program manager for apprenticeships at Pellissippi State. “We listened to the needs of our client and developed a program that utilizes Pellissippi State faculty as well as hands-on supervision by Rocky Top Wine Trails’ assigned coaches and mentors, all while meeting state and federal requirements.” 

The Rocky Top Wine Trail, Tennessee’s first and most visited wine trail, was established in 2008, with three local wineries. There are now five participating wineries throughout Sevierville and Pigeon Forge, enabling guests to sample more than 70 wines by the time they have completed the Trail.  

Apprenticeships such as Gipson’s and Lindsey’s support the development of the people powering the local wine industry and its growth as an economic driver in this area. 

“We have been very pleased with the partnership with Pellissippi State for not only developing our current team members, but also for the future apprenticeships and workforce training they can provide,” said Jonathan Ball, chief operating officer for Rocky Top Wine Trail. “Our ability to grow as a company and as an industry will rely on the current and future skills of our team members. Pellissippi State not only listened to our needs, but presented a training and development plan aligned with our business goals in a flexible and cost-effective strategy.” 

Business & Community Services collaborated with Chris Milne, a Pellissippi State biology professor who has a Ph.D. in plant and soil science, and the Viticulture Enology Science and Technology Alliance (VESTA) to create the grape and wine industry apprentice program. Milne noted that VESTA also offers apprentice programs in Assistant Winemaker, Industrial Maintenance Technician, Production Technician, Tasting Room Associate, Vineyard Worker, Vineyard Foreman and Vineyard Manager. 

“Students who are interested in these classes sign up through VESTA, but we also have made it so that every one of these VESTA classes can be applied as Prior Learning Assessment for credits toward an Associate of Applied Science in General Technology with a focus in Viticulture, Enology or Wine Business Entrepreneurship at Pellissippi State,” said Milne, a vintner who teaches Botanical Viticulture for VESTA, a national grape and wine education program that combines the flexibility of industry-validated online instruction, instructor-guided education from industry professionals and hands-on mentored experiences at vineyards or wineries. 

Pellissippi State’s new apprenticeship program for the grape and wine industry, which Milne has been working on for two years, is set up to allow students to focus their studies on Viticulture (grape growing), Enology (wine making) and Wine Business Entrepreneurship. And because Pellissippi State’s courses that support VESTA’s apprentice programs are taught online through Zoom, students from across the state and the country could earn their degrees from Pellissippi State. 

“Last fall I had eight students through VESTA, and all of them were out of state,” Milne said. “That’s one of the really cool things about the program: it’s not just limited to Tennessee students.” 

Another benefit to apprenticeship programs is that apprentices are paid by their employers while they are going through the program, Milne added.  

“The goal is not only to train the apprentices, but when they finish, they will get a bump in pay,” Milne said. 

Nick Gipson, left, and Jacob Lindsey show off wines
Pellissippi State alumni Nick Gipson, left, and Jacob Lindsey show off a couple of the award-winning wines produced by Rocky Top Wine Trail Inc., where they are apprenticing in the grape and wine industry.

Lindsey and Gipson jumped at the opportunity for more education in the grape and wine industry when Ball offered to send them through the VESTA program on scholarship. 

“I am hoping to gain more knowledge of the grapes in the vineyard so that I can fully understand the process and start to develop my own style and ideas,” said Lindsey, who is the cellar master at Hillside Winery in Sevierville, where he has worked for two years. “I’m trying to learn everything I can from the winemakers who are here now. Eventually I’d love to work at a small winery in the country and be able to make new and exciting blends and flavors.” 

Gipson, who works as an assistant winemaker at Mountain Valley Winery in Pigeon Forge, noted that the VESTA courses would help fill out the knowledge he’s gained on the job. 

“The schooling will definitely help me in understanding the science behind winemaking,” said Gipson, who has been working in the industry for about a year and a half. “It’s been fun and exciting so far. I’m learning as much as I can because I’m pretty open right now about where I want my career to go.” 

Pellissippi State’s apprenticeship programs aren’t just for wineries. Using assessments and individualized consulting, Business & Community Services helps local companies determine where performance and skills gaps exist in their workforce. From there, Business & Community Services staff work with employers to develop a strategy, creating and delivering custom workforce solutions to employers based on how their company does business, tailored to their specific needs and scheduled to fit their timeline. 

For more information about apprenticeships or what Business & Community Services can do for your company, contact Todd Evans at or 865-539-7164. 


Pellissippi State will close vaccination clinic June 5

Pellissippi State Community College will conclude the drive-thru vaccination clinic on its Blount County Campus after appointments already scheduled for Saturday, June 5. 

The College made this decision in consultation with the Tennessee Department of Health, which is consolidating its distribution efforts. 

Pellissippi State will finish its vaccination efforts by providing the Moderna vaccine to those who are scheduled to receive their second shots on Saturday, May 22, and Saturday, June 5. The College will no longer offer the Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccine on Fridays or first doses of Moderna on Saturdays. 

More than 80 people, including 41 Pellissippi State students, have helped staff the clinic on the Blount County Campus since it opened Friday, April 9The College is grateful to have served the community in this way, as well as for the educational opportunity the clinic provided for Pellissippi State Nursing students. 

Folk singers trace path to freedom from slavery through civil rights movement

Rhonda and Sparky Rucker performing on banjo and guitar
Folk musicians Rhonda and Sparky Rucker will perform at Pellissippi State on Thursday, Feb. 21.

Pellissippi State Community College will celebrate World Day of Social Justice through music and song with internationally known musicians, storytellers and authors Sparky and Rhonda Rucker.

Sparky and Rhonda’s “Let Freedom Ring” performance will be held 10:45 a.m.-12:05 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 21, in the Goins Building Auditorium on the Hardin Valley Campus, 10915 Hardin Valley Road.

The event is free and open to the public.

Sparky and Rhonda’s program at Pellissippi State will demonstrate how movements for justice have produced some of our country’s most inspiring songs and stories. They will trace the nation’s struggles from slavery and the Underground Railroad through the battles for women’s suffrage and workers’ rights and into the civil rights movement.

“As a social worker by training, I’ve been involved is social justice work for over 30 years, and I’ve always been amazed at how artists can utilize their works to reflect the time,” said Drema Bowers, director of Service-Learning and Civic Engagement for Pellissippi State. “That is especially true of musicians. Although I’ve only heard the Ruckers perform once, it made a lasting impression and I want others to share this experience.”

Sparky Rucker grew up in Knoxville and has been involved with the civil rights movement since the 1950s. He got his start in folk music during the movement, marching shoulder-to-shoulder with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee Freedom Singers Matthew and Marshall Jones and playing freedom songs at rallies alongside such luminaries as Guy and Candie Carawan, Pete Seeger and Bernice Reagon. In addition, he worked for the Poor People’s Campaign and helped to gain benefits for coal miners in Southern Appalachia. Sparky accompanies himself on guitar, banjo and spoons.

Rhonda Hicks Rucker practiced medicine for five years in Maryville, Tenn., before becoming a full-time musician, author and storyteller. She is a versatile singer and performer, playing blues harmonica, piano, clawhammer banjo and rhythmic bones. Rhonda has become a passionate voice in social and environmental advocacy through her songwriting, creating moving songs about topics such as global warming, the broken health care system and post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Sparky and Rhonda are world-renowned performers, and we are fortunate to have them here in our area,” Bowers said. “It would be a shame not to take advantage of this opportunity to journey through time with them.”

To request accommodations for a disability for this event, call 865-539-7401 or email  accommodations@pstcc.eduFor more information about Pellissippi State, visit or call 865-694-6400.


Pellissippi State performance showcases talents of music faculty

Eighteen faculty at Pellissippi State Community College will show off their musical chops next week during a free performance that veers between Appalachian folksongs, Broadway show tunes, classical compositions and jazz.

Pellissippi State’s faculty recital will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 7, in the Clayton Performing Arts Center on the college’s Hardin Valley Campus, 10915 Hardin Valley Road.

The faculty recital, the latest installment in The Arts at Pellissippi State, is free and open to the public.

“There is a large variety of music scheduled and includes solo singers, solo and four-hands piano, and small instrumental ensembles,” explained Music Program Coordinator Peggy Hinkle. “You will hear everything from ‘Three Blind Mice’ to Debussy and even an original composition by David Slack, adjunct music faculty and director of the Studio Orchestra.”

For more information on upcoming visual arts, theatre and music events, as well the Faculty Lecture Series, at Pellissippi State, visit

To request accommodations for a disability for this event, call 865-539-7401 or email

Rescheduled: Author inducted into East Tennessee Writers Hall of Fame reads from new novel at Pellissippi State

Charles Dodd White
Charles Dodd White

A Pellissippi State Community College professor will read from his latest novel next week, and the public is invited to the free event.

Charles Dodd White, an associate professor of English at Pellissippi State, will read from “In the House of Wilderness” at 12:25 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 7, in the Goins Building Auditorium on the college’s Hardin Valley Campus, 10915 Hardin Valley Road.

This event was rescheduled due to inclement weather.

White, who founded and directs the annual James Agee Conference for Literature and Arts at Pellissippi State, was inducted into the East Tennessee Writers Hall of Fame in October, honored for his fiction. White’s most recent novel, “In the House of Wilderness,” was published by Ohio University Press in September.

“Charles has been widely recognized for his work, all of which is deeply rooted in Appalachia,” said Kathryn Byrd, interim vice president for Academic Affairs at Pellissippi State.

Book cover of "In the House of Wilderness"While White has published two other novels, “In the House of Wilderness” is his first set in Tennessee. Ohio University Press describes the family drama as “a harrowing story of choice and sacrifice” and “a novel about the modern South and how we fight through hardship and grief to find a way home.”

White grew up in Atlanta, but has spent time all over the South, earning degrees in North Carolina, Kentucky and Texas. He moved to Tennessee to teach at Pellissippi State, where he has been on faculty since 2013. His weekly commute from his home in Asheville, N.C., to the college’s Hardin Valley Campus his first year at Pellissippi State helped shape the setting of “In the House of Wilderness,” which includes references to real places in Newport and Knoxville.

“I’d have to leave my house in Asheville at 4:30 in the morning, and that was a good time to dwell on this story,” said White, who now lives in Knoxville and taught Pellissippi State’s first Appalachian literature course this fall. “That long drive in the dark also gave me the opportunity to absorb the landscape. It’s been nice for me to incorporate some of those places.”

For the Humanities Tennessee review of “In the House of Wilderness,” which was published in the Knoxville News Sentinel, visit

To request accommodations for this event, call 865-539-7401 or email


Pellissippi State welcomes pianist Emi Kagawa in concert

Emi Kagawa
Pianist Emi Kagawa will perform at Pellissippi State on Thursday, Jan. 31.

The Arts at Pellissippi State welcomes world-renowned pianist Emi Kagawa in concert Thursday, Jan. 31.

A native of Osaka, Japan, Kagawa has performed extensively throughout the United States, Canada, Italy and Japan. She is a past winner of the Juilliard School of Music’s Gina Bachauer International Piano Competition and was recently appointed principal keyboard of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra.

“Emi Kagawa performed here at Pellissippi State last January with the group Isotone, and she expressed an interest in doing a solo recital for us,” said Peggy Hinkle, music program coordinator for Pellissippi State Community College. “We are extremely fortunate to host a guest artist of her caliber as part of our concert series.”

Kagawa’s performance, which is free, will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 31, in the Clayton Performing Arts Center on Pellissippi State’s Hardin Valley Campus, 10915 Hardin Valley Road.

For more information on upcoming visual arts, theatre and music events, as well as the college’s faculty lecture series, visit

To request accommodations for a disability for this event, call 865-539-7401 or email

Pellissippi State faculty explore World War I’s legacy on Armistice centennial

Pellissippi State Community College will mark the 100-year anniversary of the end of World War I with a symposium covering seven topics, from poetry to propaganda.

“The Great War: One Hundred Years Later” will be held 10 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 12, in the Goins Building Auditorium on the college’s Hardin Valley Campus, 10915 Hardin Valley Road.

The symposium, which includes seven 30-minute lectures by Pellissippi State faculty of different disciplines, is free and open to the public.

“This gives us an opportunity to present some research outside of our classrooms,” said symposium organizer Nathan Pavalko, an assistant professor of history who specializes in modern U.S. history and the Cold War. “I like to try to bring history topics outside the classroom, and I wanted to make this as interdisciplinary as possible. We have art, English and history represented.”

The symposium schedule includes:

  • 10-10:30 a.m.: The Great War and the end of the Long Nineteenth Century, presented by Harry Whiteside
  • 10:30-11 a.m.: Russian Propaganda, presented by YuLiya Kalnaus
  • 11-11:30 a.m.: Poets of the Great War, presented by Brigette McCray
  • 11:30 a.m.-noon: Versailles Treaty and 100 Years Later, presented by Pavalko
  • Noon-12:30 p.m. World War I and the Women Who Waged It, presented by Josh Durbin
  • 12:30-1 p.m.: The Great War and German Expressionism, presented by Herb Rieth
  • 1-1:30 p.m.: War Crimes of World War I, presented by Alison Vick

World War I left quite a legacy, Pavalko said.

“The world we live in today probably would not exist, politically and culturally, had World War I not happened,” he noted. “World War I creates the modern concept of what war is. It’s not heroic. It’s not some grand adventure. It’s sheer brutality, and that is what shocks people into rethinking what war is.”

World War I can serve as a cautionary tale even today, Pavalko added.

“One of the overarching thoughts before the war, especially in Europe, was, ‘We’ll never have another war because we are so civilized, technologically advanced and diplomatic,’” he explained. “We should learn not to underestimate the horribleness of humanity.”

For more information on Pellissippi State, visit the website at or call 865.694.6400. To request accommodations for this event, call 865-539-7401 or email


Pellissippi State partners with Jewelry Television to offer gemology certificate

Do you ever wonder why one diamond is priced more than another? And how do you know which one to select?

Pellissippi State Community College is offering a noncredit class this October that will teach you the ins and outs of diamonds, pearls and colored gemstones.

Gemology with Jewelry Television is a 12-hour class – three hours over four days – that Pellissippi State is offering in partnership with Jewelry Television in Knoxville. The noncredit class will teach you how these raw materials are formed, mined, identified, graded and priced.

Hobbyists, artists, jewelry lovers and anyone looking to explore gemology will enjoy this series, scheduled for 9 a.m.-noon Oct. 15-18 at Jewelry Television’s Jewel School Institute, 140 Hayfield Road, Knoxville.

“This class is an opportunity to learn extremely technical gem information in an easy-to-understand and enjoyable environment,” said instructor Hillary Spector. “Participants get to touch and feel product and use high-tech lab equipment to identify gems.”

Spector, a graduate gemologist and former Gemological Institute of America instructor, has more than 25 years of experience in the gemological industry and now serves as the instructional specialist for Jewelry Television.

Cost for the four-day session is $229 and includes all labs. To register, visit, click on “Find a class” and search for Gemology.

For more information about other noncredit courses at Pellissippi State, visit or call 865-539-7167. To request accommodations for a disability for one of these classes, call 865-539-7401 or email

Faculty lecture at Pellissippi State explores 1970s funk as music of revolution

What Beyonce brought to Coachella in April, Claude Hardy is bringing to Pellissippi State Community College next week.

Hardy, an associate professor of theatre, will present “Black Power: Funk and Heavy Music from the 1970s” at 11:50 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 3, in the Goins Building Auditorium on the college’s Hardin Valley Campus, 10915 Hardin Valley Road.

The faculty lecture, which is free and open to the public, is part of The Arts at Pellissippi State.

“I really like this genre of music, and not a lot of people know about it,” Hardy said Monday, as he played vinyl records in the Goins Building Rotunda to drum up interest in the upcoming lecture. “Selfishly, this is a way to get more people to listen to it because this is music people aren’t necessarily going to seek out on their own.”

Hardy discovered the Afrobeat genre on the now-defunct website, which was created by a German deejay who traveled throughout Western Africa collecting Afrobeat records.

Since then there has been a resurgence in the music, helped by artists such as Shawn “Jay Z” Carter, Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith, who produced FELA! on Broadway in 2009, and Beyonce, who performed one of Fela’s songs during her Coachella set this year.

“Fela was a big influence in his country, having stood up to the government and been arrested a bunch of times,” Hardy explained of the Nigerian musician. “He released 25 or 30 albums in the ’70s. He’d get worked up and write a politically charged album.”

For example, Fela’s song “Zombie,” which Beyonce covered at Coachella, was about the Nigerian Army coming and taking over his compound, Hardy said.

Hardy’s lecture will include history on the bands and songs that he is sharing – “Black Power” by The Peace and “Acid Rock” by The Funkees are two of the tunes on his list – and then the opportunity for the audience to listen to the songs in their entirety.

“We will be playing actual records,” Hardy noted. “One of the great things is to just listen; don’t worry about the outside world right now.”

Hardy’s hope is that those who attend the lecture will learn something new.

“I hope they keep their ears open and not settle for what they know, not just the Led Zeppelins and the Pink Floyds, which I love,” he said.

For more information on upcoming visual arts, theatre and music events, as well as other upcoming faculty lectures, visit To request accommodations for this event, call 865-539-7401 or email

Local paintings, ceramics combine in upcoming exhibit at Pellissippi State

Green ceramic vase by clay artist Armanda Bonar
This ceramics work by Amanda Bonar of Terra Madre is among the art that will be on display at Pellissippi State Community College’s exhibit “Ashley Addair and Terra Madre: Women in Clay” Oct. 8-26.

Visual artist Ashley Addair of Knoxville joins 15 local clay artists in a new exhibit at Pellissippi State Community College.

“Ashley Addair and Terra Madre: Women in Clay” will be on display at the College’s Bagwell Center for Media and Art Gallery on the Hardin Valley Campus Oct. 8-26, with an opening reception with the artists scheduled for 3-5 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 10.

The exhibit, the latest installment in The Arts at Pellissippi State, is free and open to the public. Gallery hours are 10 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

“It’s going to be a busy show, and it’s going to be full,” said Pellissippi State Professor Jeffrey Lockett, program coordinator for Art. “The artists will take up different spaces within the Gallery, with the Terra Madre works displayed on pedestals and Ashley’s works on the walls.”

Addair is a visual artist and an active member of the arts community in Knoxville. Her paintings are collected internationally.

Terra Madre is a juried group of women clay artists living and working in the Knoxville area. Their work ranges from functional to sculptural and from traditional to whimsical.

“Many Terra Madre members are or have been influential educators in the clay field locally, regionally and nationally,” said Lisa Kurtz, an adjunct fine arts instructor at Pellissippi State whose work will be included in the upcoming exhibit. “They teach or have taught clay at a variety of locations including elementary and secondary schools, colleges, craft centers, workshops and churches.”

Other Terra Madre teachers whose clay work will be featured at Pellissippi State include Amanda Bonar, Judy Brater, Jane Cartwright, Pat Clapsaddle, Valerie Eiler, Lynn Fisher, Anna Maria Gundlach, Pat Herzog, Ellie Kotsianas, Wendie Love, Sandra McEntire, Jackie Mirzadeh, Jessica Stewart and Rikki Taylor.

“Both Ashley’s and the Terra Madre artists’ works showcase immediate reactions to the media they use,” Lockett said. “With clay, you squeeze it and shape it while Ashley’s paintings are often stream of consciousness. Sometimes these works are well thought out. Sometimes they are more spontaneous.”

For more information on upcoming visual arts, theatre and music events, as well the Faculty Lecture Series, at Pellissippi State, visit