Short Bio

Sean McCollough is a Parent's Choice Award winner, a children's radio host, a multi-instrumentalist, and a seasoned performer. He also teaches musicology at the University of Tennessee and is a teaching artist in the schools.


He is, in part, cut from the clothe of the likes of Pete Seeger and John McCutcheon with a passion for American folk music and a desire to play music that brings people together. He also loves rock 'n roll, world music, and writing his own songs.


His family shows range from deep dives into the hollers of Appalachia to trips around the world to romps through fun and educational original songs. While guitar and banjo are always on hand, you may also catch him playing mandolin, piano, dulcimer, jaw harp, hand drums, spoons, and more. His shows are participatory at every turn - whether it's singing or banging along, performing motions to go along with songs, or helping to make-up songs on the spot. And while you're having fun, he'll slip in some tidbits about the history of the instruments, the development of musical styles, and basic music education.


Sean has recorded over ten albums, including three records for kids. His most recent family recording, Earworm, includes nine original songs, four covers, and appearances by Grammy-nominated Molly Ledford and well-known children's artist Billy Jonas. Click here for the press release about the new recording

More About Sean


• has performed since the early-90s at more schools in middle and east Tennessee than he can count.

• has performed for children at multiple festivals and theaters.

• is a national Parent's Choice award winner. 

• is the host of the WDVX radio show Kidstuff

• is on the Tennessee Arts Commission's Teaching Artist Roster

• performs and records with The Lonetones.

• has three children's albums, five albums with the Lonetones, and several other projects to his name. 

• taught music as a visiting artist in all seven Jefferson County public pre-schools for several years.

• performs regularly for school groups at the Great Smoky Mountain Institute at Tremont.

• worked in schools for several years as part of the Jubilee Community Arts School Program.

• taught music and storytelling in Headstart classrooms as a participating artist with the Wolftrap Institute.

• taught music at Garden Montessori School.

• teaches musicology courses at the The University of Tennessee covering everything from music of Appalachia to rock ‘n roll to classical to world music.

• holds a masters degree in ethnomusicology with a focus on music of Appalachia.

• is the band leader and keyboard player in The John Myers Band.

• toured as the mandolin player with the Carpetbag Theatre play Between A Ballad and A Blues about Howard "Louie Bluie" Armstrong.

• has coordinated the music for the Louie Bluie Festival and Vestival.

• was the concert manager for the Laurel Theatre in the mid 90s.

Click here for a formal resume.

Comments from Others


“Sean McCollough has that X factor - his music is joyful, engaging, sweet, creative, illuminating, and memorable, and rises to the top overtime. It worms its way into your ears, and lifts your heart. I love Sean’s voice, and I love his take on the world. Like the classic children’s and family music you already love, this music will keep both the adults and the kids happily singing along on repeated listenings. Prepare for a wonderful new addition to the soundtrack of your family’s life!"

     ~ Award-winning children's musician Billy Jonas


"Earworm is a collection of earworms from start to finish"

     ~ Americana Highways


 "Earworm is a wonderful and quirky album that is fun for the whole family."

     ~ BookwormBev


Sean McCollough's Earworm release taps into the deep musical heritage of East Tennessee's native folk and Americana traditions, while not being too precious about it. Using real musicians who can really play, the songs are educational and FUN! And yes these tunes DO stick in your head. From the land that brought us the Carter Family, McCollough builds on that history and expands it.

     ~ Jason Ringenberg (aka Farmer Jason)



"It's music that doesn't sound prefabricated or condescending, tunes that can be enjoyed by all ages even if the target audience is kids." 


      - Steve Wildsmith (Maryville Daily Times)  


"His educational programs for children are innovative, fun and engaging and his versatile performances are interactive and exciting for children and adults of all ages."


     - Mary Anne Damos, Director, Oak Ridge Children's Museum 



"It's McCollough's jubilant, brightly colored vision running through it all that makes the disc a small wonder."
     - Mathew Everett (Metro Pulse record review)


"Sean is a gifted and highly skilled musician with a heart that connects with the heart of the child in us all."


      - Karan Dotson, Senior Branch Assistant, Norwood Branch Library
        (formerly Programs Coordinator at Jubilee Community Arts)



"Sean was just really in tune with the needs of these children. They've probably never been that close to that much talent."


     - Pam Haaby, Kindergarten Teacher, John Sevier School (Maryville, TN)



"One of the highlights of our trips to Tremont [Great Smokey Mountain Institute] is Sean's performance"


     - Debbie Wheeler, High School Science Teacher (Sayre School, Lextington, KY)



"I could not believe the ease with which Sean was able to engage students in the song-writing process (even 7th and 8th graders)."


     - Pat Swartz, Social Studies Teacher (Chucky Elementry, Chucky, TN)




Sean's Background

Sean___5_at_piano_small.jpgSean grew up with music all around him. Both of his parents were music lovers, introducing him to a wide variety of performers from the 60s and 70s. They were also both musical themselves - his mom majoring in music for awhile in college, and his dad playing piano and guitar around the house.


Sean has vivid memories of laying under the baby grand piano listening to his dad's improvisations and learning to love John Prine at an early age from hearing his dad's versions of "Paradise" and "Hello In There" on the guitar.


Sean's first instrument was the piano. As many kids do, he banged out his favorite songs (including "Heart and Soul" and "Boogie Woogie") over and over until everyone else was surely sick of them. By the time he was in 3rd or 4th grade he enjoyed putting on the headphones and playing along with Cat Stevens (who knows what that sounded like to the rest of the world?!).


The summer of his thirteenth year he learned to play the guitar from his dad with the help of a John Prine songbook. His dad also realized he could sing harmony and helped him explore that ability. The next year he got his first steel-string guitar, an old Epiphone that belonged to his grandpa McCollough. Sean's daughter Julia is now learning to play on that same guitar.


During that same time, Sean moved from Michigan to middle Tennessee with his mother. There he was introduced to the old-time music of fiddler Frazier Moss through family friends Chris and Dale Ballinger (of Clusterplucker  and Ballinger Family Band  fame).


His musical education continued in junior high and high school when he became friends with classmate Doug Derryberry (now in the Bruce Hornsby  and Sesame Street bands). He and Doug began playing together, cutting their teeth on the guitar styles and harmony singing of Simon and Garfunkel and Crosby, Stills & Nash. They spent a period of time in high school performing with friend Sean Morgan , exploring the psychedelic musical territory of bands such as the Grateful Dead and King Crimson. Sean and Doug then formed a rock band called the Imposers with friend Joey Pegram  and recorded an album released on cassette called Party Favors that included original songs by all three members.


In college Sean performed at open mics and had a few solo gigs here and there. He formed a band with college friends Shane Sanders and Peter Franklin that unfortunately never made it out of the basement. He also discovered the power of singing topical songs and began performing at anti-apartheid and other rallies on campus.


After college he began working as a grassroots community organizer at Save Our Cumberland Mountains  (now called Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment) and continued singing and writing topical songs about coal mining and other issues.


In the early 1990s, Sean went back to school to study ethnomusicology (the study of music and culture) at the University of Tennessee. He focused his studies on music from the Appalachian region and learned to play mandolin and clawhammer banjo while participating in the East Tennessee State University Bluegrass Program .


During this period, Sean worked as the concert manager at the Laurel Theater  and also began playing music professionally. Some of his first gigs were playing for kids at schools through a program at Jubilee Community Arts . He released a live album of children's music called Peanut Butter and Jelly (no longer available). He also began playing solo for adults and released a self-titled album of original material (no longer available).


After graduating with a Masters in Musicology, Sean began teaching adjunct at a number of colleges, until, over the years, he became a full-time instructor at the University of Tennessee where he still teaches Music of Appalachia, The History of Rock and the Introduction to Classical Music. 


He then formed the band Evergreen Street  in 2001 with Geol Greenlee, Phil Pollard and Nick Boulet. The band released a self-titled CD  in 2003. They stopped performing in 2005.


In the early 2000s Sean also began playing music with Steph Gunnoe. They played originally as a duo and then joined forces with Maria Williams (bass) and formed The Lonetones . The Lonetones recorded their debut album, Useful in 2004 and added Phil Pollard on drums. Over the years the band has also included Steve Corrigan on drums and Lissa McLeod on keyboards. The current line-up includes Cecilia Miller on Cello, Jamie Cooke on drums and Vince Ilagan and Bryn Davies sharing the bass duties. They recently released their fifth album, Dumbing It All Down.


In 2008 Sean met John Myers  (formerly of the Hearts of Stone on the Motown label) and began performing informally with him. He soon became John's bandleader and rediscovered his love of the piano as John's keyboard player. He also plays a little banjo and guitar in the band. In early 2010 Sean produced and recorded an album for John entitled I Ain't Goin' Nowhere .


In 2008 Sean also was recruited to play mandolin in the band for the Carpet Bag Theater  play Between a Ballad and a Blues about the life of Howard "Louie Bluie" Armstrong. It was no coincidence that Sean was already a big fan of Louie Bluie and his musical cohorts, Carl Martin and Ted Bogan (often teaching about them in his UT classes). But it was surprising to learn that that John Myers' wife, Pamela is Carl Martin's niece.


In 2010 Sean recorded a full-length studio album for children and families entitled This Is Our House. The album features original and traditional tunes performed by Sean along with some of Knoxville's finest musicians.


In early 2011 Sean was asked by WDVX-FM to host a radio show for children. So, every Saturday morning from 10-11 AM (EST) you can hear Sean on Kidstuff.


He released his third children's record in May of 2019, Earworm.

It's An Earworm!

Available Now!

 "Prepare for a wonderful new addition to the soundtrack of your family’s life!"

- Billy Jonas


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