It’s almost surreal to me, as Rio Semione has been a presence in my working life ever since I started covering music at the paper, and longer, in fact. The longtime artist relations representative at FloydFest died unexpectedly on Saturday at her home in Floyd County. Semione was 60, and had lived in Floyd for about 36 years.
I didn’t know Semione extremely well, as many did, but every time I ran across her — either in real time or online — she was interesting, with a lot of spirit and a legitimate point of view about music and culture. And let me tell you, to be an artist relations rep at a festival like FloydFest, a person needs to be firm but cool. She was both.
She had also been events planner at The Sun Music Hall and Cultural Arts Center and had booked and promoted shows at The Pine Tavern in those venues’ previous iterations. But she had been involved with FloydFest in one way or another since the first year, when she supervised hospitality for the musicians.
George Penn Jr., a drummer with several local acts, has been a stage host at several FloydFests and got to know her well. In response to an e-mail query, he wrote: “She was a positive force, an integral part of the Floyd community. I always enjoyed seeing her behind the scenes at FloydFest and other musical events in the area. We bonded over reggae music, especially Awareness Art Ensemble (1st popular reggae at in VA). Bless Rio’s sweet soul.”
She was an artist in her own right, as well. Among her other talents was pumpkin-carving, and not just gashing out some rough teeth and eyes. Check out this soundslide from 2006, with her describing her process and talking a bit about herself and life in her county. She taught pumpkin-carving, too, and I’d imagine her method was sound.