Rio Semione in a photo from several years ago with her dog, Lila | facebook.com
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.
UPDATE 5.24.13: In response to phone and e-mail queries, I have gathered responses to Semione’s death from several FloydFest folks. I used portions of these for the column that runs in Saturday’s paper. Below are fuller thoughts on their good friend.
Erika Johnson, FloydFest co-founder:
Personally, although Rio has always been at the core of the original center of the ‘Floyd Community’ (and Kris and others know her from those days as well), I got to know her, of course, through FoydFest. She was our earliest and most enthusiastic submission for our first annual ‘Floyd World Music Harvest Festival (can you *believe* that?! – thank God ‘FloydFest’ just kind of naturally came out of that!) artwork competition, and entered a beautiful, hand drawn black and white graphic design. We were equally taken by both her design, and the colorful, dancing flowers by Rick Cooley, and thus just called it a ‘tie’ and split the prize money between the two of them.. Rio was thrilled with the $500, but even more than that, just so happy that we liked what she’d produced, and that her own art would be part of the inaugural event.
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