Raleigh, N.C. (February 1, 2019) – The Come Hear NC campaign salutes the many African American musicians from North Carolina that made groundbreaking contributions to America’s most important musical genres as we celebrate Black History Month.

Internationally renowned jazz pianists and composers Thelonious Monk and Billy Taylor were from Rocky Mount and Greenville, respectively. There’s also John Coltrane from Hamlet, Nina Simone from Tryon, and Max Roach from Newland.

Other famous music greats include Piedmont blues musicians Elizabeth Cotten, Blind Boy Fuller, and Etta Baker; gospel titans Reverend Faircloth Barnes and Shirley Caesar; funk architects Maceo and Melvin Parker, Nat Jones, and George Clinton; pop artist Roberta Flack and American idol alum Fantasia Barrino, just to name a few. All have made outstanding contributions to our state and the nation’s musical legacy.

Here are some fun facts to help us celebrate music and Black History Month:

  • Kinston is often referred to as the birthplace of funk as five members of the legendary James Brown Band were from there including brothers Maceo and Melvin Parker. Saxophone legend Maceo Parker, Dick Knight, Nat Jones and Levi Raspberry are credited with putting the funk in James Brown’s bands. Little Eva, who performed the number one hit song “Loco-Motion,” is also from Kinston.
  • Nina Simone, “High Priestess of Soul,” learned to play piano in her birthplace of Tryon. Her childhood home was recently designated a National Treasure.
  • Eleven-time Grammy Award-winner Shirley Caesar, the “First Lady of Gospel Music,” was born in Durham.
  • Elizabeth Cotton wrote the famous American folk song Freight Train in Carrboro and helped spark the national folk revival movement. Her finger style guitar playing remains a staple of guitar players today. 
  • The Menhaden Chanteymen, a group of retired African American commercial fishermen, gained acclaim for the maritime work songs they performed while hauling nets, leading them to New York’s Carnegie Hall.
  • Fayetteville’s J. Cole was the first hip-hop artist in 25 years to go double platinum without any guest features with his Grammy-nominated album “2014 Forest Hills Drive.”
  • Black Mountain native soul-star Roberta Flack began her career teaching music in Wilson and singing with the jazz band The Monitors, an Eastern N.C. band that has performed for more than 50 years.
  • Reverend F.C. Barnes was inspired to compose the hit gospel song “Rough Side of the Mountain” while driving on eastern North Carolina roads.
  • Max Roach, one of the most important drummers in jazz history, is from Newland. He helped define the bebop era.
  • Kendrick Lamar’s Pulitzer Prize-winning album “Damn” features the song “Duckworth,” produced by Winston-Salem hip-hop native, 9th Wonder.
  • William Thomas (“Billy”) Strayhorn, Duke Ellington’s longtime collaborator, was among the most influential figures in American jazz. A versatile composer, arranger, and pianist, Strayhorn joined Ellington’s orchestra at age 22 in 1939 and worked with the bandleader the rest of his life. He spent summers in Hillsborough with his grandparents.
  • John Coltrane, born in Hamlet, was a jazz saxophonist legend. He released 25 albums as a band leader during his lifetime, some attaining five-star, classic status: “Blue Train,” “Giant Steps,” “My Favorite Things,” and “A Love Supreme,” which was Grammy-nominated.  
  • Thelonious Monk was born in Rocky Mount but left when he was five years old to start a new life as part of the Great Migration of African Americans who left the south. He is one of jazz’s most important pianists and composers.   
  • Durham’s Betty Davis and Kannapolis’ George Clinton of Parliament are two of the most important funk musicians in American history.
  • The N.C. Arts Council produced the guidebook, “African American Music Trails of Eastern North Carolina” in 2013 to celebrate the legacy of African American musicians in eight eastern counties of N.C.





Mt Airy Tune up - Image by Cedric N Chatterley

Workshops at the Mount Airy Fiddler's Convention

Thursday, June 6, 2019

The North Carolina Department of Natural & Cultural Resources supported the following events.

Friday, June 6, 2019, 2 p.m.
Workshops at the Mount Airy Fiddlers Convention
Old-Time Workshops Veterans Memorial Park

Hosted by the Surry Arts Council with support from the N.C. Department of Natural & Cultural Resources award-winning old-time and bluegrass musicians from the area who participate in the Blue Ridge Music Trails will lead the workshops at the Old Time Fiddlers’ Convention.

Women! Mount Airy Old-Time

Thursday, February 28, 2019 to Saturday, March 2, 2019

The North Carolina Department of Natural & Cultural Resources supported the following event.

February 28-March 2, 2019
Women! Mount Airy Old-Time
Andy Griffith Playhouse and Historic Earle Theatre, Mount Airy

Hosted by the Surry Arts Council with support from the N.C. Department of Natural & Cultural Resources the event is held in conjunction with the Tommy Jarrell Festival. Classes and workshops in fiddle, banjo, guitar, bass, mandolin, flat foot dance/square dance calling, and harmony singing are taught by some of the most esteemed and respected women in the field.

Celebration includes Daily Posts of Music, Exclusive Streaming & Music Events

Contact: Michele Walker, (919) 814-7429  ||  Rebecca Moore, (919) 814-6530

Raleigh, N.C. (November 27, 2018) — Governor Roy Cooper has proclaimed 2019 The Year of Music to recognize North Carolina’s influence on America’s most important musical genres and to celebrate, support and sustain the state’s strong music heritage.     

“From bluegrass to the blues, from gospel to funk, from beach music to indie and hip hop, North Carolina is the birthplace of many musical styles and iconic performers,” said Gov. Cooper. “The Year of Music celebration not only recognizes North Carolina musicians that are now cultural icons but the nearly 25,000 North Carolinians who work in music occupations.”

The Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (DNCR) in partnership with the North Carolina Arts Council have developed The Year of Music to create greater visibility for the music and the musicians of the state and for the unique people that are important to understanding, preserving and promoting the state’s music story.

The proclamation was announced yesterday by First Lady Kristin Cooper at the North Carolina Executive Mansion in conjunction with the release of the Oxford American’s annual Southern music issue on North Carolina.

Throughout 2019, DNCR will celebrate all aspects of our state’s music industry from the composers, the musicians, the venues, listeners, and the communities that nurture and preserve our richest music traditions.

“Music is universal in North Carolina, regardless of where you live in the state,” said Susi H. Hamilton, secretary for the North Carolina Department of Natural & Cultural Resources. “North Carolinians are the heroes of many musical genres in America, reflecting our rich cultural heritage, our innovative spirit and the collaborative nature of our musical communities.”

The year-long celebration features:

  • Daily posts of North Carolina multimedia music stories at
  • Exclusive monthly live streams of performances.
  • Commissioned North Carolina artist pairings.
  • Curated “Tiny” concert films.
  • North Carolina musician stages at MerleFest, Wide Open Bluegrass, NC Folk Festival, and other major festivals around the state.
  • Educational programming and performances. 

North Carolina is home to the first state-supported orchestra in the nation, the North Carolina Symphony, and the Blue Ridge Music Trails of North Carolina and the African American Music Trails of Eastern North Carolina are among the first cultural tourism projects that focus on music in the country. 

North Carolina has long been an innovator of musical institutions.

“Musicians from North Carolina, both past and present, have made brilliant, often groundbreaking, contributions to many of America’s most important musical genres,” said Wayne Martin, executive director of the North Carolina Arts Council. “It is now time to embrace our music for its key role in the creative economy and for its importance in shaping the cultural identity of the people and communities of our state.”

To read the proclamation click here.

For more information on the Year of Music visit

About the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources

The N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (NCDNCR) is the state agency with a vision to be the leader in using the state's natural and cultural resources to build the social, cultural, educational and economic future of North Carolina. NCDNCR's mission is to improve the quality of life in our state by creating opportunities to experience excellence in the arts, history, libraries and nature in North Carolina by stimulating learning, inspiring creativity, preserving the state's history, conserving the state's natural heritage, encouraging recreation and cultural tourism, and promoting economic development.

NCDNCR includes 27 historic sites, seven history museums, two art museums, two science museums, three aquariums and Jennette's Pier, 39 state parks and recreation areas, the N.C. Zoo, the nation's first state-supported Symphony Orchestra, the State Library, the State Archives, the N.C. Arts Council, State Preservation Office and the Office of State Archaeology, along with the Division of Land and Water Stewardship. For more information, please visit


About the North Carolina Arts Council

The North Carolina Arts Council builds on our state’s long-standing love of the arts, leading the way to a more vibrant future. The Arts Council is an economic catalyst, fueling a thriving nonprofit creative sector that generates $2.12 billion in annual direct economic activity. The Arts Council also sustains diverse arts expression and traditions while investing in innovative approaches to art-making. The North Carolina Arts Council has proven to be a champion for youth by cultivating tomorrow’s creative citizens through arts education. 

Contact: Rebecca Moore
(919) 814-6430

Raleigh, N.C. (November 1, 2018) — The Oxford American Magazine’s 20th annual Southern Music Issue celebrates the musical legacy of North Carolina and features an artistic portrait of North Carolina native Nina Simone, the High Priestess of Soul, by Jim Blanchard on the cover.

Simone, born and raised in Tryon, N.C., is celebrated as an icon of American music in a feature essay about artistic influence and identity written by poet Tiana Clark.

The North Carolina issue was made possible by the support of the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, the North Carolina Arts Council, Visit North Carolina, Arts Greensboro and the North Carolina Humanities Council.

“The roots of so many genres of American music started right here in North Carolina,” said Susi H. Hamilton, secretary of the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. “We are delighted that the Oxford American will bring these stories to life to celebrate our musical heritage.”

An essay on the state’s musical heritage written by Wayne Martin, executive director of the North Carolina Arts Council, is included in the issue as well as a map featuring North Carolina music trivia and illustrations of our iconic North Carolina musicians.

Other featured authors include Benjamin Hedin examines the spiritual milieu of John Coltrane’s High Point upbringing; Lauren Du Graf unpacks the gospel roots of Charlotte’s R&B superstars Jodeci; L. Lamar Wilson spends a day with Rapsody in the rapper’s hometown of Snow Hill; and Will Blythe pays tribute to fellow Chapel Hill-native James Taylor. Also, Lumbee historian Malinda Maynor Lowery recounts her parents’ baptisms in Robeson County; Sarah Bryan chronicles the town of Kinston’s immense legacy; Lina María Ferreira Cabeza-Vanegas examines Charlotte’s Latinx music scene; and Oxford American deputy editor Maxwell George compares Ryan Adams and Thomas Wolfe. The issue also contains North Carolina poems by Benjamín Naka-Hasebe Kingsley, Nickole Brown, Tyree Daye, C. L. White, and Zachary Lunn. In addition to writing and music, the issue features photography and artworks by North Carolinians, including Romare Bearden, Minnie Evans, Sandlin Gaither, David Holt, Scott Hazard, and Hatty Ruth Miller. The CD sleeve art is by Charlotte-based muralist Nico Amortegui.

The issue also includes a 24-song CD sampler of recordings from North Carolinians from 1924 to 2018, plus accompanying digital download with four bonus tracks) highlighting music from N.C. legends such as Simone, Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane, Earl Scruggs and Doc Watson, James Taylor and Elizabeth Cotten. This CD includes a new recording of Ella May Wiggins’s 1929 protest song “Mill Mother’s Lament” by Shannon Whitworth made exclusively for the Oxford American at the iconic Asheville studio Echo Mountain in September. Detailed liner notes and essays on the songs were written by Rhiannon Giddens, Wiley Cash, Ron Rash, Michael Parker, David Joy, David Menconi, and Randall Kenan, among others.

Other literary luminaires from North Carolina contributed essays and profiles about music, including Jill McCorkle on Beach Music; Dasan Ahanu on 9th Wonder; Dave Tompkins on George Clinton and Abigail Covington on Liquid Pleasure.

The North Carolina issue was a catalyst for a proclamation by Governor Roy Cooper of 2019 as the Year of Music to recognize North Carolina’s influence on America’s most important musical genres and to celebrate, support and sustain the state’s strong music heritage. The year-long celebration features:

-Daily posts of North Carolina multimedia music stories at

-Exclusive monthly live streams of performances.

-Commissioned North Carolina artist pairings.

-Curated “Tiny” concert films. North Carolina musician stages at MerleFest, Wide Open Bluegrass, NC Folk Festival, and other major festivals around the state.


Born Eunice Kathleen Wayman in Tryon (Polk County), her range of material included jazz, spirituals, folk songs, blues, pop and classical. The nation’s first African American concert pianist, Simone died at age 70 in 2003 after a long career that made her a soul legend and civil rights icon.

At the time the BBC declared: “Nina Simone was one of the last divas of jazz and was considered one of the finest songwriters and musicians of her day.”

In June 2018, the childhood home of Nina Simone in Tryon was designated a National Treasure by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Four African American artists joined forces to purchase the house in order to preserve Simone’s legacy. The artists included conceptual artist Adam Pendleton, sculptor and painter Rashid Johnson, collagist and filmmaker Ellen Gallagher and abstract painter Julie Mehretu.

The purchase caught the interest of the National Trust, which had recently started a $25 million campaign to preserve historical sites related to African-American history. The state’s African American Heritage Commission is working with state and national partners to create awareness about the home through various fundraising efforts.

Much of Simone’s best-remembered songs. Including “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” and “Blackash Blues” were civil rights anthems on topics ranging from the condemnation of Jim Crow laws to addressing the assassination of Medgar Evers and the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Alabama.  

In 2010, Rolling Stone named Simone to its list of the 100 greatest singers of all time, clocking in a No. 29 ahead of Neil Young, Elton John and Bruce Springsteen.


To order copies of the Oxford American North Carolina Music issue and CD sampler click here.

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