Mt Airy Tune up - Image by Cedric N Chatterley

Workshops at the Mount Airy Fiddler's Convention

Thursday, June 6, 2019 - 2:00pm

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 - 12:00am to Saturday, March 2, 2019 - 12:00am

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. 

Oxford American Launch Events

Monday, November 26, 2018 - 5:30pm to Saturday, December 1, 2018 - 3:00pm

Monday, November 26, 2018

Executive Mansion
Raleigh, North Carolina, 5:30pm - 7:00pm

A reception with readings and music, to be followed by a full ninety-minute concert at Fletcher Opera Theater. Entry is limited via as part of a VIP admission to the Fletcher Opera Theater concert that evening. 



Fletcher Opera Theater
Raleigh, North Carolina, 7:30pm - 9pm
Tickets are available at and range from $27 (balcony) | $32 (orchestra) | $65 (VIP)*

In partnership with Bob Nocek Presents, the Statewide Singing Circle features

Tift Merritt ♦ ASM (Alexandra Sauser-Monnig of Mountain Man)
Shirlette Ammons ♦ Chatham County Line
Phil Cook ♦ Alice Gerrard
Big Ron Hunter ♦ Chris Stamey ♦ Mary Dobbin Williams

and other surprise guests.

*Please note that VIP tickets include entry to the pre-concert reception at the Executive Mansion.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

The Pinhook
Durham, North Carolina, 6:30pm

Presented in partnership with Pinhook and Letters Bookstore, the event will feature stories from the issue with:

Dasan Ahanu ♦ Sarah Bryan ♦ Benjamin Hedin 
Jill McCorkle ♦ Mark Powell ♦ Tom Rankin

musical guests
Tift Merritt ♦ Phil Cook

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Free Range Brewing
Charlotte, North Carolina, 7pm

Presented in partnership with Free Range Brewing, join us for stories from the issue featuring:

Rebecca Bengal ♦ Lina María Ferreira Cabeza-Vanegas ♦ Lauren Du Graf
Jon Kirby ♦ John Thomason ♦ Dave Tompkins

musical guest
Tift Merritt

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Booth Playhouse
Charlotte, North Carolina, 7:30pm
Tickets are available via, and range from $20 (balcony) | $25 (orchestra rear) | $28 (orchestra front)

Presented in partnership with Maxx Music, join us for a Statewide Singing Circle featuring:

Tift Merritt  ♦ Chócala ♦ Phil Cook
David Childers ♦  writer Lina María Ferreira Cabeza-Vanegas
Benji Hughes ♦ Bill Noonan ♦ Thomas Rhyant

and other surprise guests.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Isis Music Hall
Asheville, North Carolina, 8:30pm
Tickets are available via, and are $20 (general admission) 

Presented in partnership with Isis Music Hall, join us for a Statewide Singing Circle featuring:

Tift Merritt ♦ poet Nickole Brown  Pat Mother Blues Cohen
Mike Guggino
♦ Amanda Anne Platt ♦ Jimmy Landry  Michael Libramento
Tyler Ramsey 
Graham Sharp Shannon Whitworth  Woody Platt

and other surprise guests.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Malaprop’s Bookstore & Café
Asheville, North Carolina, 3pm

Presented in partnership with Malaprop’s Bookstore & Café, join us for stories from the issue featuring:

Nickole Brown ♦ Wiley Cash ♦ David Joy,
Jon Kirby 
Malinda Maynor Lowery  C.L. White 

and musical guest
Tift Merritt

Artist Spotlight: Rhiannon Giddens

Rhiannon Giddens

Lately, Rhiannon Giddens has been telling her kids to enjoy being bored. The quiet, idle moments of her own childhood on Grand Oaks Drive in McLeansville, N.C. sharpened the very imagination and creativity so many have come to know her for.  “We were really bored, and we spent a lot of time outside just trying to make something out of nothing,” says Rhiannon of she and her sister’s upbringing in the small community outside of Greensboro. “That’s usually where good stuff comes.” 

These days moments of stillness aren’t easy to come by for the award-winning musician. Classically trained in opera at the renowned Oberlin Conservatory, Rhiannon’s career took off in 2010 when she, Dom Flemmons, and Justin Robinson’s Carolina Chocolate Drops won a Grammy for their album Genuine Negro Jig. In years since, Rhiannon’s released two solo albums, landed a recurring role on the hit television show Nashville, and, most recently, received a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, which recognizes her work “reclaiming African American contributions to folk and country music and bringing to light new connections between music from the past and the present.”  

Rhiannon will manifest that mission at the upcoming North Carolina Folk Festival, which features programming she developed as a guest curator. Several months before the festival, we met at the Greensboro Cultural Center to discuss her career, the influence of North Carolina Heritage Award recipient Joe Thompson on her work, and the importance of public funding for the arts.

We are here in the Greensboro Cultural Center. Tell me why you chose this location for our interview.

My dad used to work for the Opus Series, and his office was here. I would come here for Greensboro Youth Chorus rehearsal, for auditions for Livestock, and to see the art galleries. I also brought my kids here to do art programs, so I have a lot of good memories of this place and the place that it holds in the arts community here in Greensboro. 

Will you describe the music environment of your childhood?

What I remember out [at] my grandparents was listening to the radio—usually R&B. They had a lot of blues and jazz records, and I’ve said this before, but we used to watch Hee Haw on Saturday night, so that kind of bluegrass also had a place in my mom’s parents’ side [of the family]. The other side was old, old country on the radio. My uncle was in a bluegrass band, and I was of course exposed to bluegrass through my uncle’s band and just being around this area. And then, of course, my sister and I were exposed to the modern music of the day. When MTV came on, we watched MTV. It was a real half-rural, half-urban southern upbringing. 

And when did you first start creating and making music?

They tell me I started writing songs when I was itty bitty—that I was singing in the crib and that I would sit in the rocking chair and make up songs. I sang with my dad a lot. He’s a great singer, and I think my pitch is so good because we used to sing all the time. I sang with my sister. My mom was always playing great music, and we’d sing folk revival stuff [like] Peter, Paul, and Mary, but I didn’t really start creating music until I was an adult. For the most part, I was into visual arts when I was a kid, so music was just a part of the fabric of my life. It wasn’t what I was going to do until I was a teenager.

“Three really important North Carolina institutions had to do with why I’m in music now. ”

Tell me about how you arrived at that—pursuing music.

Three really important North Carolina institutions had to do with why I’m in music now. The first is the Greensboro Youth Chorus which set the foundation for singing.  I did that for quite a few years, and I learned a lot of really great things about singing and making music in a community. It was run by Ann Doyle, who just retired. She was a huge figure in my early years.

Then I went to Governor's School for choir as a rising senior in high school, and that’s when the bug sort of bit me. I had entered some competitions in singing, but ironically never really got anywhere. I didn’t get into honors choir. When I did a competition in Greensboro, I got to the finals with my poem, but not with my singing because I had a natural voice. I wasn’t a kid trying to sound like an adult. When I went to Governor’s School, I found my tribe. I was surrounded by music people. 

The third institution was the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics. I was there when I discovered that I wanted to do music. I started an acapella group there, and for a math and science high school—it’s so embracing of the arts. 

Without those three things, it’s hard to know where I would be music-wise, to be honest. North Carolina is just kind of inextricable from my music journey, even in the latter years where I found my calling.


In your Fresh Air interview, you mentioned you were first drawn to classical music because you didn’t have to speak on stage. You really done a one-eighty in that regard.

I know. That is absolutely true. When I was looking for schools, I didn’t know anything about musical theater or opera. I just knew they talked in musical theater, and I hated talking in public, and I hated talking on stage, so I went into opera which was great because I learned a lot technically through Oberlin Conservatory, and I’m grateful for that. 

But as I got into folk music – being a black woman playing a banjo and advocating for this not well known but immensely important music with my fellow Chocolate Drops Dom Flemmons and Justin Robinson—we discovered that it was actually easier to preface [the songs] rather than to answer at the end. We would just get people going, “Well why are y’all playing this kind of music?” As if we have to explain ourselves. That got annoying, so we just started jumping in front of that and going, “Let us tell you about this music, so you don’t wonder why we are playing it.” 

When you’re talking about difficult things like race and music, you have to be really specific with your terminology because otherwise you’ll get misquoted, and then it’s a mess. We got really good over the years at condensing and making things immediately make sense so that people without much background could understand what we were saying; I find that it’s just kind of second nature now. So, when I got asked to make a speech I was kind of like this is the natural next step, even though ten years ago I would have totally jumped off a cliff at the thought of it. 

Are you referencing the IBMA speech?


Such a powerful speech.


Was there an “a-ha moment” where you realized you were done with opera?

While I was at UNC-G, I attended this professional music seminar. They brought in Marc Janicello who was a graduate of UNC-G and from North Carolina. He sang in the subway and got discovered and made his own career being a classical singer. They brought him back to talk about being a professional musician, and he gave a really informative seminar. If I had an “a-ha moment: it was when he said, “Nobody’s going to make your career for you. You have to do it. YOU have to make it happen. People will help you, but you create the group of people who are going to support you while you do it. You have to generate the energy.” 

I remember at that point I was doing graphic design for this executive benefits company [and] had a 401K. [I was] kind of dying inside a little bit going, “I want to do my music. When is someone going to discover me? Everybody tells me I’m a good singer. Why am I not doing this full time?” That was the moment where I was like, “OH! Okay, let me get off my butt and stop complaining and actually do something.” I do credit that moment to really lighting the fire. I went halftime on my job, and then I went full time not having a job and just started making it happen.


Well, tell me about how you met Joe Thompson.

Meeting Joe Thompson was probably one of the most important moments of my life. I had already come to folk music from opera, and I started discovering these old recordings. I discovered Marshall Wyatt’s Old Hat Records label, and he’s got a lot of great compilations of black string band music. I found images of blacks playing fiddle and banjo and [I remember] going “What it is this?” That led to me discovering the black banjo group and helping to organize the Black Banjo Gathering [and to] meeting the other Chocolate Drops, Sue Wilson, and all these people that went into that first iteration of the mission. 

One of the people I met was Cece Conway because she wrote African Banjo Echoes in Appalachia which was the first book I discovered dealing with this topic of black banjo songsters. She told me about Joe Thompson. I couldn’t believe that he was from Mebane, which I had been going to for family reunions every year for decades. So, I met some of the people who played with him, and they set up a meeting and were very supportive of me playing with him. That was this great moment, and then he had a stroke. I kind of gave it up, but then he came back from the stroke with the help of his community in Mebane—the white musical community that had been playing with him ever since Odell died. Then I got to start going down with Justin and Dom, and that was the special key. It was that we all went together—the original Chocolate Drops went down to Joe’s together. That’s what formed a unique bond and the unique musical language that nobody else really speaks like we do. I think that’s one of the reasons why the original Chocolate Drops was such a thing. It comes from playing with Joe for hours and hours and hours.

“I come from black and white working-class people. My obsession is the beauty that’s found where those people influence each other and where that music comes from”

As a student of history in many ways, I wonder what stands out to you as unique about North Carolina’s music community?

When you look into the history of where we are in the South, there are a lot of interesting cultural things that I think lead to interesting musical things. Virginia and South Carolina were the rich states and North Carolina was sort of the “country cousin.” We obviously had some plantations in the east, but nothing like Virginia, nothing like South Carolina. They had all the money. It was one of the last states to secede. There’s always been an interesting push-pull in this state. A lot of working-class people [were] living together, even if the races were segregated. So, I feel like a lot of the music in North Carolina is kind of a mix. You don’t have so much isolation like the deep South, like the Mississippi Delta. There were more opportunities where normal, ordinary people could influence each other musically and culturally—which is not to say there was any kumbaya happening. The closest we got was Wilmington.   

I come from both of these sides. I come from black and white working-class people. My obsession is the beauty that’s found where those people influence each other and where that music comes from. 

Will you talk about your Wilmington project?

Wilmington 1898. It’s a pivotal, pivotal piece of American history that nobody talks about–even in North Carolina where it happened. That was a shocking thing to me. I grew up in North Carolina. There’s so much of our own history I didn’t learn in school, unfortunately. It’s amazing. Wilmington is such a big deal because of the fact that there was a coup on American soil that we don’t talk about. There was this huge effort to destroy the black middle class, to destroy black prosperity. This has happened all over the country for hundreds of years, but the vividness and all of the aspects of what happened in Wilmington—it’s just the perfect picture of what was going on at the time and what’s still going on. People get so surprised at these things like Klan rallies in Charlottesville. The more you dig into the history, the more you realize that these groups and these attitudes have always been here. When you look at what happened in Wilmington in 1898, it is absolutely clear. You can’t spin it. The folks led what they called a revolution—and they called it a revolution, and they called it getting back their culture and their country—these white supremacists. I think it’s been suppressed for that reason because it is so ugly, and it is so obvious, and it opened the door to many other instances in other places.

I’m obviously a musician. I’m not a historian...I mean I’m kind of a historical musician. That’s my art form. As Hamilton has shown, you can create an artistic, musical piece that is completely historically-based and it can change the story. It can move the needle. It can get a lot of people inspired to look into history. This is an opportunity to explore the history through the music. We just started on it. I’m working on it where my schedule allows. That’s the idea of the MacArthur. Everything takes a while because music is scheduled so far in advance, but it’s happening slowly. 

Will you speak about why public funding for the arts matters?

I think that public funding for the arts matters an awful lot because not everybody gets the same opportunities in their personal lives, in their families. We all know that there’s quite a lot of inequality in this country, and public funding for the arts means that a kid like me who yeah, I got support from my family…it’s not that they tried to talk me out of music…it’s not that I didn’t have music growing up, but that I got formal education. I got opportunities to be exposed to the larger musical world through Governor’s School, through coming to the concerts that my dad used to work—Sunday Evening in the Park. [I was] exposed to music that takes a lot of economic support. An orchestra takes a lot of financial support. To bring that to everybody takes state and federal funding because of the way that we have set up our lives here. That’s just the way we’ve done it. We’ve set it up so that not everybody has access to those things. So, to do that everybody has to commit. It’s like people want the benefit of these things but they don’t want to put into it. And I actually think they do. I think if they get the opportunity people have historically said, “Yeah we value these things. This is what we want to do.” Some of the most powerful pieces of art have come from historically marginalized people. People who you wouldn’t think had access to these things, but through public schools, through public organizations, they have gotten the wherewithal to create this incredible thing that generates millions of dollars in revenue. 

To that end, how can North Carolina better support artists?

There are two very different ways of making art. I think the true future is somewhere in the middle. We have the commercial way, and then we have the arts funding way. The commercial way is you make art that sells, and you then support yourself through selling your art. As a musician, I sell tickets to my show, and that’s how I make a living. The MacArthur was the very first grant I’ve ever received. I just didn’t go that route. I didn’t know enough about it.

“I wouldn’t be able to tell the stories I tell now without all that foundational support I received in North Carolina”

So, there are two very different ways of operation, and they’re both precarious right now because of advents in technology that means that artists are making less and less money from their product, especially musicians because people think it should be free. Now the pools of funding—especially the small to middle grants—are under threat constantly. A lot of them have been lost already, and they’re very dependent on the current administration which means that there’s no sort of solid we don’t have to worry about things right now. The big grants that are privately funded—that’s a different ballgame, but these small to middle grants are the most important ones because those are the ones that help artists get to that next step.

We historically don’t have health insurance. We don’t have savings. People in other countries get these things as artists which means that they’re valued by their countries. We don’t get valued like that because people don’t look at art as a real career even though they consume it every day. The average person consumes music all day, every day, but they don’t look at it as a real career. They think you’re lucky if you get to work 250 days a year on the road, not having insurance and getting paid very little. They think you’re lucky. I lobbied on Capitol Hill for a bill trying to get Pandora among other things to pay royalties [to] artists pre—I think—1973. They’re just not paying royalties. I remember talking to a black Democratic senator who said, “Well you know…you’re doing what you love, and if you get a little money on the side, that’s great.” I didn’t say this, but I have a million dollar business that pays people. I am a small business owner, and I have to pay my mortgage. I have to take care of my family. I, for four years, have paid five people’s living wages, not to mention contributing to scores of other people’s income from my art, and you’re telling me that I should feel lucky that I get to do it for a living? It’s really important that we put our money where our mouth is. Right now, the people benefiting off of the arts are the people who aren’t making it. It’s Apple. It’s movie execs. It’s all this administration in the middle. It’s people who invented the MP3 player. It’s not the artists other than the very top echelon. I’m a successful musician, and I stress about money every day. I just got an amazing grant, and I am so grateful for it, but I still have to think about what’s going on, and who am I paying, and who am I supporting. All that takes away from the time I can be making music. It’s a really complicated answer. We have so many things that we need to change to really change the paradigms for arts in this country. We just gotta keep pushing. Every little bit counts. Every grant that doesn’t get cut. Every organization that can survive. That’s why I do things like this… to talk about the organizations that helped me out because I’m quite aware that they’re a big part of my career, and I wouldn’t be able to tell the stories I tell now without all that foundational support I received in North Carolina.

*This interview was edited and condensed. 

Artist Spotlight: Mipso


Mipso is a band that defies classification. The iconic North Carolina sounds of bluegrass and old-time flow throughout their music, which is equally influenced by the Triangle’s storied indie music community.

Since 2010, Piedmont-natives Joe Terrell, Libby Rodenbough, Wood Robinson and Jacob Sharp have created music that marries the old and the new, bridging traditional rural music expressions with the sounds of urban North Carolina: think Doc Watson meets Ryan Adams. Now touring on their fifth studio album, Edges Run, the band has been named by Rolling Stone as an “Artist You Need to Know.” Equal parts performers and students of our state’s musical heritage, the band is deeply engaged with the transmission of music knowledge. Fiddler and vocalist Libby Rodenbough is a member of the North Carolina Arts Council Board, and collectively the group has incorporated educational visits to public schools while touring to spread the word about traditional music. You can catch them live in concert on Saturday, Nov. 10 at the Haw River Ballroom.

“People often say it must be something in the water in North Carolina that brings so many musicians together and makes so much music happen, but it isn’t the water. It’s the community.” 
— Wood Robinson


“It’s very likely that we wouldn’t be a band if we hadn’t started in the Triangle and in North Carolina.” 
— Libby Rodenbough

You have done some educational programming while on the road. Will you describe that and why it matters to you

Libby: Not long ago, we did an education program in Tallahassee where we went to elementary, middle, and high schools and talked about some basics of string band history. There were kids in the audience who had never seen a banjo before who found that very exotic. Folk music can be really exotic if it wasn’t a part of the landscape of your upbringing. Teaching reminds us why that type of music is special and how it relates to the story of America and the story of immigrants which is an important message for the times.

There isn’t a super stark and clean divide between commercial and vernacular music, but you could say that music that is made primarily with commercial purposes in mind is probably going to seek to be encompassing rather than specific. I think there’s more space in vernacular music for specificity. Stories about actual experiences. Stories that are specific to geography and time. It would be a shame to lose those in a flattened landscape of pop music. I think both of those realms of art are really important. The vernacular music by nature of not being commercial is more at risk, so that’s where the public funding has to go.

Why does public funding for the arts matter?

Libby: I have a little anecdote from my personal life. When I was in college, I helped put on this music festival called Convergence at UNC that was very small but took an incredible amount of work and was just run by college students. It was a festival of Southern music, and it was completely funded by grant funding. Some of that came from within the university some of it came from arts councils and the humanities council. Little projects like that just wouldn’t exist without public arts funding.

Wood: People equate public funding with huge installments like the Kennedy Center and Lincoln Center. Those places in major urban areas are going to be fine. Smaller funds are so much more important for making sure that arts are not a product to be served to the elites.

Will you share a story about how the arts have impacted the way you see the world?

Jacob: I’ve learned lessons through touring and playing music that [shape] my notion of my identity as a North Carolinian and Southerner, and more broadly as an American in a time as politically and socially chaotic as this one. I’m really grateful for the way I could connect with tiny communities across the country that I don’t necessarily have much in common with on the surface. We do commune over the experiences and emotions that we’ve been encouraged to express through our music, and though it’s easier to highlight the differences we have with one another, we’re a lot more similar than we believe or that we’re told that we should believe.

Joe: All of us went to public schools. Public education was really important to us, but I think the most important things in terms of who we are, and how we relate to each other, and what our community means…I really got to the heart of it through writing and through music. It’s incredibly important for a community to produce something, and to pave the roads, and to be economically vibrant, but I hope we can keep in mind that at the end of the day once you do have food on the table... part of the point of all of us being here is to ask each other why are we here, and what does it mean to be in a community together, and what does it mean to be alive.

*This interview was edited and condensed for clarity

Contact: Rebecca Moore
(919) 814-6430

Singing Circles & Literary Readings Slated Week of Nov. 26 to Dec. 1

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, on the cover.

Simone, born and raised in Tryon, N.C., is celebrated as an icon of American music in the 160-page issue, along with Earl Scruggs, Elizabeth Cotten, John Coltrane, 9th Wonder, and James Taylor.

Scheduled to hit newsstands Tuesday, Nov. 20, 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 music 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.

The issue also includes a CD of recordings from North Carolinians from 1924 to 2018. The compilation highlights legends such as Simone, Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane, Earl Scruggs and Doc Watson, James Taylor and Elizabeth Cotten. 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.

To celebrate the North Carolina Issue Oxford American has scheduled music and literary events Monday, Nov. 26 to Saturday, Dec. 1.

Co-presented by Hillsborough, N.C. based Yep Roc Records, and designed in partnership with North Carolina native singer-songwriter Tift Merritt, the celebration features three Statewide Singing Circles and literary readings in Raleigh, Charlotte and Asheville that highlight stories from the North Carolina issue.   

The N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, the North Carolina Arts Council and North Carolina Humanities Council, Visit North Carolina, ArtsGreensboro, Bob Nocek Presents, Maxx Music, Isis Music Hall, Pinhook, Letters Bookshop, Free Range Brewing, and Malaprop’s Bookstore & Café have joined Oxford American to sponsor these events.

Kick-off reception
North Carolina Executive Mansion
Raleigh, N.C., 5:30 to 7 p.m.

A reception with readings and music to be followed by a full 90-minute concert at Fletcher Opera Theater. Entry is limited via as part of a VIP admission to the Fletcher Opera Theater concert that evening. 

Statewide singing circle
Fletcher Opera Theater
Raleigh, North Carolina, 7:30 p.m.

In partnership with Bob Nocek Presents, the Statewide Singing Circle features Tift Merritt, ASM (Alexandra Sauser-Monnig of Mountain Man), Shirlette Ammons, Chatham County Line, Phil Cook, Alice Gerrard, Big Ron Hunter, Chris Stamey, Mary Dobbin Williams, and other surprise guests. 

Tickets are available at and range from $27 to $65 (VIP).
Please note that VIP tickets include entry to the pre-concert reception at the Executive Mansion.

Stories from the issue
The Pinhook
Durham, N.C., 6:30 p.m.

Presented in partnership with Pinhook and Letters Bookstore, the event will feature stories from the issue with Dasan Ahanu, Sarah Bryan, Benjamin Hedin, Jill McCorkle, Mark Powell, and Tom Rankin, and musical guests Tift Merritt and Phil Cook.

Stories from the issue
Free Range Brewing
Charlotte, N.C., 7 p.m.

Statewide singing circle 
Booth Playhouse
Charlotte, North Carolina, 7:30 p.m.

Presented in partnership with Maxx Music, the Statewide Singing Circle will feature Tift Merritt, Chócala, Phil Cook, David Childers, writer Lina María Ferreira Cabeza-Vanegas, Benji Hughes, Bill Noonan, Thomas Rhyant, and other surprise guests. Tickets are available via, and range from $20 to $28.

Statewide singing circl
Isis Music Hall
Asheville, North Carolina, 8:30 p.m.

Presented in partnership with Isis Music Hall, the Statewide Singing Circle features Tift Merritt, poet Nickole Brown, Pat Mother Blues Cohen, Mike Guggino, Amanda Anne Platt, Jimmy Landry, Michael Libramento, Tyler Ramsey, Graham Sharp, Shannon Whitworth, Woody Platt, and other surprise guests. Tickets are available via, and are $20.  

Stories from the issue
Malaprop’s Bookstore & Café
Asheville, N.C., 3 p.m.

Presented in partnership with Malaprop’s Bookstore & Café, the event features Nickole Brown, Wiley Cash, David Joy, Jon Kirby, Malinda Maynor Lowery, and C.L. White, and musical guest Tift Merritt.


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 pre-order copies of the North Carolina Music issue click here.

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