Raleigh, N.C. – As more and more nonprofits are facing the realities of decreases in funding and struggling to maintain programs with fewer resources, a 12-year-old partnership between North Carolina’s Museum of History and PineCone-the Piedmont Council of Traditional Music, is in danger of becoming one more casualty of state budget cuts. With so many programs and services facing cuts this year, this one small program may appear to be just a drop in the bucket, but many others think this cut will be more significant than it appears on the surface.
“The title ‘Carolinas’ belies the breadth of offerings. This series has taken audiences around the world by showcasing Latin, Russian, Spanish, Jewish, African, Hawaiian, (and many other) music and stories as well as traditional North Carolina tunes and players. The series has educated the audience on history; language; customs; instruments of choice; and performers. Most of the shows mix secular, celebratory, and sacred offerings – a reason I believe the series is so well received,” said Kathy Lagana, who was first introduced to PineCone through this series and later joined the Board of Directors.
“I have regularly attended the last five seasons of the Music of the Carolinas series,” Lagana said, “and one element that strikes me is the number of … ‘regulars.’ These folks are often part of senior citizen groups; or school groups who are researching a particular region or musical genre; or church groups. … My concern is (that their) world will be smaller if not for these monthly musical trips. Many of the audience members may have limited access to live musical entertainment. They don’t drive due to age or ability; they may be economically priced out of other live entertainment options; and the convenient downtown location with free parking is not available in most other live entertainment offerings.”
One such group that comes to the Museum of History every month for the Music of the Carolinas programs is from Abbotswood, an assisted living facility in Raleigh. The facility’s residents are on fixed incomes, and they look forward to their outings to the Museum. A sister property, Magnolia Glenn, has recently started bringing residents to the program, too. Connie, who coordinates this and other outings for Abbotswood’s residents, says that the quality of the programs and the fact that the shows are free to the public makes it a great experience for her community. “You can’t get any better,” she said.
The program was considered too valuable to eliminate two years ago when the Museum cut its budget. As a cost saving measure, the series was retooled to include film screenings about North Carolina music traditions in addition to live performances.
The Museum’s Curator of Internal Programs, Michelle Carr, is a vocal supporter of the series. “The Music of the Carolinas series has been a key component of the museum’s educational offerings for over a decade. Although budget cuts have forced us to make adjustments in our program plans, the entire Education Section felt that this series was simply too important to our mission and our audience to be eliminated,” Carr said. “North Carolina’s traditional music represents an abundant cultural legacy and an essential link to history. Keepers of these musical traditions cherish the repertoires and styles of playing of their families and communities, and strive to secure the music’s appreciation among new generations of performers and listeners. In times of economic challenge, it is more vital than ever that we continue to preserve the arts. They nourish our souls, connect us to the past, and provide us with the inspiration to move forward.”
The series includes nine programs, one per month from October through June, all of which are free and open to the public. Last year’s series opened with a performance featuring North Carolina Heritage Award winners and other North Carolina Piedmont musicians, in anticipation of the release of Going Down to Raleigh – Stringband Music in the North Carolina Piedmont: 1976-1998. Last year was also the first year that PineCone and the Museum incorporated a food drive with the December concert. This year, the food drive’s second year, the Music of the Carolinas audience donated 117 pounds of food to the Food Bank of Central and Eastern NC, which is approximately equivalent to 98 meals!
Another first for the series will take place in February, when students from Raleigh’s Community Music School, which provides private music lessons for students ages 6-18 from low-income families, will perform alongside Raleigh’s own Magic of African Rhythm. This program will be the culminating public performance of a residency teaching Community Music School students about the connections between North Carolina blues music and West African Songhay blues.
The Music of the Carolinas series invites people to discover and celebrate North Carolina’s rich musical heritage by featuring the best home-grown North Carolina traditional artists, as well as by showcasing the musical and performance traditions of the various cultures that call North Carolina home today. Program notes are available at each concert in this series, and large-print versions are available as well. Past performers in this series read like a who’s who list of Piedmont musicians, including acclaimed ballad singer Sheila Kay Adams, National Heritage Award-winning blues artist John Dee Holeman, North Carolina Heritage Award-winning fiddler Joe Thompson, and many others. Remaining programs for 2011 include:
- Magic of African Rhythm with students from Community Music School – Feb. 13, 2011 –exploring the similarities between North Carolina blues and West Africa Songhay blues
- Thistledown Tinkers – March 13, 2011 – weaving traditional Scottish and Irish music with original songs
- “Step It Up & Go” – April 10, 2011 – Documentary film produced by Glenn Hinson, featuring blues performances by and interviews with NC musicians Joe and Odell Thompson, Etta Baker, James “Guitar Slim” Stephens, and others.
- “Sprout Wings & Fly” – May 9, 2011 – Documentary directed by Les Blank, profiling legendary old-time fiddler Tommy Jarrell. Award-winning musician Alice Gerrard and Appalachian State English Professor Cece Conway will introduce the film.
- Flamenco Comes Alive! – June 12, 2011 – Carlota Santana, Artistic Director of Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana leads a workshop to teach the art of Flamenco, as well as its history and cultural significance. Audience participation is encouraged!
PineCone and the Museum are actively seeking donations and sponsors to help sustain this series for future generations to enjoy. For more information, please contact William Lewis, PineCone’s Executive Director, at 919-664-8333 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Learn more about PineCone & the Music of the Carolinas series
Learn more about the NC Museum of History