North Carolina Arts Council

Le'Andra McPhatten is a musician and the director of Le'Andra's Music Studio in Durham.
Denise Allen / Courtesy of the North Carolina Arts Council

North Carolina’s strong cultural traditions in music, crafts, dance and food have been evolving for generations. Millennials are now taking the helm and putting their own spin on various folk and traditional art forms.

composite image of artist honorees and the words '50 for 50'
Courtesy of the North Carolina Arts Council

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the North Carolina Arts Council, the state agency decided to profile 50 artists with North Carolina roots. The project is called “50 for 50,” and it includes artists from bestselling-author David Sedaris to poet and musician Shirlette Ammons.

photo of tony williamson holding a mandolin
Courtesy of Tony Williamson

This year is the 50th anniversary of mandolin player Tony Williamson’s recording career. Throughout the years, he has played with bluegrass legends like Bill Monroe, Ricky Skaggs and Sam Bush. But in the 1980s, Williamson suffered a series of accidents and injuries, and a surgeon told him he would never play the mandolin again. He went through a long transition that included experimenting with Chinese medicine, a spiritual awakening and trying to look at the world a little differently.

photo of 'The Dude Abides Party'
Ashley Sue Bullers/North Carolina Museum of Art

Summer is here and so are summer festivals. While big events like MerleFest or the National Folk Festival get much of the attention, many smaller festivals scattered throughout the state highlight the varied cultural communities in North Carolina.

Host Frank Stasio talks with festival organizers about this summer’s lineup, from the Highland Games in the west to the Yam Festival in the east.


    

The Appalachian Mountains of Western North Carolina are the center of a rich history of music and dance, from musicians like Doc Watson and Earl Scruggs, to traditions like ballad singing and square dancing. 

Bill Myers, 2014
NC Arts Council

Bill Myers was honored this week with a North Carolina Heritage Award. Myers is a saxophone player, and he's led the jazz band The Monitors for close to 60 years.

Bill's earliest introduction to music was when the minstrel shows came through Eastern North Carolina in the 1940s.

Black and White Portrait of Billy Taylor sitting at piano, New York, N.Y., ca. 1947
Library of Congress via Flickr

Eastern North Carolina has yielded a rich crop of nationally recognized African American musicians. People like jazz pianist and composer Thelonious Monk.

But many musicians hailing from this part of the state have gone unnoticed. A new book, African American Music Trails of Eastern North Carolina, takes readers on a musical journey through this overlooked region.

Here are five musicians whose roots run deep in Eastern Carolina:

A task force of civic, arts, and business leaders says the arts can be an economic engine for North Carolina. The panel has released recommendations as part of the SmART Initiative. It's mapping out ways for communities to use the arts to increase jobs and quality of life.