blue ridge national heritage area

Man standing holding musical instrument with mountains in the background
Courtesy of Blue Ridge National Heritage Area

For more than a hundred years, folklorists and other scholars have been visiting the community of Beech Mountain, North Carolina. Perhaps the most prolific collector of the community’s music and stories was himself a native of Old Beech. In the 1960s, Jack Guy began selling mountain handcrafts and folk toys to tourists, helping local artists make a living through their heritage crafts.

Male and female musicians singing in front of mic
David Simchock

The husband-and-wife duo of Natalya Zoe Weinstein and John Cloyd Miller perform under their middle names. Zoe and Cloyd represent not only the partnership between Natalya and John, but a coming-together of two families’ musical traditions. Natalya is the daughter of a jazz pianist, and the granddaughter of a Russian klezmer musician. She herself plays klezmer and classical as well as mountain music.

Raymond Fairchild Creates His Own Style of Playing the Banjo

Bluegrass banjo player Raymond Fairchild of Haywood County, North Carolina, embodies the spirit of originality found in many of the best mountain musicians. He has always done things his own way. His “Fairchild” style has gained countless admirers over the course of a long music career. Raymond has played many times at the Grand Ole Opry, and recorded more than 20 albums—two of which have sold more than a million copies each.

The Primitive Quartet began in 1973, when two sets of brothers, Reagan and Larry Riddle and Furman and Norman Wilson, carried a guitar and mandolin with them on a fishing trip to Fontana Lake. The boys all sang at home and in church, but that night in Graham County was when they first sang in four-part harmony. After the fishing trip, with the encouragement of their parents and pastor, they began to sing together at area churches.

Arvil Freeman
Blue Ridge National heritage Area

Master fiddler Arvil Freeman of Madison County has married elements of old-time and bluegrass in his distinctive “long-bow” style of playing. As a veteran performer and a longtime teacher, Arvil was honored with the 2018 North Carolina Heritage Award, the state’s highest honor for traditional artists.

The Podcast

Nina Simone became one of the iconic singers of jazz and soul of the 1960s and a strong voice for Civil Rights. She got her start in her hometown of Tryon, N.C., playing piano and singing in her church choir. The "Down the Road on the Blue Ridge Music Trails of North Carolina" podcast highlights bluegrass and old-time music stories, performers, and traditions across the mountain and foothills counties of Western North Carolina.

Image of Lula and Glenn Bolick
NC Arts Council

Glenn and Lula Bolick of Caldwell County are 2018 winners of the N.C. Heritage Award, the state’s highest honor for traditional artists. Lula is a member of the Owens family of Piedmont potters. Glenn grew up in a family whose heritage of music-making, sawmilling, and storytelling goes back generations. He carries on all three arts today, in addition to the pottery-making that he learned from Lula and her family.

Woman smiling holding banjo
Blue Ridge National Heritage Area

Many of today’s outstanding old-time and bluegrass musicians carry on longstanding family traditions. One such artist is multi-instrumentalist and flatfoot dancer Marsha Bowman Todd. A musician all her life, Marsha is one of the leading lights of the legendary musical community of Mount Airy, North Carolina.

Grants Available for Heritage Projects

Jul 10, 2018

The Blue Ridge National Heritage Area Partnership has announced its 2018 Heritage Grants Program to fund projects that preserve, interpret and promote Western North Carolina’s agricultural, craft, Cherokee, music, and natural heritage. These five distinctive legacies earned the region a Congressional designation as a National Heritage Area in 2003.

Down the Road on the Blue Ridge Music Trails of North Carolina
Photo: Vicki Dameron

ASHEVILLE, NC (April 11, 2017) – The Blue Ridge Music Trails of North Carolina, an initiative of the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area and the North Carolina Arts Council has forged a new partnership with WNCW-FM at Isothermal Community College in Spindale, NC, and the American Roots Music journal, No Depression.