Surry County will be an important stop along a new Blue Ridge Music Trails network in North Carolina, beginning with a regional planning meeting in Mount Airy later this month.
This involves a new initiative that the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area Partnership and North Carolina Arts Council have partnered to launch. Known as the Blue Ridge Music Trails of North Carolina, it will promote the rich traditional music heritage in 29 counties in Western North Carolina, including Surry.
On April 1, from 1 to 4 p.m., the Old-Time Music Heritage Hall in Mount Airy, based at the historic Earle Theatre downtown, will host a “listening session” as part of the planning for the trails program. The meeting is free and open to the public — with “all interested parties” invited, according to an announcement.
It is one of seven meetings scheduled in April and May encompassing the affected counties, with the session here to include representatives of Stokes, Yadkin, Iredell and Rockingham in addition to Surry.
“We’re very excited about that,” Surry Arts Council Executive Director Tanya Jones said of Mount Airy’s selection for the regional gathering expected to be attended by about 75 people from outside the county. “We’re also excited that they chose the Earle Theatre.”
It is a logical location for such a meeting, Jones said, since the local Old-Time Music Heritage Hall, an arts council facility dedicated in February 2012, was funded in part by the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area Partnership. It is a unique facility due to being dedicated to old-time music and open seven days per week, Jones said.
“The Surry Arts Council has been very dedicated to the preservation and promotion of Surry County’s old-time music,” she said, with other local entities involved as well.
The Blue Ridge Music Trails effort seeks to promote the different musical venues in the 29 western North Carolina counties. Theoretically, traditional music fans who visit the state will be able to trace a path through each.
“In these challenging economic times, this is a great example of partners coming together to focus on something positive about our region,” according to Angie Chandler, executive director of the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area Partnership.
“The music project also has the potential to grow tourism, increase opportunities for our musicians and give us all a forum to share our music and take pride in its significance and contributions to the music heritage of our nation.”
Surry A Leader
Jones, the Surry Arts Council official, explained that the music trail initiative, though launched last month, actually involves a renewal of an effort begun more than 10 years ago which led to the publishing of a state guidebook in 2003.
“We worked very closely with them on that,” Jones said of those involved.
Surry County was featured prominently in the guidebook, which might be considered a statement on this area’s status in the traditional music world.
“We have a large number of recurring events that were in there,” Jones said of local venues catering to old-time music fans.
These include the Mount Airy Fiddlers Convention, the Tommy Jarrell Festival, Mayberry Days, the “Merry-Go Round” show on radio station WPAQ, the annual sonker festival, weekly jam sessions, concerts, dances, lessons and others.
The Surry County Fiddlers Convention, launched in recent years at Dobson, represents one new development locally since the 2003 guidebook was published, along with the Old-Time Music Heritage Hall.
A revised guidebook is part of the new imitative, and more importantly a website that will reflect any additions or other changes involving musical attractions, said Jones.
She added that this will involve the “branding” of the state’s old music-tourism industry for marketing purposes.
A recent study reflecting interviews at a limited number of music venues in the region showed that traditional music has an economic impact of $20.7 million, from only 26 traditional music events surveyed. With more than 160 established venues — including festivals — in the region, the extrapolated economic impact is significant, officials say.
The April 30 “listening session” here offers an opportunity for anyone who loves traditional music and wants to be a part of the effort to sustain and grow a vital cultural heritage legacy, organizers say.
Along with learning about the progress of the Blue Ridge Music Trails program, the interactive gathering will allow interested parties to offer input on ways to preserve the music, strengthen music sites/events, promote the music and other aspects.
After registration begins at 12:30 p.m., there will be an introductory presentation on the trails program and those attending later will be divided into groups for individual discussions, with reports to be given on those break-out sessions.
Those wishing to participate are asked to RSVP Dale Bartlett of the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area Partnership at 828-708-7907, or email him at email@example.com.
Refreshments will be provided.
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or firstname.lastname@example.org.