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Music - WNC Summer Guide

Music - WNC Summer Guide
July 2018

Lend an ear to WNC's rich musical traditions

PHOTO: Concerts in the Quad at UNC Asheville


Head back to school for musical gatherings in a variety of genres

Concerts on the Quad - University of North Carolina at Asheville
July 9 & 16
Asheville’s public university hosts four free Monday evening shows throughout the summer, featuring local and national acts in jazz, rock, and country. Music lovers bring picnic baskets, blankets, and their brood and sprawl out on the quad’s lawn. 7 p.m. Free.

An Appalachian Summer Festival - Appalachian State University, Boone
July 1–August 4
What began as a chamber music festival is now a heterogenous presentation of the best in music, dance, theater, visual arts, and film. Venues across the Boone campus host film previews, dance performances, art exhibitions, and musical interludes for more than a month. $55-free.


PHOTO: On Friday evenings, follow the rhythmic beats to Pritchard Park for the Asheville Drum Circle.


On most Friday nights in downtown Asheville, rhythmic drum beats echo through the streets. As you crest Patton Avenue and Pritchard Park comes into view, the source of the hypnotic sound is revealed: the Asheville Drum Circle.

Since 2001, Asheville Yoga Center proprietor Sunny Keach and his musical pals have gathered in the park to play their bongos, drawing a crowd of dancers, revelers, and fellow percussionists. “For me, back then, it was just to get my drumming buddies together outside and work on things, have fun—but it’s blown up,” remembers Keach. “Blown up” is an understatement, as the throng of onlookers now regularly numbers in the hundreds. “It’s a fun and new experience for so many people who have never seen a drum circle. It’s nice to be able to step back and witness that,” he says. Fridays, 6–9:45 p.m. Pritchard Park, 67 Patton Ave. Free.


If the mountains had a theme song, it would surely include the pluck of a banjo. And during the summer, novice pluckers and experts alike can hone their skills at Warren Wilson College’s annual Swannanoa Gathering. During July and into August, musicians focus on concentrations such as Traditional Song (July 1–7), Celtic (July 8–14), and Contemporary Folk (July 22–28) with regionally and nationally recognized experts.

Each week’s coursework spans a spectrum that appeals to players of all experience levels and interests. For example, a fiddler’s schedule might include a morning class on the techniques, a midday study of dances narrated by fiddle tunes, and an afternoon seminar on the folklore behind the instrument. In the evening, students gravitate to jam sessions, staff performances, and dances. Attendees can stay on campus for the true summer-camp experience (approximately $1,000 including classes, housing, and meals), or rent a room in nearby Asheville for a taste of the city life.
701 Warren Wilson Rd., Swannanoa; (828) 298-3434,


Under the nimble baton of artistic director Keith Lockhart of Boston Pops and BBC Orchestra fame, more than 420 students, ranging in age from teens to post-college and in instruments from classical harp to jazz trombone, refine their skills at the eight-week Brevard Music Center Summer Institute & Festival. “As I wander the hills of the Brevard campus, I feel a ready connection to the natural surroundings that gave composers like Mahler, Dvorák, and so many others their unique voice and inspiration,” says Lockhart. “Sharing that feeling with our students and the 40,000 music-lovers that join us each season is always a privilege for me and a transformative experience for them.”

The faculty, made up of some of the who’s-who in the music world, both instruct and collaborate with students, leading to synergic performances. And it’s to these concerts that fans flock. Throughout June, July, and August, students and their mentors (like Conrad Tao, Steep Canyon Rangers, and R.E.M.’s Mike Mills) perform in some 80 concerts in the open-air Whittington-Pfohl Auditorium. The festival spans genres with operatic performances and dance numbers, too. This year, fine music aficionados can also enjoy the Festival Within a Festival, which celebrates the centennial of Leonard Bernstein with classical, chamber, opera, and Broadway performances, as well as readings and lectures. Performances through August 18.
Whittington-Pfohl Auditorium, State Rd. 1350, Brevard. Tickets start at $20.


Music festivals are as common here as mountain laurels and blueberry bushes (by which we mean, very common)

RiverMusic & RiverFest - July 6, August 18, & September 7 (Asheville)
RiverLink, Asheville’s environmental nonprofit dedicated to cleaning up local waterways, hosts musical fundraisers throughout the summer. During the RiverMusic evening shows (July 6 & September 7), watch the sun set over the French Broad River as bands like The Jayhawks take the stage, or don your sunscreen for the daylong RiverFest on August 18. New Belgium Brewing, 21 Craven St. Admission by donation.

Shindig on the Green - July 7, 14, & 21; August 11, 18, & 25; September 1 (Asheville)
For more than 50 years on summer Saturdays “along about sundown,” traditional, old-timey musicians and dancers have played hot evening shows, amassing crowds of waltzers and watchers. Saturday, 7–10 p.m. Roger McGuire Green at Pack Square Park, 80 Court Plaza. Free.

Folkmoot - July 19–29 (Multiple Locations)
Since 1984, more than 8,000 musicians and dancers from some 200 countries (including Appalachia’s own Native American performers) have shone the spotlight on their music and culture in Western North Carolina. Though the festival is still rooted in Waynesville, those roots have spread, with engaging, educational events hosted in a range of spaces from the Cherokee Qualla Boundary all the way to Hickory during the two-week festival. $31–free.


Photographs (drum circle) by Rich Orris & (Concerts in the Quad) courtesy of UNC Asheville