Eastern NC's African American Music Project Gets Funding Boost
Linda A. Carlisle, Secretary, NC Department of Cultural Resources
North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources Secretary Linda A. Carlisle announced today a partnership with the North Carolina Department of Transportation that includes more than $250,000 in funding for the next phase of the African American Music Trail project.
The project is spearheaded by the N.C. Arts Council. The African American Music Trail will bring greater visibility to African American music traditions from eastern North Carolina. It tells the story of musicians and singers then and now, representing North Carolina to the world through their internationally acclaimed music.
This year alone, the N.C. Arts Council designated $75,331 in grants that will help sustain the project.
"We have believed for many years that African American music in eastern North Carolina should be celebrated," says Mary B. Regan, executive director of the North Carolina Arts Council. "These musicians reflect their home communities, and their sounds transcend time and place. They are an integral part of our state's heritage and are bringing economic growth to both large and small communities."
Eight eastern counties comprise the trails—Edgecombe, Greene, Jones, Lenoir, Nash, Pitt, Wayne and Wilson. The project is expected to be completed in 2011.
"A regional approach to tourism development is a proven strategy and thanks to the North Carolina Arts Council our rich cultural traditions in rural areas are on track as economic development strategies," says Carlisle.
Additional funds from the DOT will allow the next phase of the project to move forward including the development of interactive kiosks, maps and a travel guidebook. These efforts will connect the rich musical traditions with the traveling public and boost cultural tourism revenues.
Internationally recognized musicians from the area include Kinston natives and brothers Melvin Parker, a drummer for James Brown and Maceo Parker, a saxophonist who played with James Brown, Ray Charles and James Taylor. The Godfather of Soul was famous for saying during a concert, "Maceo, I want you to blow!"
Other music greats include Wilson gospel singer Bishop F. C. Barnes known for his hit "Rough Side of the Mountain," Wilson native Bill Myers of the Monitors and the soulful Roberta Flack who was once the lead singer for the Monitors.
The DOT funds will allow visitors to better access these musical traditions. Two interactive kiosks located in Wilson and Kinston will include information about local musicians, venues and other music resources, as well as a calendar of events and directions. Kiosk users can create and customize their own "tours" of music resources within the region. Maps that promote trail sites will be available at welcome centers and area visitor centers. Public art that visually interprets the visual heritage of the region will be located in Kinston.
The African American Music Trail project started in 2006 as a part of the N.C. Arts Council's Focus East, an initiative to support sustainable growth in eastern North Carolina during a period when manufacturing and farming jobs were disappearing.
The N.C. Arts Council recognized the importance of documenting and presenting the state's heritage of African American blues, gospel, jazz and other traditions when communities were searching for ways to produce good jobs, attract workers and maintain their cultural heritage and natural resources.
For the last three years, the N.C. Arts Council has invested $107,200. The grants were used to document the musical heritage of the area, including recording interviews and video of more than 70 musicians from these areas, creating a public art plan and implementing an afterschool program for children to learn music from local musicians.
Other partners include the National Endowment for the Arts, the N.C. Folklife Institute and the Community Council for the Arts in Kinston along with other arts and cultural organizations in the eastern region.
About the North Carolina Arts Council
The North Carolina Arts Council works to make North Carolina The Creative State where a robust arts industry produces a creative economy, vibrant communities, children prepared for the 21st century and lives filled with discovery and learning. The Arts Council accomplishes this in partnership with artists and arts organizations, other organizations that use the arts to make their communities stronger and North Carolinians—young and old—who enjoy and participate in the arts.
For more information visit www.ncarts.org.
The N.C. Arts Council is a division of the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources, the state agency dedicated to the promotion and protection of North Carolina's arts, history and culture. www.ncculture.com