Cultural Crash Course: Dr. Chris Cooper: “Election 2020”

Cultural Crash Course: Election 2020 with Dr. Chris Cooper

In our March Cultural Crash Course, Dr. Chris Cooper from Western Carolina University discusses “Election 2020”.

The 2020 election is already being billed as perhaps the most consequential election of the new century. Dr. Cooper will preview the 2020 election with an eye towards what to expect, what to pay attention to, and what to ignore. The lecture will pay particular attention to issues and elections relevant to North Carolinians.

Cooper, professor and head of the Department of Political Science and Public Affairs at Western Carolina University, provides expert commentary on matters involving politics and political science in (and beyond) North Carolina.

Cooper’s research focuses on state politics and policy, political communication, political psychology and southern politics. He publishes that research frequently and is commonly seen and heard on media in Western North Carolina during political seasons.

He was named the 2013 “Professor of the Year” in North Carolina by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. That year, he also was honored as one of the top professors in the University of North Carolina system by its Board of Governors.

Among his innovative teaching techniques has been the publication of student research in Wikipedia and exchanging teaching duties via Skype with a professor at another university in a different state.

Earning his bachelor’s at Winthrop University, Cooper received his master’s and doctoral degrees at the University of Tennessee.

Cultural Crash Courses are sponsored by VisitNCSmokies.comThe MountaineerVicinitus Haywood, and Town of Waynesville. Tickets are $10. Doors open at 5:30pm and the lecture begins at 6:00pm.

Cultural Crash Course: Dr. Yiqing Yang speaks on Elder Abuse from a Multicultural Perspective

Join local experts for Folkmoot’s popular new series, Cultural Crash Courses, featuring lectures on a variety of current cultural issues, including global politics, race, immigration, gender, climate change, technology and multiculturalism. Content is presented as a 45-minute community lecture followed by questions, answers and discussion. Crash Courses began in 2019 and continue on a monthly basis, with a full schedule of topics and speakers available online at 

On Wednesday, February 12, Dr. Yiqing Yang from Western Carolina University speaks on the topic “Elder Abuse from a Multicultural Perspective.”

In the United States, older adults from different racial, ethnic and cultural backgrounds define, experience, and seek to remedy elder abuse differently. Internationally, we see similar variations across countries. Dr. Yang will discuss these issues from a multicultural perspective.

Dr. Yang is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Western, where she’s taught since 2017. Prior to WCU, she Associate Professor at the University of Utah, where she earned her Ph.D. She earned an M.B.A. from the University of Liverpool and a Bachelor’s Degree from Nanjing University.

Cultural Crash Courses are sponsored by, The Mountaineer, Vicinitus Haywood, Town of Waynesville. Tickets are $10 ($3 for students). Doors open at 5:30pm and the lecture begins at 6:00pm.

Folkmoot is a year-round cultural organization located in the historic Hazelwood School, 112 Virginia Avenue in Waynesville, NC. Parking is available along Virginia Ave., in front of the Center, or by circling to the rear of the building.

Steve Sutton Memorial Benefit Concert scheduled for March 8 at Folkmoot’s Queen Auditorium

Steve Sutton Memorial Benefit Concert

When Haywood County native and stellar banjo player Steve Sutton died unexpectedly in 2017, he left a legacy of great music and great mentoring. 

His career had carried him to stages around the world, including a stint on the Grand Ole Opry, and he won many awards, including multiple Grammy nominations. At home he was a member of the Whitewater Bluegrass Co., but he was perhaps best known for his kindnesses in lifting up aspiring musicians. 

The Annual Steve Sutton Benefit Concert is an opportunity for his many friends to raise money for the International Bluegrass Music Association Trust Fund and for a scholarship in his name for music students at Waynesville’s Tuscola High School.

The 2020 concert, auction and dinner are scheduled for Sunday, March 8, from 3 until 8pm at Queen Auditorium in the Folkmoot Center in Waynesville, NC. More than a dozen musicians who were friends of Sutton will perform, and unique bluegrass memorabilia from Steve’s collection will be auctioned. After the concert a storytelling gathering will take place to honor Sutton’s legacy, with supper offered for purchase.

Set to perform are the Darren Nicholson Band, the Crowe Brothers, Mark Bumgarner, Marc Pruett, Hazel Creek, Bill Kaman, Mike Hunter, Malcolm Holcombe and the Whitewater Bluegrass Band.

Tickets to the performance are $35 in advance and $40 at the door (if available). Dinner is ticketed separately for $12 and begins at 6 p.m. More information about tickets can be obtained by calling 828-452-2997 or bu clicking the link below.

Cultural Crash Course: The Philosophy of Love and Sex

Join local experts for Folkmoot’s new series, Cultural Crash Courses, featuring lectures on a variety of current cultural issues, including global politics, race, immigration, gender, climate change, technology and multiculturalism. Content will be presented as a 45-minute community lecture followed by questions, answers and discussion.

This Crash Course: Dr. Hoyt says: “How do love and sex fit into a good life? Philosophers have offered many different answers. In this talk, we’ll look at a few of the most famous and helpful of them.”

Doors open at 5:30pm, lecture begins at 6pm. Participants are welcome to bring a “picnic” dinner. Beverages will be available. Tickets are $10 in advance.

Ticket information here.

Darren Nicholson’s Uptown Downhome New Years Eve!

Join Folkmoot for a New Year’s Eve to remember, Tuesday, December 31st! It’ll be an evening designed for music lovers and sweethearts, featuring Balsam Range’s Darren Nicholson, Jennifer Nicholson, Waynesville’s own Bohemian Jean and percussionist Richard Foulk sharing an eclectic mix of jazz standards, R&B, country, bluegrass, blues and more. Tickets are $50 per person.
Folkmoot will serve festive hors d’oeuvres and celebratory beverages throughout the evening. Craft beer and champagne cocktails will be available for purchase and revelers will receive a complimentary champagne toast to ring in the New Year. All activities will be held in the Queen Auditorium.
Tickets: or 828-452-2997
Darren Nicholson is a Grammy Award Nominee and a recipient of the International Bluegrass Music Association’s – Album of the Year award, and has appeared countless times on WSM’s Grand Ole Opry, at the Ryman Auditorium, and many of the world’s most famous venues. In addition to his work with Balsam Range, Nicholson is a tireless solo performer, and recently released a new solo acoustic recording “Fret a Spell”. He’ll be joined on New Years by his wife Jennifer, whose extraordinary vocal range lends itself to a variety of tunes, including wonderful standards.
Bohemian Jean is a husband and wife duo made up of Waynesville residents Matthew Welborn and Jessi Stone. The two have been performing Matthew’s originals and Jessi’s favorite covers together for more than 15 years. Jessi chooses songs that suit her soulful alto voice — including hits from Janis Joplin, Stevie Nicks, Patsy Cline and Bonnie Raitt — while Matthew plays acoustic guitar, provides rich harmonies and shares his original songs as well. Matt and Jessi are also members of local band Stone Crazy.
Asheville-based percussionist Richard Foulk is known across the region for his live and studio music, including work with the popular band Sons of Ralph, Balsam Range and the Honeycutters.
Onsite babysitting services will be available for youth, $20 per child between 4 and 12 years old. Each additional child is $10.
Items served on each table
Mountain Blackeyed Pea Caviar with Chips
Charcuterie Tray of assorted meats, cheeses, spanish tortilla, olives and bread
Spinach Artichoke Dip with assorted fresh vegetables
Served on trays by Servers during music breaks
Chicken Sate with Peanut Sauce
Shrimp and grit with a tomato and bacon jam
Philly beef sliders
Sweet Treats
Served on each table
Shortbread cookies
Raspberry Cheesecake
Chocolate truffles
Served on a Round Table for self serve
Chocolate Fondue with oranges, strawberries, pineapple, pretzels and sponge cake

Balsam Range kicks off December festival with exclusive Queen Auditorium show

For the second year, Balsam Range opens its December Art of Music Festival with an official Waynesville kickoff at the Queen Auditorium, at Folkmoot Center in the Historic Hazelwood School.

Members of Balsam Range will be joined by a strong lineup of special guests to launch their popular weekend festival with a performance on Thursday, December 5.

In a special night honoring the art of songwriting, Balsam Range welcomes John Wiggins, Milan Miller, Aaron Bibelhauser and Missy Armstrong, and adds an appearance by Terry Baucom, a founding member of Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, IIIrd Tyme Out and Boone Creek, and current leader of his band The Dukes of Drive.

Balsam Range will follow the songwriters with a unique, off the record performance (Note: no recording devices allowed in the auditorium). In addition, Balsam Range’s Marc Pruett will sign copies of his new autobiography “Rascally Mountain Boy”, and may share a tale of two about growing up in the Appalachian south.

Queen Auditorium at Folkmoot Center, which seats an intimate 275, is building an audience as a listening room for concerts and songwriters-in-the-round performances. Balsam Range, winner of 12 IBMA Awards, has been generous in its support of the effort.

“We want to help build community around this space, and contribute to the vibrancy of Folkmoot with our music,” said Balsam Range’s Buddy Melton, last year’s International Bluegrass Music Association top male vocalist. “Y’all come!”

The event begins with a social gathering at 6pm, with barbeque and fresh beer available for purchase.

BBQ chopped pork with a choice of 2 sides (slaw, beans, collards): $12.00
Peach Cobbler: $3.00

Tickets are $25 in advance, $28 at the door, and can be purchased in advance at or by calling 828.452.2997. Tickets sales and contributions support Folkmoot programs that sustain cultural arts for youth and families in Western North Carolina.

Mountain Memories performance series set to begin at Folkmoot Center

Folkmoot is proud to partner with the Mountain Memories organization and Waynesville’s own Bob Plott to launch the Mountain Memories performance series at historic Queen Auditorium on the Folkmoot campus.

The series opens with “Mountain Memories No. 1: A Hazelwood Gathering” on Saturday, November 16 at 6p.m. 

In the spirit of radio variety shows of years past, each Mountain Memories performance follows a loose theme, but together they promote traditional Southern Appalachian culture in an accurate and positive way through music, dance and storytelling.

Mountain Memories No. 1: A Hazelwood Gathering, features a focus on the history of the town and historic Hazelwood School, along with a “passing the torch” theme of sharing traditional culture from generation to generation. The evening begins with a guest presentation by local historian Alex McKay. Heavy hors d’oeuvres are included in the ticket price in the center’s dining hall, during which McKay will speak about the history of the town. 

The event then shifts to Queen Auditorium, just down the hall, where Waynesville’s Bob Plott will serve as Master of Ceremonies. The Plott family has deep roots in Haywood County, and Bob is an award-winning historian, author and educator, as well as a breeder of Plott Hounds.

He’ll guide guests through a program that includes a talented lineup of mountain artists:

North Carolina Folk Heritage Award recipient Bobby McMillon has performed broadly as a singer and storyteller. He’s appeared at the Smithsonian’s Festival of American Folklife, the A. P. Carter Memorial Festival, national storytelling conferences, and the Festival for the Eno, where the stories and music of his family members from Cocke Co., TN and Yancey Co. found broad appeal. McMillon will present traditional ballads, stories and string tunes.

Bakersville native and Western Carolina University graduate William Ritter plays banjo, fiddle, guitar, and other “stringed things.” With interests that lie in the direction of old apple trees and mountain humor, Ritter will share the stage with McMillon for traditional ballads.

Aaron Ratcliffe is a native of Haywood County’s Big Stomp Mountain. A champion flatfoot dancer, superb singer, guitar player and fiddler, he now teaches at Appalachian State University. Ratcliffe will perform traditional music and dances of Haywood County, sometimes accompanied by Ritter.

Parking is available in front and behind the historic Hazelwood School for all Folkmoot events. Doors open at 6:00 pm with food and beverages available in the cafeteria; the Mountain Memories show starts at 7:00 pm in the Auditorium. A second Mountain Memories show, “A Mountain Christmas” is scheduled for Saturday, December 14 at Queen Auditorium. Tickets are $20 and available for both events at

Songwriters in the Round: Wiggins, Hannan, Russ & Breedlove

Great Balsam Songwriters in the Round Series at Folkmoot's Queen Auditorium featuring John Wiggins, Gary Hannan, Alma Russ and Isaiah Breedlove

Saturday, October 19 • Doors: 6pm, Music 7:15pm

Begun at an inn in Balsam, NC, in 1996 and modeled after similar performances at Nashville’s famous Bluebird Café, the Great Balsam Songwriters in the Round Series, now hosted at the Historic Hazelwood School/Folkmoot Center, presents signature in-the-round shows featuring talented songwriters and performers. Many performances feature Grammy and CMA award winners, and all include writers of many top-ranked songs. Good food, good drink, a warm atmosphere and extraordinary talent are always on tap!

John Wiggins 
Canton’s John Wiggins and his sister, Audrey, sang together beginning in childhood, and their father, Johnny Wiggins, was the “Singing Bus Driver” on Ernest Tubb’s 1960s tours. John made his singing debut at age four, and for the next several years, he and Audrey performed in their father’s band. In the 1980’s, the Wiggins siblings and Clinton Gregory joined the house band at Maggie Valley’s Stompin’ Ground, and signed to PolyGram/Mercury Records in 1994, shortly before their father died. They released their self-titled debut that year, and the album produced three chart entries on the U.S. Billboard Hot Country Songs charts, including the No. 22 “Has Anybody Seen Amy?”.

In 1995, 1996, and 1997, John & Audrey Wiggins received Country Music Association nominations for Duo of the Year. A second album, “The Dream”, followed in 1997 and charted the release “Somewhere in Love” which peaked at No. 49.

In the 2000s, John found work as a songwriter in Nashville. Among his cuts were the singles “Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off” by Joe Nichols, “Anything Goes” by Randy Houser, and “Who Are You When I’m Not Looking” by Nichols and Blake Shelton.

Gary Hannan
A former soldier and deep sea oil field diver turned songwriter, Hannan has written songs recorded and or performed by Garth Brooks, Blake Shelton, Brad Paisley, Joe Nichols, William Shatner, John Michael Montgomery, Montgomery Gentry, Darryl Worley and many others. He’s a Gold and Platinum of songwriter, with millions of airplays, and has won multiple number one awards from BMI as a songwriter and a publisher, including CMA (two number ones), ACM (two number ones), Country Radio Broadcasters Award (two), and a Grammy nominated album of the year. He won the coveted NSAI “One of the Songs I Wish I’d Written” award, voted by professional songwriter members.

He now travels the world, writing songs, including those penned during a solo motorcycle journey to the exact locations where brothers in arms had made the ultimate sacrifice. These songs were then recorded in an ongoing compilation ‘Songs from the Battlefield’.

Alma Russ
A Golden Ticket recipient on American Idol, Sylva songwriter Alma Russ sings a blend of folk, bluegrass, and mountain ballads, and plays fiddle, claw-hammer banjo and guitar.  As a youngster, Alma learned to sing mountain ballads, and Appalachian culture was one of Alma’s first inspirations for learning to play fiddle. She began writing and composing music around age 14 and always has songs in various stages of development. Her primary musical influences include country gold, bluegrass, gypsy jazz, and folk. 

Isaiah Breedlove
Isaiah Breedlove is an American singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist from Cashiers. He’s shared the stage with Earl Scruggs, Ralph Stanley, Mountain Heart and Sierra Hull, and has released one studio album (All Around Your Sleepy Head) and one single (Interstate Blues) which have garnered praise from Indie Shuffle, American Songwriter Magazine and others.

Tickets are $20 in advance and $23 at the door. Food and beverages will be available onsite. 

Southern Storytellers Series: William Ritter & Sarah Ogletree

Folkmoot, Blue Ridge Books and the Haywood County Public Library present the Southern Storytellers Supper Series, bringing southern culture and regional authors and musicians together for educational evenings of discussion, food and fun. Ticket prices include dinner.

William Ritter & Sarah Ogletree have been playing music together for over six years. They specialize in traditional mountain music, and perform at regional festivals and concerts, and for wedding ceremonies, dinner parties, and other celebrated occasions.

William Ritter
William is a native of Bakersville, NC, and an alum of Western Carolina University. He graduated with a degree in Technical Theatre, but spent most of his time in school studying the musical folk traditions of Western North Carolina. In 2017, William received his MA in Appalachian Culture and Music from Appalachian State University. William plays banjo, fiddle, guitar, and other “string-ed things.” He is particularly interested in old apple trees and mountain humor – ever eager to swap lies, half-truths, jokes, and seeds. William serves as Farm & Program Director for the Patterson School Foundation in Caldwell County, and also serves as music director for the Happy Valley Fiddlers Convention. Recently, he has been performing regularly with Asheville musician, Tim McWilliams. This year William was added to the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area Traditional Artist Directory, and also received the 2019-2020 In These Mountains Apprenticeship grant to study under renown ballad singer and storyteller Bobby McMillon.

Sarah Ogletree
Sarah was raised in the mountains of Jackson County, NC. She started playing the fiddle when she was eight-years-old, and has been singing (in church, choirs, and at family reunions) for as long as she can remember. She received her B.A. in sustainable development from Appalachian State University in 2014, and her Masters of Divinity at Wake Forest University in 2019. She is grateful to be able to share her passion for harmony singing and good old-fashioned tunes with William (her very sweet and talented husband). Sarah works for the North Carolina Council of Churches in their NC Interfaith Power and Light program.

Tickets are $18 in advance and $20 at the door. Dinner is included.

Recent Folkmoot guest musicians win big at IBMA awards!

Great Balsam Songwriters in the Round with Jerry Salley, Claire Lynch and Irene Kelley

Congratulations to a duo of recent performers in Folkmoot’s Great Balsam Songwriters in the Round Series for awards they received at last week’s 30th annual International Bluegrass Music Association awards celebration!

Claire Lynch and Jerry Salley, who played an April Round at Folkmoot’s Queen Auditorium with Irene Kelly, received a number of accolades.

Claire Lynch at Great Balsam Songwriters in the Round. Folkmoot. Wayne Ebinger photo.
Claire Lynch
Jerry Salley at Great Balsam Songwriters in the Round. Folkmoot. Wayne Ebinger photo.
Jerry Salley
Irene Kelley at Great Balsam Songwriters in the Round. Folkmoot. Wayne Ebinger photo.
Irene Kelly

Salley, a country and bluegrass singer-songwriter since 1982 with over 300 records recorded, won his second straight Songwriter of the Year award, as well as recognition for his production of the Gospel Recording of the Year (“Gonna Sing, Gonna Shout”, performed by Claire Lynch) and Associate Production of the Collaborative Recording of the Year (“The Guitar Song”, performed by Joe Mullins & The Radio Ramblers with Del McCoury).

Lynch, already three-time winner of IBMA Female Vocalist of the Year honors, won Gospel Recording of the Year for “Gonna Sing, Gonna Shout.”

Meanwhile, Kelley, whose original songs have been recorded by everyone from Alan Jackson, Loretta Lynn, and Trisha Yearwood to Ricky Skaggs & Sharon White, has been lighting up the airwaves as well. Her album “Benny’s TV Repair” is a chart-topper with multiple number one songs.

The Folkmoot Great Balsam Songwriters in the Round series returns next month, with a homegrown lineup featuring John Wiggins, Alma Russ and Isaiah Breedlove.