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.

Darren Nicholson & Friends returns with an all-star ensemble!

The Balsam Range’s Darren Nicholson returns to Folkmoot’s Queen Auditorium October 13th for his biggest show yet, a rare, one-time combination high-powered bluegrass stars. Tickets in advance are 10.00 for kids, 20.00 for adults, 23.00 at the door.

Nicholson, mandolinist for bluegrass supergroup Balsam Range, will be joined onstage by two-time national banjo champion Charles Wood, by bassist and vocalist Eli Johnston – formerly of Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver – and by stellar guitarist and former Volume Five member Colby Laney.

Darren Nicholson
Charles Wood
Colby Laney
Eli Johnston

A Haywood County native, Nicholson is a Grammy Award nominee and recipient of five International Bluegrass Music Association Awards, including Entertainer of the Year (2014), Song of the Year (2011), and Album of the Year (2006). He has appeared on WSM’s Grand Ole Opry, at the Ryman Auditorium, on Country Music Television and on Great American Country. Currently, he records and tours as a full-time, founding member of Balsam Range with all sorts of collaborative efforts each year.

Eli Johnston, who joins the ensemble on bass and vocals, is a former member of Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver and a triple-threat singer, songwriter, and musician.

“Eli is a powerhouse is the bluegrass world,” says Nicholson

Nicholson describes Laney, who was most recently a four-year member of Volume Five, as a “must-see guitarist”.

Wood is two-time champion of Walnut Valley Festival Banjo Championship in Winfield, Kansas – widely considered the national banjo championship – and joined Earl Scruggs and Steve Martin on stage on the David Letterman Show.

“Doing a show like this is so much fun because it’s a rare combination, and it’s as exciting for the musicians as it is for the audience,” says Nicholson. “I’m excluding myself, but these are some of the most talented musicians and singers on the planet. I’m just honored to be a part of this and will just try to ‘hang on’!”

The Academy at SOAR moving to Folkmoot’s Historic Hazelwood School

WAYNESVILLE–Waynesville arts and cultural organization Folkmoot has reached an agreement with the Academy at SOAR, a longtime boarding school in the Balsam community of Jackson County, to move its school operations to Building B on the Folkmoot Friendship Center campus.

SOAR, which serves students grades 7-12 diagnosed with a learning disability and/or ADHD, will occupy the original Hazelwood School building for ten months each year, leaving two summer months for use by Folkmoot and its long-running International Festival. The structure, which dates to 1923, comprises roughly one-third of the Folkmoot Center space.

As part of the agreement between the two organizations, substantial upgrades will be made to building, including new heating and air conditioning systems.

Folkmoot leaders say the partnership is integral to its long term development strategy as a year-round arts and cultural center, one aspect of which is sustainable use of the entire 40,000 sq. ft. space. One barrier to broader use requires various rehabilitation projects within the aging structure, including heat and air.

“Folkmoot has been in the process of building year-round programming and creating opportunities for community rentals that help to sustain the costs of owning the Friendship Center,” said Folkmoot Executive Director Angie Schwab. “It’s a 40,000 square-foot structure and there is plenty of room for SOAR, Folkmoot and for new arts and cultural program expansion.”

“The SOAR School partnership will mean building B gets the care and maintenance it deserves,” said David Francis, Folkmoot Board President. “From a neighborhood perspective, Hazelwood will appreciate that the building looks nice on the outside and that SOAR students and faculty are good neighbors. From a historic preservation perspective, upgrading the building with heat and air will help to preserve the vintage building while programmatically, the HVAC upgrades will make the space more comfortable as we host international performers.”

Folkmoot, a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization, has become a Western North Carolina institution. Each summer since 1984 musicians and dancers from across the globe have visited Waynesville as part of the Folkmoot International Dance and Music Festival. More than 8,000 international performers from 200 countries have participated through the decades. Folkmoot focuses on programs and events that celebrate diversity and differences, encourage cultural conversation and inclusion, and preserve and honor worldwide cultural heritages, especially using dance and music as a tool to achieve world peace.

Year-round programs at Folkmoot include the Southern Storytellers Series, Cultural Crash Courses, Nashville Songwriters in the Round, live music performances and International Friendship Dinners. Artist’s studio spaces are also available, and the Center recently became home to the Western North Carolina Quilt Trail, hosted by the Haywood County Arts Council.

The Academy at SOAR, founded in 1977, is a North Carolina certified non-public co-educational boarding school and a branch of SOAR Inc. (Success Oriented Achievement Realized). SOAR is also accredited regionally through AdvancEd (SACS) as a fully accredited secondary school. The tuition-based school currently serves a maximum of 32 male and female students, most of whom have had difficulty succeeding in traditional educational environments.

“I just can’t believe how awesome everyone has been in Waynesville,” said Joe Geier, Head of School at SOAR. “They’ve bent over backwards to help us meet a tight timeline. We’re very thankful, our students are starting the year on a high note, and we look forward to making another home for SOAR Academy here at Folkmoot.”

The school functions as a hybrid residential boarding school on a 4-week cycle: half of the school’s 32-student enrollment are in a traditional classroom setting at any given time, while the other half are on traveling expeditions.

Faces of the Folkmoot Festival, 2019, Vol. 1

Members of Ophie and the Webbsite, a Rake'n'Scrape Band from the Bahamas Efrain Palafox photo

Friendly faces of members of the following groups: The Bahamas, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Egypt, Hungary and Romania at Folkmoot 2019. July 18-28, 2019

Photos by: Efrain Palafox and Stephen Wenzel

Cultural Crash Course: Higdon in Haywood: Cold Mountain

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. Crash Courses begin on September 18th and occur on a monthly basis. The full schedule with topics and speakers is available online at

At our first Cultural Crash Course, WCU professor, Dr. Christina Reitz will talk about the compositional history of Jennifer Higdon’s opera Cold Mountain, a musical adaptation of Charles Frazier’s award winning novel of the same name, which is set just outside Asheville during the civil war. The opera received its world premiere at Santa Fe Opera in 2015 and Opera Philadelphia performed it in 2016. North Carolina Opera and Minnesota Opera followed in 2017 and 2018.

Higdon has won both a Pulitzer and a Grammy for previous works.

Reitz’s analysis will focus on the unique challenges of adapting the original work “from page to stage.”

Christina L. Reitz received a BM in Piano Performance from the Dana School of Music at Youngstown State University where she was the recipient of the Mary P. Rigo Outstanding Keyboard Major. She earned an MM in Piano Pedagogy and a Ph.D. in historical musicology, with external cognates in women’s studies and piano performance at the University of Florida where she received the John V. D’Albora Scholarship for Excellence in Graduate Research as well as the Outstanding Student Paper Award from the College Music Society, Southern Chapter.

Cultural Crash Courses are sponsored by Western Carolina University and the Town of Waynesville. Tickets for Cultural Crash Courses are $10. Doors open at 5:30pm and the lecture begins at 6:00pm. 

Southern Storytellers Series: David Joy

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.

David Joy is the author of the Edgar nominated novel Where All Light Tends To Go (Putnam, 2015), as well as the novels The Weight Of This World (Putnam, 2017) and The Line That Held Us (Putnam, 2018). He is also the author of the memoir Growing Gills: A Fly Fisherman’s Journey (Bright Mountain Books, 2011), which was a finalist for the Reed Environmental Writing Award and the Ragan Old North State Award.

He is the recipient of an artist fellowship from the North Carolina Arts Council. His latest short stories and essays have appeared in Time, The New York Times Magazine, Garden & Gun, and The Bitter Southerner.

In addition to his writing, David enjoys hunting, fishing, his dog and nature. If you’ve read his fiction, non-fiction and articles this would not surprise you. Come hear more about how these traditional aspects of mountain life have influenced and found their way into his writing.

Thursday, September 26, 6pm  •  Tickets: $10-$20 ($23 at the door)

Balsam Range Art of Music Festival Kickoff at Folkmoot

Balsam Range Art of Music Festival Kickoff at Folkmoot

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

Members of Balsam Range – and perhaps a special guest or two – will launch the weekend festival with a performance in the school’s renovated auditorium on Thursday, December 5.

“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, currently the International Bluegrass Music Association’s reigning top male vocalist. “Y’all come!”

The event beings with a social gathering at 6 p.m. on Thursday, December 5, with barbeque and fresh beer available for purchase.

Tickets are $25 in advance, $28 at the door, and can be purchased in advance at or by calling 828.452.2997. Weekend ticket packages and other Balsam Range Art of Music Festival information can be found at Tickets sales and contributions support Folkmoot programs that sustain cultural arts for youth and families in Western North Carolina.

The Folkmoot Friendship Center is located in the Historic Hazelwood School, 112 Virginia Ave., Waynesville. Parking is available in the back of the Folkmoot building for all special events.

Folkmoot is a nonprofit organization dedicated to celebrating many cultures in one community. The Folkmoot Friendship Center is located in the Historic Hazelwood School at 112 Virginia Avenue in Waynesville. Staff can be reached by phone at (828) 452-2997 or by email at

Queen Auditorium, Folkmoot Center