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In the Appalachian Summertime

Article Published: Jul. 1, 2010 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
In the Appalachian Summertime

She may not be 17 anymore, but her words are timeless.

Meet Grammy winner, author, activist and legend Janis Ian.

She's part of an Appalachian Summer Festival, and she can't wait to feel that High Country breeze firsthand.

"I actually had to drive through there last year on my way back from Savannah, and I'd never been through that area ... I thought this would be such a cool place to play," she said, and she made it happen with a phone call.

Ian, it seems, can make anything happen. After all, she's the same tough-minded sensation who at only 13 wrote and voiced billboard hit "Society's Child."

From that first controversial song about an interracial romance, this Jersey-bred girl has never been afraid to speak the truth, notably when she came out as a lesbian with the release of "Breaking Silence" in 1993.

Her most recent controversy came out of statements she made against the Recording Industry Association of America's (RIAA) and National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences' (NARAS) stance on music downloads.

Ian, who offers downloads of her songs on her website (, is of the belief that the inevitable music downloading helps artists, boosting interest and album sales by getting the music out to the populous.

Backlash, and she's received a lot of it, doesn't bother Ian.

"My outlook has always been that you say what's true," she said. "You say what is real. Sometimes there's a cost to it, sometimes there's not."

Regardless, she'll always speak the truth, with the ease of a sharp wit that has helped put her autobiography, ("Society's Child") on bookshelves across the country. And her life story provides plenty to sing about.

"I just think I'm really lucky to have worked with some fabulous people," she said.

Her vocals have been paired with the likes of Dolly Parton and Willie Nelson. Bette Midler is among artists who have covered her music.

"She's fabulous," Ian said. "She has recorded two of my songs, and I've always felt very privileged to work with her. It's great to work with people you admire."

Her most downloaded song, "At Seventeen," released in 1975, earned her a Grammy for best pop vocal performance. She performed it at the debut of Saturday Night Live, one of her many television appearances over the decades.

While her touring schedule may be winding down ("I hit a point in '04 when I did 200 dates and I thought, 'This is a little bit too much,'"), her career certainly isn't. Along with multiple appearances nationwide, the Nashville-based diva has turned her talents to the classroom, recently teaching a master class series at Berkley in Boston. And her autobiography isn't the only penned project under her belt. Ian acts as a columnist for The Advocate and has several science fiction works published in anthologies.

At 59, that's a lot of hats. How does she find inspiration for new projects?

"I think I bore myself easily," she said. "That's really about it."

She's the only one she bores.

The one word she'd use to describe her music?

"Eclectic," she said. "It's just, I do a lot of jazz, I do a lot of pop. I just did a hip-hop album for a friend."

Anything and everything.

She's even delved into the nonprofit sector, spearheading a foundation for her mother called the Pearl Foundation (, which has already raised more than $450,000 in scholarships for returning students.

Even in the midst of a busy career, Ian finds time to pass along sage advice to aspiring High Country vocalists.

"Just work," she said. "Work, work, work. Write, write, write. Play, play, play. That's all you can do. If you're talented, you'll get better at it, and if you're not talented, you'll find out soon enough."

Janis Ian joins fellow songwriting diva Karla Bonoff for Songs of a Generation on Thursday, July 1, at Farthing Auditorium as part of Appalachian State University's An Appalachian Summer Festival. For more information, or to purchase tickets, visit

And There's More
Janis Ian is just one of the reasons to hit Farthing this summer.

An Appalachian Summer is officially under way, and marketing manager Megan Stage has plenty of reasons to keep coming back. After all, it's not every summer that you get to see Chinese acrobats, Patti Lapone and Amy Sedaris.

"It's a gem to be in the mountains anyway, but people are always looking for something to do," she said.

An Appalachian Summer Festival offers that and more, with performances from critically acclaimed acts and state-of-the-art workshops.

"It gets you out of the heat, that's for sure," she said.

The best part of the festival? The variety.

"There's something for everyone," Stage said. "It's just something different ... fill your summer with things that are different and things that are really going to engage ... it really is a rarity to have this kind of festival in this region, and we are very aware of that and we try to honor that and bring a little bit of everything."

While Farthing Auditorium seats 1,700, buy your tickets early.

"A lot of our events sell out fairly quickly," Stage said. "If you want the best seats, I would book as quickly in advance as you can, at least two weeks in advance if you want decent seats."

Tickets have been on sale since April, but don't stress if you're a last minute add.
"There really is no bad seat in Farthing," she said.

An Appalachian Summer Festival, coming off its 25th season, has been a High Country tradition since 1984. For the past decade, it's been named one of the "Top 20 Events in the Southeast" by the Southeast Tourism Society.

The festival is presented by the Appalachian State University Office of Arts and Cultural Programs. For more information or to purchase tickets to events, visit or call toll-free at (800) 841-ARTS.

An Appalachian Summer Schedule

July 1, 8 p.m. - Janis Ian and Karla Bonoff: Songs of a Generation

July 2, 7-9 p.m. - TCVA Summer Exhibition Celebration

July 3, 9 a.m.-noon - Workshop: Basic Batik with Janet Montgomery

July 3, 8 p.m. - Hayes School of Music Faculty Showcase Recital

July 5-7, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. - Workshop: Breathtaking and Bold: A Non-Traditional Approach to Watercolor/Gouache Figure Painting

July 5-9, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. - Workshop: Figure Drawing with Tim Ford

July 5, 8 p.m. - Film: Me and Orson Welles

July 7, noon - Lunch & Learn at TCVA: The Sounds of Summer with Dr. John Ross

July 7, 8 p.m. - Broyhill Chamber Ensemble: Pride of Place: Classical Folk Melodies

July 8-9, 9 a.m.-4p.m. - Workshop: Creating Handmade Books

July 8, 3:30 p.m. - Belk Distinguished Lecture: Anne Whisnant: Driving Through Time

July 9, 8 p.m. - Amy Sedaris

July 10-11, 9:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. - Workshop: Plein Air with Tricia Spencer

July 10, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. - Family Day at the Turchin Center

July 10, 8 p.m. - Golden Dragon Acrobats

July 11, 8 p.m. - Eastern Festival Orchestra with Gerard Schwarz, conductor, and Barry Douglas, piano

July 12-16, 10 a.m.-3p.m. - Workshop: Art Day Camp: From Trash to Puppets

July 12-16, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. - Workshop: Spontaneous Design and Wearable Art

July 12, 8 p.m. - Film: Vanya on 42nd Street

July 14, noon - Lunch & Learn at TCVA: Travel and the Creative Mind with Preston Lane

July 14, 8 p.m. - Broyhill Chamber Ensemble: A Musical Mandala: From Bach to Barkauskas and Back

July 16, 8 p.m. - Lar Lubovitch Dance Company

July 17, 8 p.m. - Patti LuPone: The Gypsy in My Soul

July 18, 8 p.m. - Eastern Festival Orchestra with Gerard Schwarz, conductor, and Tianwa Yang, violin

July 19-30, 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. - Workshop: Painting Techniques of the Old Masters

July 19-23, 1-3 p.m. - Workshop: Viva Mexico!

July 19, 8 p.m. - Film: Every Little Step

July 21, noon: Lunch & Learn at TCVA: Viva Mexico! with Hank Foreman

July 22, 9 a.m.-noon - Workshop: Technology for Art Teachers

July 22, 1-4 p.m. - Workshop: National Board Certification for Art Teachers: Unlock the Mystery of the Process

July 22, 8 p.m. - John Pizzarelli and Swing 7

July 22 - Silent Auction ends

July 23, 8 p.m. - Film: Wild and Scenic Environmental Film Festival

July 24, 10 a.m. - 24th annual Rosen Sculpture Walk

July 24, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. - Workshop: Papermaking: Turn Your Junk Mail into Paper Art

July 24, 7:30 p.m. - Festival Celebration Concert with Blood, Sweat and Tears

July 25, 8 p.m. - Broyhill Chamber Ensemble: Classical Classics: Muriel Rosen: In Memoriam

July 26-30, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. - Workshop: Heirloom Jewelry

July 26-30, 1-3 p.m. - Workshop: Be a Super Hero ... or a Super Shero!

July 26, 8 p.m. - Film: Under the Same Moon

July 28, noon - Lunch & Learn at TCVA: Italian Holocaust Survivors Remember with Dr. Rosemary Horowitz and Dr. Rennie Brantz

July 29 - Jazz Beneath the Stars at Westglow Resort & Spa with the Todd Wright Jazz Orchestra

July 30, 8 p.m. - Ralph Stanley and Cherryholmes

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