It's An Appalachian Summer
Summers in the High Country are traditionally cool.
Some attribute it to the great atmospheric processes in the sky, but those in the know thank An Appalachian Summer Festival for contributing.
Appalachian State University's annual celebration of all things arts is now in its 26th year of bringing cool to Watauga County, from cutting-edge comedy to music fresh and venerable to the latest in professional theater, and then some.
This year's highlights include comedienne of stage, screen and print Amy Sedaris on July 9, the mind- (and body-) bending Golden Dragon Acrobats, the revered jazz-rock tunings of Blood, Sweat and Tears on July 24, and the traditional sounds of the legendary Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys, performing with Cherryholmes, on July 30.
But, wait. There's more.
"There's more of a focus of really getting down to what our patrons are saying," Appalachian Summer marketing manager Megan Stage said.
Taking audience feedback into account, the festival planners - at it since the moment last year's celebration closed - devised a diverse lineup that would appeal to people of all ages and walks of life.
"It's a year-round process," Stage said, "not something that just gets thrown together. As soon as the festival ends, we start planning for the next year. It's definitely a long process, but we've got a great team who goes out and researches a lot of different opportunities, seeing what works and what didn't work in the past."
Once prospective acts are identified, Stage researches these opportunities to determine how they performed in similar venues, whether or not they'd fit well in An Appalachian Summer and, more importantly, if they're even available.
This year didn't pose much of a problem.
"When we say there's something for everyone, there truly is something for everyone," Stage said. "We try very hard to make sure that's a staple here, something we hold fast to and make sure is true. Whether you like classical symphonies, rock or dance, the festival is so diverse, bringing a whole bunch of different acts to our front door."
The festival kicks off July 1 with singer-songwriters Janis Ian and Karla Bonoff, followed by ASU's Turchin Center for the Visual Arts' Summer Exhibition Celebration, featuring contemporary art from Mexico, on July 2.
Festival planners had to look no further than the university's own Hayes School of Music for its Music Faculty Showcase on July 3, and the Broyhill Chamber Ensemble's Reflection Series on July 7, 14 and 25 promises a classical complement.
A favorite among classical music aficionados, the Eastern Festival Orchestra returns July 11 with pianist Barry Douglas and on July 18 with violinist Tianwa Yang.
The Lar Lubovitch Dance Company brings its internationally renowned footwork to the stage on July 16, followed by acclaimed singer and actress Patti LuPone, of Evita fame, on July 17.
In the tune of jazz, guitarist, vocalist, songwriter and bandleader John Pizzarelli swings into Farthing on July 22, and ASU's own Todd Wright, celebrated saxophonist, will perform Jazz Beneath the Stars at Westglow Resort and Spa on July 29.
And on July 24, patrons of the arts can take to foot on a guided tour of the 24th Rosen Outdoor Sculpture Competition and Exhibition. Turchin Center staff members will lead viewers along the exhibition trail throughout campus, with this year's event featuring nine entries, with artists typically present to meet, greet and describe their artwork.
There's also a "Getaway Bus Trip" to see Triad Stage's production of Providence Gap, written by ASU artistic partner Preston Lane.
"We're keeping with tradition, but upping the standards every year," Stage said. "Last year, we raised the bar with our 25th anniversary, and this year we're keeping that hype. We've got nothing but excitement for what it is."
2010 marks Stage's first year as marketing manager, though she's worked with An Appalachian Summer for the last five years in the box office, sales and some marketing aspects.
"I've lived here for five years and have really taken ownership of this festival, and that's what I want the community to realize, that this is their festival, and we want them to take ownership and be proud of it, just like we are," she said. "We wouldn't do it if we didn't love it."
Stage said last year's festival was one of the most successful she can remember, the 25th anniversary event seeing most of its performances sold out. As such, she encourages interested parties to purchase tickets in advance.
Tickets for An Appalachian Summer performances range between $5 and $30, with most visual arts and educational events free of charge. Flex passes are also available, and people can check specific prices online at http://www.appsummer.org, as event dates draw nearer.
As part of the festival, the Turchin Center offers a series of summer day camps and workshops for kids, teens and adults, information for which is available at http://www.turchincenter.org, by calling (828) 262-3017 or by e-mailing (email@example.com)
For more information on An Appalachian Summer Festival, visit http://www.appsummer.org.
Schedule at a Glance
The following events start at 8 p.m. at Farthing Auditorium:
July 1 - Janis Ian and Karla Bonoff
July 5 - Film: Me and Orson Welles
July 9 - Amy Sedaris
July 10 - Golden Dragon Acrobats
July 11 - Eastern Festival Orchestra with Barry Douglas
July 12 - Film: Vanya on 42nd Street
July 16 - Lar Lubovitch Dance Company
July 17 - Patti LuPone
July 18 - Eastern Festival Orchestra with Tianwa Yang
July 19 - Film: Every Little Step
July 22 - John Pizzarelli and Swing 7
July 23 - Film: Wild & Scenic Environmental Film Festival
July 26 - Film: Under the Same Moon
July 30 - Ralph Stanley & the Clinch Mountain Boys and Cherryholmes
The following events start at 8 p.m. at Rosen Concert Hall:
July 3 - Hayes School of Music Distinguished Faculty Showcase Concert
July 7 - Broyhill Chamber Ensemble - Pride of Place: Classical Folk Melodies
July 14 - Broyhill Chamber Ensemble - A Musical Mandala: From Bach to
Barkauskas and Back
July 25 - Broyhill Chamber Ensemble - Classical Classics: Muriel Rosen: In Memoriam
July 2 - Turchin Center for the Visual Arts Summer Exhibition Celebration, 7-9 p.m. (Free event)
July 8 - Belk Distinguished Lecture: Anne Whisnant, "Driving Through Time from the 'B' Drawer to the Digital Blue Ridge Parkway" (Free event)
July 10 - Family Day at the Turchin Center (11 a.m. to 3 p.m.) (Free event)
July 24 - Festival Celebration Concert with Blood, Sweat & Tears, 7:30 p.m. Holmes Convocation Center
July 24 - 24th Rosen Outdoor Sculpture Walk and Exhibition Competition, 10 a.m., starting at Farthing Auditorium (Free event)
July 29 - Jazz Beneath the Stars at Westglow Resort & Spa with the Todd Wright Jazz Orchestra, 6-9 p.m. at Westglow, (Festival fundraising event)
Lunch and Learn Series - Noon on Wednesdays during the festival (Free event)