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The Franklin Press, March 25, 2016

Ryan Hanchett, Writer

            Macon County music lovers won’t have to travel to Asheville, Charlotte or Atlanta to hear recording artists of international acclaim this summer.


            Organizers of the annual concert series at the historic Cowee School Arts and Heritage Center are bringing a renowned collection of performers to them.


            “We recently finished putting together the music lineup and it’s an awesome list of acts to have on stage in Macon County,” concert coordinator Barry Clinton said. “Everything will get started on Saturday, May 21 when Slocan Ramblers come down from Toronto, Canada to perform their unique brand of bluegrass.”


            While having an act from north of the border may seem like a far reach for a small venue in Western North Carolina, Clinton noted that it was positive word of mouth that sparked the Slocan Ramblers interest in making the trip to Franklin.


            “It was kind of strange because the band actually reached out to us and when I contacted them we were able to come up with a date pretty quickly,” Clinton said. “Apparently, they had heard about Cowee School from a band that played here a few years ago. Bands talk and they share experiences both good and bad, so we were happy to hear that our venue has developed a good reputation in the music community.”


            Other acts that will be appearing at Cowee School this summer include Blue Wheel Drive in June, The Becky Buller Band in July, Blue Moon Rising in August, The Malpass Brothers in September and Mac Arnold and Plate Full O’Blues in October.


            “Aside from the schedule that has already been put together, I am also finalizing a band for the Cowee Heritage Festival on Aug. 21,” Clinton said. “Having live music outside is something that we really enjoy and it’s something we are looking at possibly expanding in the future.”


            Finding bands that have open dates in the middle of the summer touring season and happen to be in the vicinity of Macon County can be a challenge, but in it’s third full season the concert series has become a staple of the Cowee School Arts and Heritage Center schedule.


            “The concert series presents us an opportunity to showcase all of the programs that the school has to offer,” center director Stacy Guffey said. “People come from all over the region to see a show on the historic stage, and while they are here guests are able to visit the pottery school, the art studio, the weaving room and all of the unique facilities that make the school such an important part of the Cowee community.”


            Guffey thanked Clinton and all of the volunteers that put in long hours to make sure that the concerts go as smoothly as possible. From running the soundboard to putting out chairs and cleaning restrooms, there is plenty of work to go around.


            “We simply could not host the concert series without the volunteers,” Guffey said.


            Over the past year the auditorium has been repainted, drapes have been installed to both stop the sunlight of summer evenings and improve acoustics and soon a conduit will be run under the floor so that the soundboard can be moved to the center of the hall.


            “Overall, the improvements that have been made have each really added to the concert experience,” Clinton said. “We expect that 2016 is going to be our most successful year yet.”

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