Pickin’ and grinnin’ has played a prominent role in North Carolina’s musical history. PineCone aims to ensure it’s also part of the future.
The Piedmont Council of Traditional Music, as it’s formally known, takes a three-faceted approach to perpetuating the region’s cultural heritage: preserve, present and promote. The goals apply not only to the folksy musical styles that originate here, but also to the imported traditions that continue to shape our cultural landscape, including Indian, Irish, Latin and too many more to count.
“We are creating a community of like-minded people who like the music and support the mission” to play and preserve it, said William Lewis, executive director. In all, PineCone hosts more than 170 musical events per year, from the weekly Bluegrass Show on WQDR to concerts held year-round.
Jam sessions offer an informal atmosphere where musicians of all experience levels are welcome to play and learn. “It’s informal learning,” Lewis described, “where you’re listening and watching and imitating — that folk learning that has been around since humans have been around.”
Ted Margeson, who plays a button accordion in PineCone’s Irish jam session, started making music in 1999, after a PineCone group helped him find the instrument that fit his preferences and budget.
Now one of the group’s senior members, Margeson welcomes new players weekly at Sunday afternoon jams held at Tir Na Nog in downtown Raleigh. Musicians regularly travel in from New Bern, Fayetteville and other surrounding towns to play, with average participation of about a dozen people. Occasional visitors drop in from faraway locales — a Finnish uilleann pipes player, for example.
“We encourage the young and new people to come and play,” Margeson said. “Irish session music is about fun.” As are the other jams, a bluegrass session that meets twice monthly at the Busy Bee Café in Raleigh, and the Shape Note Singers who convene once a month at the Friends Meeting House, also in Raleigh.
Don’t feel left out if you’re musically challenged. “We try to make the presentation aspect as open to the general public as possible,” Lewis said. More than 90 percent of PineCone’s programs are offered free to the public.
With only three staff members, PineCone relies heavily on its 900 member families and 300 volunteers — both numbers Lewis would like to see increase. Volunteer activities include assisting with merchandise sales, delivering promotional posters, producing monthly newsletters and lots more. An email list alerts prospective volunteers to new opportunities.
Documentary projects grace PineCone’s to-do list from time to time. A current CD endeavor aims to preserve string band music from the 1930s, aired on the Crazy Barn Dance radio show. A film now in production explores the cultural evolution of a Creedmoor family with gospel roots.
PineCone’s spring concert season kicks off this month, with Cary events at the Sertoma Amphitheatre, Koka Booth Amphitheatre and other venues across town. Check the calendar on pinecone.org for a full listing.
In addition to enjoying a show, you’ll be preserving North Carolina’s past. And, as Lewis says, “The artists deserve audiences, and people deserve to hear their music.”