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Press release from Gov. Pat McCrory’s office:

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RALEIGH — Gov. Pat McCrory announced on Friday that eight North Carolina artists will receive the North Carolina Heritage Award for their outstanding contributions to our state’s cultural heritage.

The 2016 North Carolina Heritage Award recipients are Maceo Parker, internationally-recognized funk, jazz and rhythm and blues musician (Kinston, Lenoir County); Sheila Kay Adams, a seventh-generation ballad singer, storyteller, and musician (Sodom Laurel, Madison County); Montagnard Dega weavers H Jue Nie and H Ngach Rahlan, who brought their mastery of spinning, dying and weaving from the highlands of Vietnam (Greensboro, Guilford County); Houston, James and Jamie Lewis, fourth generation boat builders from the Harkers Island tradition (Harkers Island, Carteret County); and Marc Pruett, renowned banjo player, songwriter and part of the renowned bluegrass band, Balsam Range (Canton, Haywood County).

“The 2016 honorees are shining examples of why nothing compares to North Carolina when it comes to being a great place to live and work,” McCrory said. “In addition to being excellent artists whose work has cultural significance to the state, the honorees demonstrate how the arts create a sense of place and preserve North Carolina’s unique cultural assets.”

Representing a variety of musical, craft and narrative traditions practiced from the coast to the mountains, the recipients will be honored in an awards ceremony and concert scheduled May 25, 2016 in Raleigh.

“As North Carolinians, we are fortunate that such a diverse and stellar group of artists are working to keep our cultural traditions thriving,” said Susan Kluttz, secretary of the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources. “We are so proud of them not only for the national attention that they have brought to our state but also for their passion to share their artistry within their home communities and beyond.”

Since 1989, the North Carolina Heritage Award, a program of the North Carolina Arts Council, has honored traditional artists in the state, deepening awareness of the stories, music, and artistry that comprise our rich and diverse cultural traditions. Recipients are selected by a panel of experts based of their artistic excellence, cultural authenticity and contributions to their field.

More than 120 traditional artists have been honored in the last 26 years.

“The North Carolina Arts Council is proud that our agency is documenting and helping sustain these artists, each of whom have creatively reinvigorated the traditions that they first learned in their youth,” said Wayne Martin, executive director of the N.C. Arts Council. “Those who are chosen to receive this lifetime achievement award keep our citizens connected to the extraordinary arts that have flourished over generations in every community, large and small, across the state.”

Pinecone, the Piedmont Council on Traditional Music, will partner with the Department of Cultural Resources and produce the ceremony in May 2016.

Below is an alphabetical list of 2016 N.C. Heritage Award Recipients:

Sheila Kay Adams
Sheila Kay Adams traces her ballad singing roots back seven generations to the mid-1700s, when her Scots-Irish forebears first made the mountains of Madison County their home. The highly musical families of the county’s Sodom community—the Nortons, Chandlers, Wallins, Ramseys and Rays—have made the region famous for its music, particularly for ballad singing.  Sheila absorbed the songs of her great-aunt “Granny Dell,” Dellie Norton Chandler, and also learned from Doug Wallin, former North Carolina Heritage Award recipients.  She learned banjo from local legends Byard Ray and Fred Cockerham, and was a rapt listener to the tales, legends and stories that elevated conversation to an art form in her home community.  Sheila taught school after her graduation from Mars Hill College in 1975, but her career took a new turn as she began to perform the mountain repertoire that had shaped her childhood. Her gift for storytelling took written form with the publication of a collection of family stories titled Come Go Home with Me (UNC Press, 1995), and a critically acclaimed novel My Old True Love (Algonquin Books, 2004). In 1998, she received the Brown-Hudson Award from the North Carolina Folklore Society and in 2013 the National Endowment for the Arts awarded her a National Heritage Fellowship.

Explore the work:

David Holt Interviews Sheila Kay Adams
Our State Magazine and NC TV

Sheila Kay Adams at Shindig on the Green
Folk Heritage Committee, Asheville

Sheila Kay Adams
Anthony Brothers

H Jue Nie and H Ngach Rahlan
Calling themselves Dega, more Vietnamese Montagnards settled in North Carolina than in any other state, due to their fellowship with Special Forces units during the Vietnam War. Dega weavers H Jue Nie and H Ngach Rahlan of Greensboro mastered the ancient spinning, dying and weaving traditions of their people while growing up in the central highlands of Vietnam. Once a part of every highland woman’s knowledge and practice, women wove to clothe their families, decorate homes and altars, and to keep everyone warm at night. Originally Montagnard weavers grew their own cotton, spun their thread by hand, and used dyes from the indigo plant and other natural sources. Decorative elements such as beads were once made from plant materials that grew in their rice fields. War and displacement has reduced the numbers of skilled weavers remaining in Vietnam. H Jue Nie and H Ngach Rahlan moved to Greensboro 20 years ago, bringing their backstrap looms and an immeasurable knowledge of the designs and techniques that make their weaving traditions unique.

Explore the work:

Montagnard Weaving: The Women
Backstrap Weavers

Montagnard Weaving: Overview
Backstrap Weavers

Montagnard Weaving: BacksStrap Loom
Backstrap Weavers

Lewis Family Boatbuilders – Harkers Island
Nowhere does North Carolina’s boatbuilding tradition run deeper than Down East on Harkers Island, and the Lewis Family Boat builders personifies that mix of art and work that marks the Harkers Island tradition. Established in 1954 by brothers Houston and Jamie Lewis, the “Lewis Brothers” operation is now run primarily by Jamie and his son James, with help from Houston and James’ son Dereck. They have built a reputation for quality through an inherited sense of design and style. Their generations-old knowledge of how a boat handles in the water and holds itself in the wind and tide is unmatched even on Harkers Island. “This has just been a way to make a living,” is what Jamie Lewis will tell you, but his boats say much more. The Lewis Family’s unspoken commitment to the Harkers Island boatbuilding tradition is evident in every boat constructed with their hands. It has been that commitment that has supported this business for four generations.

Explore the work:

Jamie and Houston Lewis, Boatbuilders of Harkers Island
NCLLP Films, Excerpt from Core.Sounders

Maceo Parker
International recording star, touring artist, composer and arranger Maceo Parker — reputedly the most sampled musician in history — credits his Kinston hometown for providing the inspiration and training that would catapult him to stardom, first as James Brown’s most famous sideman and then as a wildly popular architect of funk backed by his own band.  Parker’s musical story connects the dots between the urban South’s vernacular African American traditional music forms and styles — the blues, gospel, jazz, rhythm and blues of home, church and street — and the disciplined instrumentation taught by professional musicians in segregated Black schools. This native North Carolinian’s artistry, rooted in the phenomenally rich musical heritage of eastern North Carolina, has had an enormous and lasting influence on the popular music of America and of the world beyond our borders.

Explore the work:

Maceo Parker – Shake Everything You’ve Got
Maceo Parker- 2003 [Full Concert] Jazzwoche Burghausen

Maceo Parker – My First Name is Maceo [Full Movie]

Marc Pruett 
Renowned banjo player, songwriter and Haywood County native Marc Reagan Pruett makes a life for himself and his family that reflects his commitment to his mountain region, its music and its people. Marc has a deep reverence for traditional mountain music and his mastery of the five string banjo is second to none. Marc has appeared on many nationally released albums and on a large volume of regional releases. His prolific songwriting, both solo and with numerous partners, has taken his music to the top of the bluegrass charts. He has also released an album of children’s music with Steven Heller. Now performing with Balsam Range, a North Carolina bluegrass group with enormous popularity, Marc Pruett’s musical contributions to the mountain culture of his North Carolina home is reaching a world-wide audience.

Explore the work:

Balsam Range – When I Wake Up To Sleep No More (Sing it Mark!)

Balsam Range – Caney Fork River

Balsam Range and the Crowe Brothers “Foggy Mountain Breakdown”

Tickets Now Available for Awards Program:

The program honoring recipients of the North Carolina Heritage Award is open to the public and is scheduled May 25, 2016, at the A.J. Fletcher Opera House in the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Raleigh. Heritage Award recipients will perform in concert, as well as demonstrate their craft. Tickets are available online at PineCone, Piedmont Council of Traditional Music, at

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Angie Newsome was the executive director and editor of Carolina Public Press. Contact her at (828) 774-5290 or e-mail her at

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