Lush greenery, pleasant temperatures, mountain splendor and a highly regarded, multi-disciplinary arts festival named one of the Top 20 Events in the Southeast — the hallmarks of a High Country summer.
The latter — Appalachian State University’s An Appalachian Summer Festival — returns for its 31st season, packing a year’s worth of entertainment into roughly one month.
Tickets go on sale Friday, April 24, for a lineup that includes pop legends The Beach Boys, acoustic icon David Grisman, country star Kacey Musgraves, Grammy-winning vocalist Lisa Fischer, Broadway luminary Brian Stokes Mitchell and much more.
“We’re excited about this year’s programming mix, which features the blend of artistic disciplines that has always defined App Summer,” said Denise Ringler, director of ASU’s Office of Arts & Cultural Programs. “The festival strives to present a balance of artists who are well-known, along with names that may be new or unfamiliar to our audiences, but who are sure to provide memorable experiences.”
Anna Gaugert, director of marketing and public relations, agrees.
“A lot of these performers have been in the business forever and have really perfected their talent and business in general,” she said. “I think they’re going to bring a level of professionalism this year that will just wow the audience.”
As an example, she mentioned Brian Stokes Mitchell, who will perform “An Evening of Broadway” with the Winston-Salem Symphony on Saturday, July 11, at the Schaefer Center.
“He has been on Broadway forever, on film, television, and The New York Times called him ‘the last leading man on Broadway,’” Gaugert said.
David Grisman is another case in point. Nicknamed “Dawg” by a close friend, the late Jerry Garcia, Grisman developed “Dawg Music,” a unique fusion of Americana and acoustic jazz that he’ll bring to the Schaefer stage on Friday, July 17, with the David Grisman Sextet.
“He’s such a pioneer for his kind of music,” Gaugert said. “He’s a pioneer in not only bluegrass, but he has that Grateful Dead connection, so I think he can connect with younger audiences, as well as older audiences who knew him back in the day.”
Opening for Grisman and likely joining him for some numbers is the Bryan Sutton Band, led by IBMA Guitarist of the Year and Asheville native Bryan Sutton.
Living legends The Beach Boys take the Holmes Center stage Saturday, July 18, “so it’s going to be a fun time in there,” Gaugert said.
The band’s current makeup includes founding member Mike Love and Beach Boys veteran Bruce Johnston, and Gaugert said the concert would help celebrate the band’s 50th anniversary of making timeless music.
“To continue the theme of having really great musicians, we’ll also have Lisa Fischer,” Gaugert said.
Vocalist and songwriter Fischer will perform Thursday, July 23, at the Schaefer Center. Although she’s performed as a back-up singer for the likes of The Rolling Stones, Tina Turner, Sting and Luther Vandross, Fischer also launched a celebrated solo career, even taking home a Grammy for Best Female R&B Performance for her hit single, “How Can I Ease the Pain.”
Postmodern Jukebox will make its App Summer debut on Friday, July 31, at the Schaefer Center. The band, essentially a swing orchestra, specializes in adapting modern pop into swing era classics.
“Scott Bradlee, the bandleader, said he wants to hear a song a certain way, and he’s going to do it that way,” Gaugert said.
Examples include Miley Cyrus’s “We Can’t Stop” done doo-wop style, a jazzy version of Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe,” a vintage take on M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes” and more, available online at www.youtube.com/user/ScottBradleeLovesYa.
Pop country star Kacey Musgraves will kick off the summer festival Saturday, June 27, at Kidd Brewer Stadium for the festival’s fan-favorite Outdoor Fireworks Concert.
“She’s really fun,” Gaugert said. “She sang with Loretta Lynn at last year’s CMAs and is a true country singer, writing her songs and treasuring the country gold kind of artists. But then she’s also really new and has good, fresh ideas. She won a Grammy for her first album, and her second album is coming out fairly soon.
“As always, the outdoor concerts are really fun, and it’s going to bring a good element to the season.
Other festival highlights include Parsons Dance on July 10 and Boone-based In/Visible Theatre’s production of “Without Words” July 24 and 25.
“With In/Visible Theatre, we thought we’d go local this year,” Gaugert said. “The play is about someone born deaf who never learned sign language and has lived on the fringes of society because of this. An interpreter finds him and tries to help him learn how to communicate. So, In/Visible will use dance, drama, sound and even silence as a way to tell the story.”
As always, the festival features a classic music component, with performances from the Broyhill Chamber Ensemble and Eastern Festival Orchestra with pianist Awadagin Pratt and harpist Amber Carpenter.
Visual arts programming returns to the Turchin Center for the Visual Arts, while the 29th Rosen Outdoor Sculpture Walk will hit campus. In addition, the festival has expanded its annual Global Film Series.
According to Ringler, whether it’s in a concert hall, under a firework-lit sky or in an art gallery, Appalachian Summer’s offerings are a perfect match for the festival’s audience.
“Performing and visual artists seek out the High Country,” she said, “not only because it’s one of the most beautiful places on Earth, but because of the wonderful mix of residents and visitors that extends such a warm and enthusiastic welcome to them each summer.”