Return to An Appalachian Summer Festival

Lineup includes Beach Boys, David Grisman, Kacey Musgraves, Lisa Fischer and more

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

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.”


Ticket prices range between $5 and $50 and are available by visiting or by calling the Schaefer Center box office at (828) 262-4046. For more information, visit

MusicFest ‘N Sugar Grove

One of the best little music festivals ‘n the country is the Doc and Rosa Lee Watson MusicFest ‘n Sugar Grove. Held on the grounds of the historic Cove Creek High School in western Watauga County, this two-day festival features the best in local, regional and national performers from the worlds of bluegrass, country, old-time and folk music.

This year’s MusicFest will be held on Friday and Saturday, July 11 and 12, with two outdoor stages plus an inside “Pickin’ Parlor” stage in the Cove Creek School.

Performers include Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, Willie Watson, the Sons of Bluegrass, Chatham County Line, the Cockman Family, Mark Schimick’s Sassagrass Reunion, Charles Welch, the Lost Ridge Band, Strictly Strings, Carolina Crossing, the ETSU Pride Band, Upright and Breathing, Andy Ferrell and Oncoming Train, the New River Boys, the Snyder Family Band, and the White Top Mountain Band.

The festival will feature one-of-a-kind special musical events such as the songwriters showcase, open jams and Charles Welch’s Tribute to Doc Watson (Saturday night).

The festival also features a wide array of food and craft vendors, a playground for children, and a chance to visit the Doc and Merle Watson Folk Arts Museum inside the Cove Creek High School. The museum features photos, musical instruments and even Grammy Awards from Doc Watson’s storied career.

Two-day reserved seating tickets are $55. Friday tickets are $20 and Saturday tickets are $25.

For more information, visit or call (828) 297-2200.

Live Music

We don’t mean to brag, but we’re a little famous for our live music up in the High Country. After all, the region spawned Arthel “Doc” Watson, a multi-Grammy Award winning musician and perhaps the greatest flat-picking guitarist who ever lived.

Doc’s tradition lives on with live music taking place all over the place in the High Country, an amazing amount of it free for the listening.

The Town of Boone and the Jones House Community Center hosts a weekly Music on the Lawn event from June through October. Each Friday, you will hear the finest in local and regional music just by plopping down a lawn chair on the front lawn of the Jones House and pointing it at the front porch.

Another great event that kicks off the weekend are the weekly outdoor concerts at the Inn at Ragged Gardens in Blowing Rock. Each Friday, bands such as Soul Benefactor and the Harris Brothers lay down some mean grooves as music lovers dance on the lawn or treat themselves to drinks and appetizers from the Best Cellar.

Dozens of restaurants in the High Country feature live music, some of it by local acts, some of it by acts currently touring the country. If you are into the late night music scene, check out the Boone Saloon or Murphy’s in Boone, or perhaps Canyons of the Blue Ridge in Blowing Rock.

Other restaurants feature earlier, “dining hours” music, such as Boondocks in West Jefferson.

And don’t forget, Appalachian State University has a world-class music program and is always scheduling jazz shows, classical concerts and popular music shows at Broyhill Recital Hall, the Schaefer Center for the Performing Arts and other venues.


In North Carolina, bars are required by law to sell food. So you won’t find any real stand alone watering holes. What you will find, however, are lots of great restaurants that feature bars. Some of them, such as Foggy Rock Eatery and Pub in Blowing Rock and The Rock in Boone, could be classified as sports bars because of the number of big screen TVs, but, again, they all serve food.

Longtime visitors to the High Country will remember that there was a time when some towns such as Boone didn’t serve alcohol at all, or served only beer and wine. Times change, and now nearly every town serves beer, wine and liquor by the drink. Ashe, Avery and Watauga counties also have their own state-run ABC Stores, where customers can buy bottles of their favorite liquors.

The drinking age in North Carolina is 21 years for all alcoholic beverages, and bars and restaurants here are very serious about not serving underage customers. So be sure to bring your driver’s license or other official form of ID.

Symphony by the Lake

If you like classical music, picnics and fireworks, Chetola Resort in Blowing Rock has just the event for you.

Presented by the Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce, the annual Symphony by the Lake event at Chetola Resort is a midsummer tradition that attracts music lovers from all over.

For the past few years, the Symphony by the Lake has featured Kingsport, Tennessee’s the Symphony of the Mountains, under the direction of conductor Cornelia Laemmli. The program includes classical favorites, movie themes, popular instrumentals and patriotic tunes. On occasion, the concert will feature world premieres written by local composers and guest vocalists.

The Symphony by the Lake event is also a chance to meet with local companies and organizations who set up booths and host parties with extravagant themes, ornate decorations, and delicious food.

Timberlake’s Restaurant at Chetola Resort will set up an outdoor dining area where guests can purchase sandwiches and other picnic food, or you can bring in your own cooler.

The music begins around 6 p.m. and the fireworks start after the concert. For more information, call (828) 295-7851.

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BOONE — A national Scottish fiddle champion is coming to the High Country Saturday, Nov. 24, for Joe Shannon’s Mountain Home Music’s 25th anniversary Celtic Christmas Concert.

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The 2018-19 season of “The Schaefer Center Presents …” performance series, presented by Appalachian State University’s Office of Arts and Cultural Programs, offers students, faculty, staff and the community a diverse array of music, theatre and dance designed to enrich the cultural landscape…

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BOONE — Strictly Strings is returning to Joe Shannon’s Mountain Home Music’s “Pay As You Exit” Matinees to help celebrate the 25th Silver Anniversary of this popular educational nonprofit’s concert series.

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BOONE — With sounds of fiddles, banjos and guitars frequently resonating beyond the walls, the Jones House Cultural and Community Center in downtown Boone has become a hub for old-time and American roots music. In June and July, the Jones House continues to provide a focal point for pickers …

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It’s hard to imagine a more idyllic setting for a summer music series than Valle Crucis Community Park. With its walking trails, picnic areas and access to the Watauga River, it truly is one of the most beautiful sites in the Appalachian Mountains.

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For grandeur, breathtaking mountain views and natural history, it’s hard to beat the Blowing Rock tourist attraction, located near the Watauga County/Caldwell County line just south of Blowing Rock.

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BOONE — Joe Shannon’s Mountain Home Music kicks off its 25th anniversary concert season with a Saint Patrick’s Day weekend celebration featuring the Celti-lachian music of The Mountain Laurels. The concert will be held at 7:30 p.m. at the Harvest House Performing Arts Venue in Boone on Frida…

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BOONE — Master mountain musician, Riley Baugus, comes to the Jones House March 4, for an afternoon old-time banjo master class and an evening performance.

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BOONE — Several noted ballad singers and scholars come to the Jones House Cultural and Community Center Sunday, Nov. 19, to swap songs and present a concert open to the public.

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GRASSY CREEK — The 15th annual New River Blues Festival, held each year on Labor Day weekend, returns to the High Country on Sunday, Sept. 3, at the River House Inn.

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BOONE — Joe Shannon’s Mountain Home Music invites the public to a rousing Labor Day weekend celebration, “Songs of the Working Man and Woman,” featuring Dixie Dawn. The concert will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 2, at the Harvest House Performing Arts Venue in Boone.

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BLOWING ROCK — April Verch and Joe Newberry will be featured in a Joe Shannon’s Mountain Home Music concert, “Traditional Music – From Canada to the Ozarks,” at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 29, at the Blowing Rock School Auditorium. Doors open at 7 p.m. 

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BLOWING ROCK — For the past three decades, Blowing Rock’s Symphony by the Lake at Chetola Resort has been one of the “must-attend” events of the summer season.

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BANNER ELK — Have you ever wanted to attend a Broadway musical? The world-famous “Blue Note Jazz Club” in New York City? A Las Vegas show? An opera at the Tokyo Opera House? The finals of “Americas Got Talent” television show? The Winter Olympics in Vancouver?

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George Gershwin’s famous lyrics, “Summertime, and the livin’ is easy,” set a laid back tone for the season. Similarly, the Music on the Lawn series at the Inn at Ragged Gardens in Blowing Rock creates a relaxed atmosphere for the beginning of summer weekends.

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It’s hard to imagine a more idyllic setting for a summer music series than Valle Crucis Community Park. With its walking trails, picnic areas and access to the Watauga River, it truly is one of the most beautiful sites in the Appalachian Mountains.

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BOONE — At 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 4, the Nile Project will perform in the Schaefer Center for the Performing Arts at Appalachian State University.

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BOONE — The musical sounds of Trinidad and Tobago are coming to the High Country for a massive steel drum concert put on by Appalachian State University students.

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BOONE — The 2017 Winter/Spring Indoor Concerts at the Jones House series will begin on Feb. 18 with the Piney Woods Boys from Raleigh-Durham, and the rest of the lineup will include Zoe & Cloyd, The Corklickers, Joel Savoy & Kelli Jones-Savoy, The Freighthoppers, Scott Freeman & …

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BLOWING ROCK — One of the High Country’s most popular trios, Strictly Clean and Decent, is bringing its show “Wit and Wisdom” to Joe Shannon’s Mountain Home Music Fall Concert Series on Saturday, Oct. 8.

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The Schaefer Center for Performing Arts on the Appalachian State University campus continues to bring well-known acts from around the world to the small town of Boone.

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While many of the High Country’s music offerings are curtailed by the coming winter, the best mountain music has to offer can still be heard — no matter the temperature — at Joe Shannon’s Mountain Home Music concert series.

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After 10 years of tunes at the Appalachian Meeting Hall in Foscoe, one of the High Country’s best kept secrets — the Red, White and Bluegrass Jam — has relocated to the Harvest House in Boone.

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BLOWING ROCK — The Whitetop Mountain Band will be making a rare High Country appearance for Joe Shannon’s Mountain Home Music Concerts, this Saturday, Aug. 27 at the First Baptist Church of Blowing Rock.

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