Blog :: 02-2020

The Musical History of Western North Carolina

History of Music in the Blue Ridge Mountains

Sitting on a mountaintop in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina, legend has it that if you listen very carefully, you can still hear the drumbeats of the Cherokee Indians that once rose above these mountains. Prior to the 1800s, the powerfully moving sound created by these Native Americans juddered through the mountains, telling the stories of tribal life. Their community centered on music that led them into ceremonial games, dances, celebrations, healing chants, and daily activities. Their musical notes came from instruments such as homemade drums, hand-carved flutes, and rattles or idiophones made from turtle shells. Their original staccato-like drumbeats, as well as their more elaborate melodies, laid the roots for what was to develop into a land even more abundant with sound, vibration, and song.
The rich history of music in these mountains is varied, to say the least. Once the early settlers from England, Scotland, and Ireland arrived, bringing with them traditional ballads using flutes, fiddles, and pipes, the deep musical sounds that once echoed from mountain to mountain changed. The old Cherokee melodies began to mingle and mix with the new to form something multi-cultural. With the additional influence of enslaved Africans, who brought to the southern states the banjo made from gourds and animal hides, the melodic notes, beats, and tunes blended together to form a bluegrass-country style of music using drums, banjos, mandolins, harmonicas, and fiddles. 
Along with these musical enrichments came clog dancing, known today as “clogging.” Toe-tapping with clogs was a musical instrument on its own but paired with the fiddle, this new style of music became a popular accompaniment to any gathering in the southern region. Again with the confluence of dance styles of the Cherokee and African slaves, a harmonious series of step dances came to eventually form square dancing.
As the music was handed down from generation to generation, the expressive lyrics told stories of the past brought forth by the early settlers’ balladry. Slowly this classic music became more twangy and progressive, leading to country, bluegrass, blues, and sacred sounds. String bands began to form and lively performances of vocal and instrumental compositions could be heard far and wide around campfires, on front porches, at jamborees and festivals, and meeting houses.
The twentieth century brought explosive change to bluegrass and country music with the entrance of Charlie Poole and Bill Monroe to the scene. An old-time banjo player from North Carolina, Charlie Poole formed one of the first well-known country string bands called The North Carolina Ramblers that recorded many popular songs from 1925 to 1930. Monroe performed live on North Carolina radio stations in the mid-30s on his way to forming the Blue Grass Boys, which was dubbed the “Original Bluegrass Band.” Then came Earl Scruggs, who was born in North Carolina in 1924 and joined the Blue Grass Boys along with Lester Flatts in 1945. Scruggs was a chief influencer in bluegrass until his death in 2012 and was a musical hero to folk-bluegrass-rock musician Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead. It was Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs’ classic recording of Foggy Mountain Banjo that influenced so many newcomers to bluegrass.  
Famously called a “walking archive of mountain music,” Mary Jane Queen, a twentieth-century Irish ballad and banjo player from Jackson County, was one of the few local greats to receive a distinguished National Heritage Fellowship in 1993 and, posthumously in 2007, the North Carolina Heritage Award.  Multi-Grammy award-winning Doc Watson, considered the father of southern Appalachian root music with his fingerstyle and flat-picking guitar skills, was another twentieth-century North Carolina trendsetter of bluegrass, folk, country, blues, and gospel music. 
Today, music in these mountains continues to be heard, but with even more fervor. Comedian, actor, writer, producer, and musician, Steve Martin, who played banjo with Scruggs in 2001, is a common fixture in the bluegrass music scene and is known for his impromptu pop-ups at music festivals here in Western North Carolina. A legend of our time, Peter Rowan (www.peter-rowan.com) continues the traditions of bluegrass music along with more regionally recognized bands, including Silly Ridge Round-Up (www.sillyridge.com) and Nitrograss (www.nitrograss.com), who play regularly in our area. 
A culmination of original melodies of the Cherokee, early settlers, and the Africans continue to live on in the sounds of the country, bluegrass, country-rock, and blues music that dominate our mountain area. Whether the music resounds around campfires, on stages, at barn dances, annual festivals, and major concert venues, it is not hard to find great traditional live music throughout the year. •

A Day in a Life at Home with Smart Technology

It is 2:30 pm, a work meeting ran long, and you’re going to be late getting home to greet your 3:00 book club members. In your car, stuck in a mess of traffic, you might normally break a sweat, but instead, you reach out to your assistant to make your current time crunch more manageable. But this isn’t just any assistant, this is Momo ($699), your AI (artificial intelligence) home bot (short for robot). From your car, you verbally connect with Momo and ask it to text your book club friends to let them know you are running a few minutes late. Your friends are instructed to ring the doorbell and Momo will let them in. When you remotely ask Momo to turn off your home security system, Momo intuitively knows from past experience that you also want to turn on the lights, adjust the room temperature, and play your favorite music. Knowing your calendar of events, Momo asks if you want it to turn on the electric kettle to boil water for tea and heat the oven to 250 degrees to warm the scones you made earlier that morning. As your friends arrive and ring the video doorbell, Momo’s voice greets them through the outdoor speaker and using facial recognition technology, unlocks the door. The beauty of Momo’s help is that upon your own arrival, you can breeze in, pop the scones into the preheated oven, pour hot water for tea, and greet your guests with ease. Phew!
After your book club meeting, you need to think about what to make for dinner. Or do you? With the help of Chefling Ultra-Connect, your AI Kitchen Assistant phone app tied to your digital speaker, recipes are suggested to you based upon what you have on hand in your pantry and refrigerator. Aiming to simplify your kitchen operation, Chefling saves you time by inventorying and tracking items in your pantry through a scanning system, sends you reminders if something is expired, offers recipe suggestions, and provides step-by-step hands-free cooking instructions via Amazon’s Alexa or another home digital assistant.
During your cooking prep when your hands are occupied with greasy wrappers or germy chicken packaging, you discard them with a single voice command to your Superhuman voice-activated trashcan ($200) that opens and closes its lid. As you make your Chefling generated recipe, you gather a few ingredients from your sleek indoor Smart Garden ($99+) that cares for your herbs, lettuces, and edibles by providing light, water, and nutrients. 
After cleaning up dinner, you can hardly wait to put your feet up and relax in bed. Before heading to the bedroom, Momo asks if you would like Roomba, your robotic vacuum, to do a quick sweep of the floors. Ah, yes. And, of course, because Momo knows the time you usually go to bed, it has already adjusted the room temperature, closed the blinds, and turned down the lights in your bedroom. All you have left to do is dial in your mattress with a few taps on your Smartphone using the Sleep Number app. Your Sleep Number 360 iLE Smart Bed ($5,000+) offers endless head and foot positions for watching TV, reading, relaxing, or simply sleeping. Features include temperature control settings with a foot-warming option, snore reduction sensors that raise your head, sleep habit monitoring with Sleep IQ, under-the-bed lighting that turns on automatically for nighttime trips to the bathroom, and comfort adjustments to your mattress based upon your personalized sleep patterns. 
Your digital assistant has already locked the doors, set the house alarm, turned off the main lights, turned on the white noise machine, and reminds you of what is on the calendar for tomorrow, checks the weather, and sets your wake up time. Nighty night.
For those who are old enough to remember Rosie the robot maid from the popular 1960s animated sitcom The Jetsons, you might recall the speculation at the time that having a robot of your very own will be the future. Well, we are close. Like Momo, which is still in the prototype phase, artificially intelligent assistants are about to explode into the marketplace. These interfaces aim to make us more productive by operating our homes, running our schedules, learning our habits, and thinking for us. 
Not quite as “smart” as Momo, the current Smart speakers like Amazon’s Echo Dot powered by Alexa ($39+), Google Home using Google Assistant ($49+), or Apple’s Siri-enabled HomePod ($349) will play music, adjust the lights and temperatures in our homes, record calendar notes, teach kids how to spell, make telephone calls, set alarms, and provide us our weather and news of the day. They are not intuitive digital assistants yet, but it is really just a matter of months. Tech Crunch statistics show that one in five U.S. adults have adopted Smart speakers, already reaching 47.3 million users in just two years. This is an incredible leap, considering it took thirteen years for television to be adopted by 50 million users and four years for the Internet to reach that mark. As Amazon, Google, and Apple battle it out for market share and the latest in AI technology, trends show conversational and intuitive AI digital assistants with more bells and whistles will be available very soon. •

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    Elevating the Bar

    Photography

    Scanning through one of those ubiquitous, glossy real estate guides can cause dizzying effects when all you see is agency after agency jockeying for your attention with hundreds, possibly thousands, of residential properties for sale. For you the homebuyer, the challenge is to find the ideal home among so many choices that fit your lifestyle. For you the seller, you want to make your home stand out in the sea of competition and of course, get top dollar for the eventual sale. What was once the path to sell a home—listing with an agent, putting up a “For Sale” sign, getting on the MLS, and listing your home in a real estate guide—is no longer the optimal strategy. In today’s competitive marketplace, it takes two things to sell your home: 1) finding an agency that has a proven track record and is a trustworthy expert in the field and 2) finding an agency that uses advanced marketing practices to attract buyers across the country to your listing, giving you the best opportunity to sell your home.
     

    Welcome to the age of digital marketing
    On the Cashiers-Highlands Plateau here in Western North Carolina, there is one real estate agency that stands apart from its competition, a name recognized nationally and internationally since 2008, Silver Creek Real Estate Group. Winning awards and topping the performance charts in home sales in this predominantly second home market, Silver Creek believes in “building relationships and delivering dreams.” Part of the prestigious Luxury Portfolio International and respected member of the Leading Real Estate Companies of The World, Silver Creek, with its staff of ten brokers and a highly skilled marketing team, has a solid reputation that checks all of the important boxes: name-brand recognition, integrity, broad network, track record, level of service, quick response time, and powerfully effective marketing tools. 
    Silver Creek recently won the coveted award for Best Real Estate Website in the Country by International Property Awards. This is no small feat considering there are over 86,000 agencies in the U.S. according to a 2012 census. Their website is not only enticingly beautiful but smart, too. Adding 3D, or three dimensional, digital home tours to their site, it is now an influential marketing tool that goes far beyond other brokerage agency sites in this area. 3D virtual reality offers a high-performance and convenient online platform for buyers and sellers to view the inside of a home and digital floor plans, empowering them to navigate homes from the comfort of their own living room or while traveling, make immediate inquiries, and quickly share content with friends, family, and designers.
    In addition, with the growth of shopping for homes via smartphones, websites like Silver Creek’s must be mobile-friendly. “Our website, which now showcases our listings using aerial drone footage, high-quality photography, and interior video has significantly ramped up our online presence by 17.25% in six months,” says Zena Lynch, Silver Creek’s Marketing Director. Further marketing with their own lifestyle magazine NC Living, printed collateral, newsletters, and targeted print advertising in local, regional, and national magazines such as The Laurel, Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles, Architectural Digest, and Vanity Fair, Silver Creek corners the buying market.
    “I do believe that name recognition of a broker organization is extremely important,” says happy Silver Creek client Jim Philip. “Repeatedly we see the name Silver Creek Real Estate Group on all kinds of platforms … social media, digital, print.” Lynch concurs by saying that no other local brokerage has their level of name recognition and overwhelming presence on all digital, social, and print channels. “We know people don’t just buy property, they buy lifestyles. Silver Creek creates an emotionally savvy digital landscape to peak buyer curiosity using three mediums of striking visual promotion–world-class photography to spark interest, vibrant video to capture the mood and feel of the property, and 3D virtual home tours to fully engage the buyer.”

    Staggering Statistics
    >  The National Association of Realtors claims 42% of recent buyers looked online at properties for sale as their first step in the home buying process. 
    > Statistics show 3D virtual walk-throughs produce 95% more phone inquiries and 49% more qualified leads.
    >  Viewers retain 95% of a message when they watch it in a video compared to 10% when reading it in print.
    > Homes with aerial footage sold 68 percent faster than homes with standard images.
    According to Lynch, “Decorators love being able to use our digital floor plans to map out furniture, and clients who are unable to travel to the Plateau frequently can view a home instantly using our 3D 'walk-throughs.' After seeing a property in person, clients also find it extremely helpful to later look at our videos to refresh their memories.”
    Tracking buyer research closely, Lynch cites recent statistics, “With the average user spending 88% more time on a website with video and knowing that listings with high-quality video receive 4 times more inquiries, we can not afford to miss exposing our clients’ homes to buyers from around the world.” Speaking of around the world, their membership with Leading Real Estate Companies of the World connects their clients’ properties with real estate professionals in 70 countries across 6 continents. “You never know who might be looking to relocate to the area or buy a second home,” says Lynch.

    Happy Clients
    A visit to Silver Creek’s client testimonials page on NCliving.com exhibits rave reviews about their unparalleled service, amazing brokers, speedy turnaround time, high-tech marketing capabilities, and the ability to get the job done expeditiously. Because of Silver Creek’s adept team of photographers using HDR photography, enrichments to the property’s images can easily be made, like adding fires to fireplaces and enhancing the views out the window. Their talents along with the brokers exceed expectations and are key to getting the home listed and sold quickly. “Experience had told me that only a firm truly committed to the total process, each piece, would be the correct partner to sell our higher-priced home,” says Silver Creek client Andrew Angle. “Silver Creek’s marketing package is by far the ‘best in class’ on the plateau” … as well as “their attention to detail on all other aspects of the process. We made the correct choice in hiring them.”
    Why wouldn’t you call Silver Creek Real Estate Group to sell your home or buy your next one? •

    Rancho La Puerta

    Rancho La Puerta is a magical place where people escape from the mundane to revive their souls and gain a fresh outlook on life. 

    Year after year, the Ranch is voted a top spa destination by both Condé Nast Traveler and Travel and Leisure magazines. As for what sets the Ranch apart from other spas and resorts, it’s difficult to narrow down just one thing … as it is, according to one guest, “something that must be experienced to be explained.” 
         “We provide the true luxury of time and space,” says founder Deborah Szekely, “that which is most lacking in today’s life. Space to breathe freely, to relax and enjoy what will be ‘the longer-living, younger life.’” This unique element at the Ranch, along with its unparalleled staff, vast amenities and healing environment, is what keeps the Ranch’s guests coming back. 
         Often touted as the original “fitness resort” and spa, the fitness program is truly unmatched. Presided over by a staff of more than 20 full-time instructors in-residence, the daily offerings include everything from pilates, cardio-cycling, volleyball, weight training, and most of the expected fitness classes, as well as guided hikes, Feldenkrais, Qi Gong, NIA (Neuromuscular Integrative Action), meditation, and many more. Additionally, the Ranch offers world-renowned cuisine prepared from organic gardens, sublime spa treatments, and plenty of opportunities to recharge your mind and spirit.

    The Philosophy
    Family-owned and operated, the Ranch has provided guests with unparalleled luxury amidst a natural, environmentally-sound setting for nearly 80 years. Founders Edmond and Deborah Szekely started the ranch as a sort of “health camp” where people paid $17.50 to pitch a tent and bathe in the year-round near-perfect climate while learning to live a more holistic life—all without any electricity or running water. And nowadays, as it was from their opening day in June 1940, guest comfort is the staff’s first priority, and they continue to ensure that while taking care of individual needs, it’s done so in a safe, eco-friendly manner that reduces the spa’s environmental impact.
         But the approach to sustainability at the Ranch goes further than the basics, such as simply using refillable water bottles or chemical-free cleaners, as they’ve incorporated technology and installed composting toilets among other things.
         The Ranch’s motto, siempre mejor, means “always better,” and Deborah Szekely believes it also means “always changing;” a philosophy the Ranch reflects from the ground up. 

    The Program
    Typically, guests come to the Ranch for a Saturday to Saturday stay, but shorter stays are available. Throughout the year, there are specialty-themed weeks like family week, chamber music week, detox and cleansing week, yoga week, and more, including educational workshops and executive wellness programs. During the week, there can be up to five different classes at one hour, so there’s truly something for everyone, all day long, and many are sequential in developing a student’s expertise, assuring guests become stronger and more skilled in several disciplines by the end of the week. A typical day could include:
    6 a.m. Meet in the main lounge for one of many hikes which can range from two to seven miles, then head to the dining hall for breakfast. 
    9 a.m. to noon Take a class or two or three: pilates, tennis, H2O, yarn painting, volleyball, sound healing, postural therapy, or TRX before stopping for lunch. 
    1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Take a few more classes—perhaps one on cooking, meditation, drumming, or join a scheduled discussion on mastering your metabolism, brush up on your Spanish skills, or maybe lay by the pool and nap.
    5:30 p.m. Enjoy dinner and conversations with fellow Ranchers, then, if you’re not too tired, watch a movie, learn the art of self-hypnotic techniques, or relax in one of the many lounges with a book.

    The Grounds
    Nestled under the watchful eye of Mt. Kuchumma, Rancho La Puerta offers 4,000 acres of peaceful tranquility, including hiking trails, an organic farm, 32 acres of gardens, several pools, an exquisite spa, state-of-the-art fitness facilities, a salon, dining hall, an intimate library and more. Throughout the Ranch, you’ll find colorful Mexican folk art along with sculptures, paintings, and outdoor areas designed for rest and personal reflection. Take at least one of the morning hikes as the sunrise is unlike anything you have ever seen. Some are more advanced than others, but the Ranch has guides for those who want to fly up the mountainside as well as for those who want to take a more laid back, leisurely stroll. Be sure to pack some warmer clothes you can layer as mornings can prove chilly. 

    The Food
    Mealtimes at the ranch are community-centered and designed to bring people together. Breakfast and lunch are buffet-style and offered during a generous window of time so you can come and go as you please. A sit-down dinner is served at a set time each night and guests are encouraged to meet new people by joining different tables. The cuisine is semi-vegetarian, featuring an abundance of organic fruits and vegetables. Additionally, the freshest-of-the-fresh seafood from the port of Ensenada, Baja California, is brought in daily, allowing Ranch chefs to prepare spectacular seafood dishes five times a week. Many recipe ingredients come fresh-picked, only-hours-old from the Tres Estrellas organic garden, a six-acre working farm located north of the main Ranch area. •

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