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The stories of everyday people: NPR’s StoryCorps coming to Asheville

By Christi Marsico • Staff Writer

Capturing a grandmother’s story of survival, a fiancé’s sigh, or a best friend’s joke during an intimate interview is how StoryCorps allows people to connect with each other.

Recording the stories of our lives with the people we care about allows listeners to experience history, humanity and hope.

StoryCorps is an independent nonprofit project that is on a mission to honor and celebrate lives though listening. The project has partnered with National Public Radio and the American FolkLife Center at the Library of Congress to talk about the questions that matter.

Arriving in Asheville on March 23, the StoryCorps MobileBooth will be camped out by WCQS to collect the stories of Western North Carolina residents as part of its cross-country tour.

Since its creation in 2003, the project has recorded tens of thousands of everyday people interviewed by family or friends.

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Each conversation is recorded on two CDs; one to take home and the other is archived at the Library of Congress.

With millions listening to the award-winning broadcasts on public radio and the Internet, selected stories have been published in the New York Times bestselling book, Listening Is an Act of Love.


In the beginning

StoryCorps was created by David Isay and has become one of the largest oral history projects of its kind. Isay is an award-winning documentary producer and a Macarthur “Genius” Grant recipient.

Isay wants people’s stories to matter and not be forgotten, and since its launch StoryCorps has traveled to every corner of America to record individuals’ stories in sound.

The project has collected interviews in over 100 towns in 48 states.

“By listening closely to one another, we can help illuminate the true character of this nation reminding us all just how precious each day can be and how truly great it is to be alive,” Isay states on the Web site


Asheville action

StoryCorps is one of the biggest events that has happened at WCQS in Asheville, according to General Manager Ed Subkis.

WCQS, found at 88.1, 90.5 and 95.3 FM on the radio, is a listener supported public radio that brings NPR, local news, classical, jazz and traditional folk music of Western North Carolina to its listeners.

“We’ve been trying to get them here for years,” Subkis said in an interview with The Smoky Mountain News.

Subkis added WCQS has been persistent with its requests for StoryCorps and is “very excited” the project will be in Asheville for six weeks.

StoryCorps MobileBooth, which is an Airstream trailer outfitted with a recording studio, will be outside the radio’s studio from March 26 to May 2.

Members from StoryCorps will assist in conducting the recordings with plans to collect 160 interviews while in Western North Carolina.

People interviewing will go into the booth and talk about the big questions of life for about 40 minutes.

StoryCorps is partnering with WCQS, which will air selections of the local stories and create special programs around segments.

Subkis expects a 100 percent turnout for the project, filling every slot available.

“It’s a conversation between people with an intimate relationship who are telling the stories of their lives,” Subkis said.

Subkis believes the StoryCorps will help share the personalities of the individuals of Western North Carolina illuminating the type of stories that come out of casual conversations.

He speculates stories about the Qualla Boundary and those who have “lived the Asheville experience” will be shared.

“We’re very happy it’s here and looking forward to the buzz,” Subkis said.


Sharing in the storytelling

Also sharing in the excitement for this project is the Blue Ridge Heritage Area that supported the StoryCorps’ Asheville residency with a grant.

The Blue Ridge Heritage Area was given three interview slots because of its sponsorship. They focused their choices on individuals who represented cultural themes of the area such as Cherokee, crafts, music and agriculture.

“We could have filled 50 spots with folks who represented this area with great stories to tell,” Penn Dameron, executive director of Blue Ridge Heritage Area said.

“I have had a lot of occasions where I was late because I needed to listen to the rest of a story on StoryCorps,” Dameron said. “They are powerful and great stories, which is a large part of what we do in telling the larger story of this region.”

Joyce Dugan was one among the selected interviews for the Blue Ridge Heritage Area.

Dugan, who served the Qualla Boundary as the first female chief, plans to talk about her years growing up.

“It’s wonderful opportunity to portray people in this region,” Dugan said. “The Blue Ridge and Appalachian area have gotten stereotyped and not portrayed well at times, and this gives us a good chance to shine.”

A seasoned interviewee, Dugan isn’t nervous about be recorded for StoryCorps.

“I pontificate well when I am talking about my heritage and my family. I’m comfortable talking about it, and I have had many opportunities to address it, and I say it like it is,” Dugan said.

For more information about StoryCorps visit

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