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That mountain sound: 'An Appalachian Evening' celebrates 25 years

The Stecoah Valley Center is an arts and cultural hub for the tightly knit mountain community. Its ‘An Appalachian Evening’ live music series turns 25 years old in 2024. The building itself was constructed as a schoolhouse in 1926. File photos The Stecoah Valley Center is an arts and cultural hub for the tightly knit mountain community. Its ‘An Appalachian Evening’ live music series turns 25 years old in 2024. The building itself was constructed as a schoolhouse in 1926. File photos

Celebrating a quarter-century this coming summer, the “An Appalachian Evening” live music series at the Stecoah Valley Cultural Arts Center in Robbinsville brings in some of the biggest names in bluegrass, old-time, mountain and Americana music.  

“I think about the quality of the entertainment that we’ve been able to provide over the 25 years we’ve been doing this,” said Jennifer West, executive director of the SVCAC. “And it came from the vision of our original founding members of this organization, this vision they had for the center and what it could be for the community.” 

The series is a “who’s who,” with the likes of Balsam Range, The Steeldrivers, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver and Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen, among countless others, gracing the stage over the years.

“There’s a purposeful method of looking at who’s hot on the scene,” West said. “Not only in bluegrass, but out there in other music scenes that fit into what we do here — who’s popular and who’s up-and-coming.” 

With a capacity of just about 320 people, the history of the stage is as long and varied as the list of musicians that stepped in front of the microphone. Though the original schoolhouse building was constructed in 1926, the auditorium stage played host to some of biggest names in bluegrass in the 1940s and 1950s. 

Legendary acts like Bill Monroe & The Blue Grass Boys, The Carter Family, Flatt & Scruggs, Chet Atkins and more performed in the auditorium for locals and visitors alike. And a good number of those who played there also appeared on the popular “Mid-Day Merry Go Round” radio program on WNOX in nearby Knoxville, Tennessee.

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ae Stecoah Dale Ann Bradley

Dale Ann Bradley. File photo

The 2024 installment will kick off with Dale Ann Bradley June 29, with other rising strings acts (Pretty Little Goat), blues legends (Mac Arbold & Plate Full O’Blues) and acoustic icons (Kruger Brothers) also rolling into the center. Balsam Range will return to tie a bow on the season as the last performance Aug. 31.

“Over the years, our lineup has been really strong, featuring great local/regional musicians and people who have gone up the ranks of the bluegrass world,” West said. “And we’ve been able to keep that [caliber of artists] up. There’s also a strong following of people who come to the concerts who just love this auditorium.” 

ae Stecoah Valley Center vintage

The center came about when the school closed in 1994 due to district consolidation. The massive building sat empty and abandoned for several years before Graham County took it over and launched the nonprofit organization in 1996 that became the Stecoah Valley Cultural Arts Center.

“It was a group of citizens that formed the nonprofit in order to create the art center, but part of our mission is to keep the building intact as the center of the community,” West said. “It’s this twofold project to promote Appalachian culture and music and to keep this building alive.”

Nowadays, the center is a 10-acre property focusing on art, nature, history and music through year-round programming and a keen sense of community outreach.

“I really love interacting with the guests that we have on a day-to-day basis and those who come on concert nights,” West said. “You come here and you can’t believe in this little neck of Graham County that there’s this little gem of a place — it has just a great vibe.” 

And, in just two years, the old schoolhouse building itself will be having its 100th anniversary, with West and her colleagues not only already thinking about that milestone, but also what lies ahead for the center itself.

ae Stecoah Valley Center Mic

“It is a very big milestone,” West said. “We just want to keep this whole process going, figuring out how we can grow the center, keep it alive and bring more people in to experience what we’ve got here.” 

With the lineup for “An Appalachian Evening” now released and tickets available for purchase, West is looking forward to once again walking into an auditorium buzzing with the energy of a community coming together — this sacred two-way interaction of artistic performance and cultural appreciation. 

“There’s not a bad seat in the house. My favorite place to sit is actually at the very back of the auditorium up against the wall,” West said. “Even back there, you can see the whole view of the auditorium and the performers onstage — it’s such a beautiful, intimate setting.”

Want to go?

The “An Appalachian Evening” series will return to the Stecoah Valley Cultural Arts Center in Robbinsville.  

The annual summer concert series offers an ever-changing schedule of bluegrass, folk and old-time mountain music by award-winning artists — quality entertainment for the entire family.  

Rich in cultural heritage, the series continues to be a favorite with locals and visitors alike. All concerts will begin at 7:30 p.m. in the air-conditioned Lynn L. Shields Auditorium.

Performers include Dale Ann Bradley (June 29), Pretty Little Goat (July 6), Rick Faris (July 13), Jeff Little Trio (July 20), Mac Arnold & Plate Full O’Blues (July 27), Mean Mary (Aug. 3), Seth Mulder & Midnight Run (Aug. 10), Kruger Brothers (Aug. 17), Samantha Snyder (Aug. 24) and Balsam Range (Aug. 31).

For more information and/or to purchase tickets, call 828.479.3364, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or go to

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