For Appalachian dance expert, instructor and caller Rodney Sutton, it has been a learning curve for him after taking over the executive directorship of Joe Shannon’s Mountain Home Music series in Boone four years ago.
Joe Shannon created an exceptional arts organization in the High Country in the 1990s that presented the area’s culture in a positive light. After Shannon lost his battle with cancer in 2014, the search began to find a replacement, and there were not many who wanted to accept that responsibility. Once Sutton was hired, however, Mountain Home Music has found new life in recent years as the series produces more than 20 shows a year.
On Friday, Dec. 14, Joe Shannon’s Mountain Home Music Series will host its annual Appalachian Christmas concert at Grace Lutheran Church in Boone.
This year, the Appalachian Christmas show will feature an all-star cast of amazing musicians who have performed at different times during the 2018 Mountain Home Music series run.
While the 7:30 p.m. show is free and considered a gift back to the community that has supported Mountain Home Music for more than 20 years, donations are suggested, which will go directly to Hospitality House and Santa’s Toy Box charities.
More information on the Appalachian Christmas concert on Friday evening can be found on our Nightlife Listings, page 13B.
Replacing Shannon was not easy shoes to fill for Sutton, yet filling shoes has been a passion for the Tar Heel State native for most of his life.
Sutton was one of the early members of the Green Grass Cloggers dance troupe after the team was formed more than 40 years ago. Sutton still performs with the group every year, calls dances around the region and instructs students in flat foot dancing and clogging at Eastern Tennessee State University.
When not hosting a Mountain Home Music concert, you may see Sutton at any of many old-time music festivals found in the Southeast, dancing on a square piece of wood to the live music being played in the campgrounds. He learned how to dance at a very young age.
“I was raised in eastern North Carolina in Seven Springs, about half way in-between Raleigh and the coast near the Neuse River,” Rodney Sutton said. “From the time I could walk, I always wanted to dance. I was the only one of my male cousins that liked to dance and my earliest memories of it are when I was 4 or 5 years old. I would go to big circle dances, or square dances, with my Mama. I can still remember dancing with what I thought at that time were old women, and when I swung them around, I would come up to their mid-sections and it would always smell like baby powder and perfume.”
When Sutton was considered for the executive directorship of Mountain Home Music four and a half years ago, he wasn’t sure if he would be a good fit.
“I told the board of Mountain Home Music right off the bat that I wasn’t a good fund raiser, as in I don’t have a lot of money nor do I know people with money. I rarely rub elbows with people with a lot of money and I don’t really know how to ask them to donate their money,” Sutton said. “I had known a lot of musicians who had played on the Mountain Home Series over the years. But, Joe Shannon and I never met in person. We emailed each other a couple of times and by the time we talked about talking on the phone; he had moved to Florida and died soon after. I was pretty intimidated by the job at first, but when I came in to meet the board, they were happy to see me. Joe had personally asked four or five of his friends that had played with him in the series to take it over, but most of them played music on their own and couldn’t be committed to that many concerts during the year.”
Now, five seasons in with Mountain Home Music, Sutton has found his footing and is working hard to expand the audience for the series. He has also become better at fundraising, as there is always a need for those who wish to donate to a great organization that is keeping the music of these mountains alive and flourishing.
For those who might be interested in becoming a sponsor with Mountain Home Music, a donation of $250 will get you started, and higher donations are accepted as well. It is a labor of love for this unique nonprofit organization, and it is a way to make your mark on a special cultural experience.
There is also an outreach in progress for younger folks who may want to be involved with the Mountain Home Music organization, from becoming a member of the board to helping with the concerts.
More information can be found at mountainhomemusic.com.
“This will be the 22nd year for the Appalachian Christmas show,” Sutton said. “On Friday, we will feature David Johnson, Cecil Gurganus and Mary Greene — three musicians that were super close friends with Joe Shannon and have been involved with Mountain Home Music almost since the very beginning. The Silver String Dulcimer Band will play as well. David will also be bringing in some special guests on Friday. Matthew Weaver and guitar great Clay Lunsford will also be there to play as will Connie Woolard and Maggie Sparks of The Mountain Laurels. Also joining us will be Kay Crouch of the Strictly Clean and Decent Band, so it should be a lot of fun.”