Governor Roy Cooper proclaimed 2019 as the Year of Music here in North Carolina, and in Rowan County, musicians have stepped up to make sure this year will not be forgotten. “From bluegrass to blues, from gospel to funk, from beach music to indie and hip hop, North Carolina is the birthplace of many musical styles and iconic performers,” said Gov. Cooper. “The Year of Music celebration not only recognizes North Carolina musicians that are now cultural icons, but the nearly 25,000 North Carolinians who work in music occupations.”

From Salisbury’s own professional symphony orchestra, to the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame, to Sunday afternoon jazz in Veterans Park, to open mic nights, Rowan County is a plethora of musical talent and lyrical geniuses. Musicians here are biting at the bit for an opportunity to secure a gig at nearly every local venue, and those who do not get a spot will simply pull out their instruments and perform wherever they land.


Rising to the Occasion

For Ashley Honbarrier, the Year of Music kicked off in January when the newly renovated Beacon Hall hosted renowned acoustic blues guitarist, singer, songwriter and educator, Scott Ainslie, in the newly renovated Salisbury High School Auditorium. As Ashley explained, “This show was different for me as I’m typically used to using bars, parking lots, or fields as venues. Jody Blackwell had arranged this show for the newly renovated Salisbury High School Auditorium. We hosted blues legend, Scott Ainslie, and also held a Master Guitar workshop the morning after the concert. It was magical.”


Scott Ainslie at Beacon Hall in January 2019

Scott Ainslie at Beacon Hall in January 2019


Kannapolis’ summer concerts and events are something residents look forward to every year. The summer concert series announcement in March included country superstars, Joe Nicholas and Chase Bryant; Rick Springfield; Morris Day; Sawyer Brown; Too MUCH Sylvia; the Charlotte Symphony; and tribute bands, Heart Breaker and On the Border. These free concerts are held May-August in Village Park. For a full concert and event calendar, click here.

At “Thursdays on Main” from May to August in Veterans Park, guests can hear music from The Tonez, Blackwater Rhythm & Blues Band, Band of Oz, and The Embers.


Charlotte Symphony at Village Park in Kannapolis

Charlotte Symphony at Village Park in Kannapolis


By April, as warm weather began to roll in, musicians seemed to be popping up everywhere we looked, beginning with festivals like Earth Day Jam, an outdoor festival that bridges music and environmental awareness and benefits Happy Roots. This fairly new festival featured a whopping 12 musicians! Despite severe weather and a tornado watch that resulted in relocating the event indoors, local bands Big Break, Mama Tried, and No. 9 Coal graced the stage, as well as national touring acts.


Earth Day Jam

Earth Day Jam


Later, Rowan County residents were treated to a variety of pop-up performances as various entertainers rolled through town on their way to MerleFest. In fact, the rising Wilkesboro, NC, based band, Trailblazers, put on a wonderful show right on the sidewalk in front of Pottery 101, surprising residents and visitors alike!

By May, local venues including Lee Street Theatre, Keppel Auditorium at Catawba College, Village Park in Kannapolis, and nearly every local brewery, winery, and event space throughout the county were filling the streets with tunes. At Veterans Park in Kannapolis, Sunday afternoon jazz concerts returned with the relaxing sounds from The Brian Burton Trio, Toni Tupponce Trio, Andre Ferreri & Dawn Anthony, and Buff Dillard Music Quartet.

In June, the Salisbury Symphony Orchestra performed its annual community concert, Pops at the Post, and singer/songwriters throughout the county treated residents to a wide variety of newly recorded songs. In the southernmost part of the county, residents were treated to a wide variety of musical talent at venues including Village Park, Veterans Park in Kannapolis, and the Kannapolis Intimidators Stadium. Fortunately, if you missed any of these performances, the best is yet to come!


2019 Pops at the Post

2019 Pops at the Post


 Mark Your Calendars

Coming up in July, the annual Chickweed Festival returns to showcase female artists, residents, and creative types in a festival-like performance that benefits victims of domestic violence. Chickweed: A Celebration of Indestructible Women takes place on July 20 at the F&M Trolley Barn in downtown Salisbury and features a wide variety of female artists from across the region, though many are based here in Rowan. This event has been so popular that Al Heggins, mayor of Salisbury, has declared the entire week of the event “Chickweed Week” for six of the years that it has operated! This year’s lineup is a carefully woven tapestry of musical acts including Courtney Puckett, Shannon Lee, Laura Vella, and The Jubilee Community Choir.


Chickweed Festival

Chickweed Festival set for Saturday, July 20 at the F&M Trolley Barn in downtown Salisbury.


The momentum continues into August as residents and visitors get the opportunity to experience something brand new … well sort of. The Carolina Bohemian Jam is a groovy, three-day event at the Rowan County Fairgrounds set for Au. 16-18, 2019. It is a self-proclaimed “ultimate hippie tribute” and will commemorate the era of music that would influence generations to come. Live music on multiple stages will feature songs from the 1960s and 1970s by performers such as Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and more!

Carolina Bohemian Jam organizers partnered with downtown Salisbury’s, Waterworks Visual Arts Center, to display works of art at the festival, then in the gallery from September 2019-February 2020.

Purchase tickets here and learn about their cosmic camping options here.


Carolina Bohemian Jam

Carolina Bohemian Jam set for August 16-18 at the Rowan County Fairgrounds.


The cooler September weather will usher in even more musical talent with the Stand Together Music Festival in China Grove on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2019. Darrell Harwood, Red Dirt Revival, Too MUCH Sylvia, Carmen Tate, and Soakin’ Wet will all take the stage to help raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Stay tuned for more details!


2017 Stand Together Music Festival

2017 Stand Together Music Festival. Photo credit: Optical Explosion Images by Terie


By October, we’ll gather together at the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame for the 2019 Induction Ceremony. One tour through the N.C. Music Hall of Fame and you’ll be covered in goosebumps.  Surrounded by such iconic memorabilia, one cannot help but to feel inspired by the musical heritage of our great state. This year’s Induction Ceremony takes place ​on Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019 at the historic Gem Theatre in​ ​Kannapolis ​. As stated on the event page, “inductions are a wonderful display of North Carolina’s legendary talent in a historical ceremony where each will be introduced as the newest members of the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame.” This year’s 2019 Class of Inductees are: Elizabeth Cotten, Merle Watson, Mitch Easter, ​ ​9th Wonder​, and​ ​Big Daddy Kane​.


Avett Brothers at the 2016 Induction Ceremony

Avett Brothers at the 2016 Induction Ceremony. Photo credit: Daniel Coston


Gov. Cooper cast a net and Rowan County musicians enthusiastically took the bait. Whether they’re recording new songs in C.J. Peters’ psychedelic attic studio, strumming for tips on the corner of Innes and Main, or gracing one of the many stages throughout town, musicians here are coming out in droves to fill our ears with song.

Come on out and celebrate the Year of Music by supporting our local musicians.

As Plato put it, “Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.”