Bluegrass Heritage Foundation hosts inaugural North Carolina State Championship

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The Bluegrass Heritage Foundation presented the inaugural North Carolina State Championships for mandolin, banjo, and guitar on Friday, August 20 and Saturday, August 21 at The Brewer’s Kettle outdoor stage in Kernersville, North Carolina. 

Sponsored by The Brewer’s Kettle, Mabe Steel Inc., Celestial Wellness, Elizabeth & Russell Greeson, and Patriot Pretzel Co., the competition exhibited and celebrated the rich musical traditions of North Carolina; awarding the first-place state Champions $500, a commemorative plaque, and a paid entry to attend the 2021 Walnut Valley Festival to compete for the 2021 National Championship. 

Second place was awarded $250 and a commemorative plaque; third place was awarded $100 and a commemorative plaque; fourth and fifth place were both awarded commemorative plaques. 

Administered in the same vein as the National Championship contests, the judges remained off-site and listened to the performances via speaker. To guarantee impartiality, the players were only referred to by their contestant number and were not allowed to speak on stage. 

Each contestant played four instrumental tunes over the course of two rounds with the judges, using a point-system to rate each performance. A third round consisting of one extra song was added to the three-finger banjo competition to break a tie between two competitors. The three individuals to claim the title of State Champion are Elijah Moore of Kernersville for mandolin, Alex Edwards of Salisbury for banjo, and Kyser George of Westfield for guitar. Vincent Bullins of Lawsonville placed in two categories, coming in second for mandolin and third for guitar. 

Here are the contest results: 

Mandolin

  1. Elijah Moore
  2. Vincent Bullins
  3. Ralph McGee
  4. Mark Jones
  5. Brandon Bello

Banjo 

  1. Alex Edwards
  2. Greg Welty
  3. Charles Apple
  4. Mark Wallace

Guitar

  1. Kyser George
  2. Joshua Ray Hudson
  3. Vincent Bullins
  4. Tommy Chandler
  5. Chad Harris

The Bluegrass Heritage Foundation is an organization dedicated to preserving and promoting the tradition of bluegrass music through educational programs, workshops, public performances, and historic preservation efforts. Run by volunteers and based in Texas, the Foundation has expanded its scope to incorporate North Carolina through Lucas A. White, who serves on the Board of Directors for the foundation, and emceed the Championship.  

Lucas gave us an overview of how this event came to be.

“The Bluegrass Heritage Foundation, which was founded by Alan Tompkins in Dallas, Texas, has had a mission for over a decade now to promote bluegrass music! When I was growing up in Texas, the Bluegrass Heritage Foundation hosted events where I always felt welcomed, and where I could play music. I called Alan at the end of February, and asked if there was a way the Foundation could help the North Carolina bluegrass community. After spending time discussing ideas we thought it would be great to raise some money and host a competition certified by the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, Kansas. The Champions won $500, entry into the national competition, and certified state title.

This past weekend we hosted the competition and I’m happy to say North Carolina now has three State Champions who will be competing in the national competition! We expect to do this again next year and are thrilled with the support of the bluegrass community, and musicianship go bluegrass players in North Carolina. With this being the first year we expect next year to grow with even more support. None of this could have been made possible without the support of our sponsors, volunteers, and the competitors who worked hard to earn their title! Congratulations to Elijah Moore, Alex Edwards, and Kyser George! They are the next generation ‘making Bluegrass happen!’”

“Making Bluegrass Happen!” is the slogan for the Bluegrass Heritage Foundation. In addition to their educational and outreach programs, the Foundation also operates the Play It Forward! Instrument Lending Program – a no-cost access to musical instruments such as mandolins, fiddles, banjos, and guitars in order to cultivate literacy and performance skills in young people. 

The Brewer’s Kettle, owned and operated by Andy Kennedy, premiered their new outdoor stage for the inaugural North Carolina State Championships. The Brewer’s Kettle is also the home of a weekly Monday-night bluegrass jam, known as the “Brewgrass Jam,” which was originally started by local musicians Bryan Mabe and Mason Via, the latter having since joined the popular string band Old Crow Medicine Show. The weekly Brewgrass Jam is now co-hosted by Clyde Lewis of Hot Wax and Splinters, and starts every Monday at 7:00 pm. 

Photos by Kirsten White – The Witness Photography 

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