Governor Pat McMory has announced the recipients of the 2014 North Carolina Heritage Award, including two WNC residents, Bobby Hicks, a 10-time Grammy award winning bluegrass fiddler and Susan Morgan Leveille, a weaver and grand-niece of the Penland school founder.
“I want to congratulate this year’s winners and thank them for helping preserve our cultural heritage. Our artistic history is the foundation of the quality of life that attracts so many people to North Carolina,” Governor McCrory said. “I’m grateful to the North Carolina Arts Council, not only for their work in this program, but for ensuring the arts will continue to be a vibrant part of North Carolina’s future.”
Since 1989, the North Carolina Heritage Award has honored the folk artists of the state, deepening awareness of the stories, music, and artistry that comprise our rich and diverse cultural traditions.
Bobby Hicks – While growing up in a musical family in Newton, N.C., Bobby Hicks discovered a talent and a passion for the fiddle. Immersed in the string band traditions of the Western Piedmont, a young Mr. Hicks began playing as one of Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Boys 60 years ago. In his-six year association with the Father of Bluegrass, Mr. Hicks helped pioneer the twin fiddle sound and recorded on some of the classic tunes of the genre. His five-string fiddle song left an indelible mark on the history of bluegrass music and on the generations of fiddlers who have followed in his steps.
Not content with mastery of only one genre, Bobby Hicks left Bill Monroe’s band and spent a decade playing in country and western ensembles throughout the western part of the United States. He returned again to sounds more rooted in his Catawba County upbringing in 1980 when he joined the Ricky Skaggs band. In more than 20 years as a member of that band and its successor Kentucky Thunder, Mr. Hicks played on numerous hit records that resulted in 10 Grammy awards. Since his nominal retirement as a touring musician, Mr. Hicks has resided in Madison County, N.C. From his home there he has helped to run a weekly jam in Marshall and formed a super group with other legends of bluegrass music.
“Master fiddler Bobby Hicks’ knowledge of tradition and his innovative style have been instrumental in shaping the bluegrass sound as we know it today, and his career is an example of why North Carolina plays such a large role in the story of traditional music in America,” said N.C. Folklife Director Sally Peterson.
Susan Morgan Leveille – Susan Morgan Leveille immersed herself in the culture of weaving from a young age. She first sat at a loom to weave at age seven and quickly grew to be a skilled craftsperson. Her family lineage made her destined for equal skill as a teacher, scholar, and advocate of the fiber arts tradition in Western North Carolina.
Ms. Leveille’s great-aunt, Lucy Morgan, founded the Penland School of Craft and devoted herself to reviving weaving traditions in North Carolina’s mountains. Through association with Penland, the Mountain Heritage Center, and numerous schools and colleges, Ms. Leveille has continued to strengthen and disseminate the art of weaving. In the process, she has instructed dozens of both professional and aspiring weavers over the last four decades. Her own work has been widely displayed, and Ms. Leveille has owned a gallery in Dillsboro for many years. Ms. Leveille has devoted a lifetime to the development of the arts and crafts industry in Western North Carolina.
“Weaver Susan Leveille’s legacy extends way beyond her exquisite weaving,” said Peterson. “She has taught countless others to develop artistically and her advocacy efforts for the traditional arts have helped many to supplement their income through craft production.”