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JCVB Blog

The Johnston County Visitors Bureau BLOG is published weekly with news and feature articles on visiting the county.

Rebekah Todd Brings the Hustle in New Album

Rebekah Todd Brings the Hustle in New Album

UPDATE: Since I spoke with her last, back in 2015, Rebekah Todd has been hard at work hustling her way to new music on a full-length studio album (her second). She has been meeting with people in the industry, executing a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund the making of her album, writing, recording, and producing said album, planning an album release tour, and then after all that working to actually release the album. That’s where I found her when I reached out to catch-up.Rebekah Todd Drops New Single Called Hustle

I like to keep up with our Johnston County talent. There are crazy amazing people from this area making waves in all sorts of artistic mediums. Rebekah was born and raised in Benson, but she calls Wilmington home now. And she swears that even if Crooked Lines is a huge hit (it will be) she’s not feeling the NYC, Nasheville, or LA vibe. Maybe we’ll keep this North Carolina gem right here in North Carolina. Crooked Lines will debut on the 17th of February, only 9 weeks away. If you want a taste of what the album will sound like you can listen to the single “Hustle”, released today exclusively on Spotify. You can also pre-order the album on iTunes or Amazon.

If you want to hear Rebekah live – she often tours under Rebekah Todd and The Odyssey because that’s the name of her full band – stay tuned to her website and the soon to be released dates for that album release tour I spoke of above. The closest she’ll come to JoCo is The Pour House in Raleigh. Her live shows are much like her new album – groovy and complex.

I asked her how she was feeling post-production and pre-release, “It’s been a blur of a year, but the album sounds amazing! I’m so pleased with it!” If “Hustle” is any indication, this album is going to take Rebekah places, and I couldn’t be happier for her. This musical soul has a salt of the earth quality thanks to her raising, one that the music industry could use more of. For example, for the top donors to her Kickstarter campaign she hand-crafted works of art to send them, thanking them for their support. Stay classy Rebekah, and keep hustling.


Originally posted July 10th, 2015

As I move through the dim atmosphere of the bar I look around at the sparse crowd of early arrivals - it's barely 9:30PM - I know who I am looking for but not sure if I'll know when I find her. Some people look different in person than what you image from promo pictures and YouTube videos. But, as I look to my right and find Rebekah Todd sitting at a booth with her band I am pleased to find that she looks exactly as you imagine her. The long cotton fringe sleeveless vest and the brown wool felt panama-esque hat on her head make her look like the love child of Stevie Nicks and Patti Smith. Appropriate given her musical chops.

Though many musicians can seem or actually are aloof, Rebekah is instantly warm and friendly while introducing me to her band and making me feel welcome in their circle. The noise of the bar fades to the background while we chat about music, muses, and Johnston County. For those of you not in the know, Rebekah Todd is from Benson, NC where she grew-up, in her own words, weird, "I was constantly trying to find ways to channel this creative energy I had." She admits that she had a few close friends but often preferred being alone with her latest project - painting, knitting, and papermaking to name a few. She recalls a funny story of using her mom's kitchen blenders in order to shred paper, adding water to make pulp, "she found me and her kitchen in a mess and was not any less mad when I simply explained that I was making my own paper".

It was this level of intense creativity that lead Rebekah to song-writing. She had been singing her whole life and writing music felt like an extension of that. It was her father who suggested a musical instrument, "he had a really good point," she says, "about having to rely on others to make the music, having to find a band or a partner. If I could play an instrument then I could be a singular act if I wanted to, it would lend me flexibility and autonomy. So he bought me a guitar." She was 16 at the time and her Dad's intuition paid off. By the time she went to college at East Carolina University she was able to make extra money playing gigs at local businesses - just her and her guitar.

While having an amazing repertoire of original songs - more on that in a minute - Rebekah's live shows include an impressive collection of covers. Songs like Superstition, and Rhiannon which is a tie for her favorite cover (the other favorite being The Thrill is Gone). I asked what sort of music had an early influence on her own sound, "classic rock, my Dad listened to a lot of Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. I also love soul, like Aretha Franklin, so my own style is sort of a blend of rock, soul, and folk."

 I ask her about her newest album Roots Bury Deep, out February of last year, and how writing is going for the next album, "I wish I could be like those artists who are disciplined enough to write an hour every day, but I have to wait until I really feel it. That might mean going days without anything and then spending hours writing when the right feeling and inspiration comes over me."

What was her favorite song off the last album? "Wishing Well is very meaningful to me even though it isn't the most popular on the album." I make a mental note to give it another few listens. You should too. The sultry tones of Rebekah's voice that make covers like Rhiannon feel so right in her capable hands elevates the haunting lyrics of Wishing Well and takes the song to a whole new level.

I asked about a manager and she just shakes her head, "I do it all on my own." This seems dubious to me, with my miniscule knowledge of the music industry. How do you know what to do and who to talk to and how to negotiate things? That's my true technical talk right there. She just laughs, "I taught myself.  When I started I was just working for tips and now I've done 100 gigs this year alone - it's only July! I've learned how to self-manage and the terrain that goes along with that." Rebekah has in fact turned herself into a booking agent as a side job. It evolved out of her knowledge in self-booking; she had so many gigs coming in that she was having to pass them up and she had the thought to start booking them for other artists and friends (and getting a small portion of the cut, as booking agents do). Truly entrepreneurial. But, then, that's the new music business... sports isn't the only industry moving slowly towards a free agent model. A lot of artists do it all on their own. Her latest album was financially supported by fans and sponsors through Kickstarter. Kickstarter is a website that allows artists and other individuals to raise money for social campaigns or creative endeavors.

Rebekah Todd is often a lone act, just her and her guitar, but she switches it up a lot. As a group act she is Rebekah Todd and The Odyssey - her band. However she is currently touring with The Oblations, a band out of Chapel Hill, making them Rebekah Todd and The Oblations. She confided in me her dream celebrity collaboration would be Neil Young. This just makes me want to ask her to sing Heart of Gold. But instead I ask her if she has anything else she wants to tell me about her music, "I think I'm going to switch my guitar out for electric soon, go less acoustic. I'm ready to be edgy, add more rock to my soul." That sounds like something I'm ready to hear.

I ask her if she gets back to Benson these days with all the touring and what she loves about it. Her answer is wonderfully honest, "If you had asked me this question 5 or 6 years ago I would have had a different answer, but what I like most now about my hometown is the comfort of returning to the familiar. Benson never changes, not where it counts, and it's nice to be able to come back to that."

I asked her what place or business she misses the most, "it's crazy, but, El Charro. I cannot get chicken quesadillas like that anywhere else."

The deliciousness of Johnston County's unique Latino restaurant options seems like as good a topic as any to end on. This further confirms my growing notion by this point that not only is Rebekah Todd one heck of a musician, but a funny, kind, southern soul. If you haven't given this JoCo talent a try, please do. You can listen to all her music here, catch her video performances here, and get info about her latest tour dates here. Rebekah plays festivals and events in Johnston County from time to time - for a full list of events visit www.johnstoncountyevents.com.

Thanks for taking the time Rebekah, you rock!

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Festival Celebrates Five Years of Making and Sharing Music

Festival Celebrates Five Years of Making and Sharing Music

 
The Clayton Piano Festival is celebrating their 5th season this Fall with an astounding line-up of artists. The season schedule of concerts will run October 14th through October 22nd. Organizers are expanding the festival to reach a larger community and have added additional events to celebrate this important anniversary. This year there will be six concerts with one at the Cary Arts Center and another at the Preston Woodall House in Benson, with the remaining events to be held in Clayton.

Both the Creative Director of the festival and a performer every year, Johnston County local Jonathan Levin is excited to showcase the growth of the festival as it enters year five, “Our goal over the years has been to share the joy and exhilaration that great music can bring in a fresh, new way each year, presenting a variety of top level classical artists from around the world.  I think at this point it’s become an anticipated cultural event in the area and we’re very pleased about that.”

The format of the Clayton Piano Festival is built on the premise of accessibility and interaction with the artist. As in past years, there will be intimate dinner concerts at smaller venues, and social “meet the artist” receptions following the concerts to enhance the experience for attendees.  There will be outreach programs to area schools to share the importance of music education and bring concert quality performances to more than 1,000 students.
Clayton Piano Festival Year Five Poster
This year’s concerts include a variety of music genres such as Ragtime and progressive rock.  Levin explains that “the idea is to show the full extent of what the piano can do, not just one discipline.” Performances this year include Rachael Flowers, a multi-talented instrumentalist and composer who lost her sight as an infant. According to Levin the festival is happy to have booked her, “we’re getting her right before she becomes famous. Racheal just had a Hollywood documentary made about her that is already making the film festival circuit.”

Levin, himself always modest, will be a can’t miss performance as well. Just last week he performed a solo recital debut at New York City’s Carnegie Hall. Rorianne Schrade reviewed the performance for New York Concert Review and had this to say, “Showmanship, intelligence, more than ample pianism, and sensitive musicality are all wrapped up in one package in this young artist, so he should do quite well in his career.” This year’s festival line-up offers a unique chance to catch Jonathan in his hometown of Clayton.

Along with returning performers Jonathan Levin and Angelo Rondello, newcomer and renown ragtime pianist and composer Mill McNally at the Preston Woodall House and Russian pianist Azamat Sydykov at the Wagner House will be charming audiences with their performances. Which include dinner provided by the venue, and each will also include a reception to meet the artist.

The final gala will truly be a show stopper.  Hear five CPF artists perform, each sharing inspiring insights into a work with special personal significance for them.  Special guest, Mary Prescott, an adventurous, multi-genre artist, joins the others as she shares her unique voyage into learning the art of improvisation. To conclude the concert and the 5th season, all 5 artists will perform together on stage at the same time…on 5 pianos! With six hundred seats to fill, the organizers of the final concert are offering FREE tickets for children up to age 18, one for each paid adult ticket.

General ticket prices for Concerts with Dinner at The Wagner House and Preston Woodall House are $45.00 adult, $35.00 seniors, $25.00 students, concerts only $15.00 for adults and $5.00 students.  For the Sunday performance by Jonathan Levin at the Wagner House, tickets are $15.00 adults and $5.00 students/children.  The final concert performance featuring all five pianos will be $20.00 adults, $15.00 for seniors and military, and FREE for children under 18 years old. Tickets for the event are available at www.claytonpianofestival.org/schedule-tickets and tickets for the final performance may be purchased directly with The Clayton Center at www.theclaytoncenter.com.

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A Potter. A Preacher. A Process.

A Potter. A Preacher. A Process.


"Go down to the potter's house, and there I will give you my message." Jeremiah 18:12


As a child in Duplin County, Frank Grubbs remembers digging in the clay at creek beds to mold little works of art. Of course, at the time, he didn't have a wheel or a kiln, but he was a persistent potter. His little hands would work the clay into what he imagined and then eventually the rain would wash it away. Grubbs has always been artistically inclined. But his art has evolved rather slowly in iterations that parallel the stages of his life. From his small creek-clay creations to his obsession with modeling clay in high school art class, to his senior year at Atlantic Christian College when he found himself in an Intro to Ceramics class.

A life-long career in the ministry has rivaled a life-long passion for pottery. The latter of which was truly sparked during a field trip during the Intro to Ceramics class, "it was a field trip to the studio of Dan Finch Pottery. He had a studio in an old converted tobacco barn. I knew one day I was gonna be a potter with an emphasis on wheel thrown pottery." This conviction led Grubbs to buy his first wheel and kiln in 1978, he still has both. After 41 years in the ministry, and counting, he is getting more serious about pottery. Not just about selling it or making a business out of it, serious about the art itself and the joy he finds in it.

"It's like Christmas morning every time I open the kiln, when that feeling goes away I'll quit." I asked him what he meant by that, "pottery is an ancient art that has evolved over time through wonderful accidents discovered by potters before me along the way. And yet no two pieces of pottery are ever truly identical. Even with all the controls and knowledge and experience, I have no idea what I'm gonna get when I open the kiln. Even if I repeat the process exactly, a piece of pottery can emerge different from the piece before it."


"Yet, O LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand." Isaiah 64:8


What I took away from my time in Frank Grubb's studio, which exists between his home and a barn out back, is that pottery is in fact a process. It goes a little something like this: raw clay to some sort of formation, to a kiln firing to a glaze application, to a glaze firing and then finally any sealing or setting. But Grubbs says he has never been very comfortable with glazing, and a lot of the work he does, and continues to experiment with, is called alternative firing. This includes barrel firing, pit firing, and a method called raku. The last of which involves decorating the pot while it is still hot from the kiln (and when I say hot I mean over 1,000 degrees hot). Grubb's pottery is most known locally for his unique application of horse hair during the raku process but you can really add anything - other types of hair, sugar, alcohol, or even feathers.

Grubbs says that raku is about careful temperature regulation, "if the pot is too hot the horse hair bounces off and disintegrates. If the pot is too cold the hair simply melts into the pot without leaving a mark. I have found that the best temperature range is between 1150-1200 degrees."

Walking around the house and studio is an amazing experience, with so many different shapes, styles, and colors of pottery jumping out at you. You can actually see everything for yourself tomorrow, Saturday, December 5th. For the past 2-3 years Grubbs has done an Open House and this year it will be at his home. You can show up any time from 10:00AM to 9:00PM. The address is 101 Cobblestone Court Smithfield, NC 27577. And it's the perfect season to purchase pottery as a gift. You will be able to purchase a truly unique piece of art during the Open House to give a friend or family member. If you are reading this from another town or state and would like to purchase your very own piece of Frank Grubbs pottery, then good news... he ships! You can email him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

A preacher who is a potter. Or a potter who is a preacher? Both take patience. Both instill a sense of wonderment over works wrought.  Frank Grubbs is both talented and extremely passionate about his art. It was mesmerizing to hear him talk with such enthusiasm. It made me want to try pottery. To make something with my hands. Owning a piece of pottery, crafted with hands that pour love into its making, is probably as close as I'm going to get though. But you can get that close too. Tomorrow. At the Frank Grubbs' Pottery Open House.

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Menacing, Melodious, Masterful

Menacing, Melodious, Masterful

Celebrate the timeless nature of classical music. Be thrilled by the haunting sounds of the season. Explore the collections of masterful composers. The 4th Annual Clayton Piano Festival will regale audiences with a week of expertly themed concerts starting on October 30th and going through November 7th.

Hometown classical musician, Jonathan Levin, started the festival in 2010 to give back to the community where he was raised. "As many may know, I grew up in the Clayton area and it was here that my musical education began as well," stated Levin. "Clayton Piano Festival (CPF) is my way of giving back to a community which gave much to me and to share my love and enthusiasm for great music with as many people as possible."

“Taking high art off of the top shelf” has been the mission of Clayton Piano Festival for the past four years as it has presented fun, family-oriented outreach shows, innovative classes for local music students and accessible, festive concert performances by world renowned guest artists from all across the globe throughout the Clayton area and beyond.

The festival returns this fall with another stellar line up of concerts in partnership with the Historic Wagner House to promote an intimate atmosphere where audiences can experience world class performances up close and personal.  “It’s almost like having a live concert in your own living room”, says Levin.  “There’s no need to know anything about the music before coming or to worry about uptight concert etiquette.  People will have fun and enjoy amazing music, guided through the experience by performers who are as communicative with their performances as they are presenting the music to new audiences.  The idea is for those who aren’t classical enthusiasts to be able to discover something incredible they weren’t sure they would enjoy, and for those who are, to be able to listen with a fresh perspective.” 

This season starts off with a special Halloween party and concert on October 30th called Night of the Living Composers.  The event includes dinner, the concert and a dessert reception afterwards.  Jonathan Levin will treat listeners to a rousing collection CPF Evening 1of some of the most horrible works for the piano, in the best sense of the word of course!   The program includes famous numbers CPF Evening 2 featured in horror movies and other pieces which have themes associated with menace in some way.  Come dressed for the occasion and participate in a costume contest to win free tickets to the concert on November 5th.

On Sunday afternoon, November 1st, Professor at Baylor University and expert on Spanish music, Dr. Paul Sanchez presents an evocative and thrilling collection of works from two of the most influential Spanish composers, Isaac Albeniz and Enrique Granados.   The only American pianist to be invited to study in Spain with the legendary Alicia de Larrocha, Paul will guide the audience through the rich and colorful music of this country.  The concert, called In the Gardens of Spain, explores the dances, tangos, folk influence and traditional melodies that make up the unique Spanish flavor.  

On Thursday November 5th, Russian-born pianist and producer/broadcaster, Yana Reznik presents an evening of Russian favorites titled, From Russia with Love.  The concert includes an exhilarating collection of works which everyone knows and loves like selections from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite and famous preludes by Sergei Rachmaninoff.  You may choose to come early and have a full, wholesome Russian-style CPF Evening 3dinner, or just come later for the concert, which will again be followed by a dessert reception.
CPF Evening 4
The closing concert of the 2015 season is titled Beethoven and Why the Piano Matters, which will be held at Hopper Piano Company in Raleigh. Noted author, teacher, and broadcaster David Dubal hosts this unique look at the life and works of Ludwig van Beethoven through live performances of his piano music featuring the dynamic pianism of Russian born guest artist Michael Bulychev-Okser.  The program explores famous sonatas of his early middle and late periods, highlighting the evolution of his style, which was so inextricably linked to the composers' own life and inner journey.  Audiences will see how this titan rocked the music world, leaving an indelible mark on the history of music and the piano – a force of influence that is still felt strongly today.  

The Clayton Piano Festival is supported by grants, donations, and tickets sales. Ticket prices vary between performances and both a senior and child ticket price will be offered, with package deals as well including the three Wagner House performances. More information and to purchase tickets, visit www.claytonpianofestival.org.

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Rebekah Todd Talks Benson, Bands, and Being an Independent Artist

Rebekah Todd Talks Benson, Bands, and Being an Independent Artist

Rebekah Todd Talks Benson, Bands, and Being an Independent Artist

~ As I move through the dim atmosphere of the bar I look around at the sparse crowd of early arrivals - it's barely 9:30PM - I know who I am looking for but not sure if I'll know when I find her. Some people look different in person than what you image from promo pictures and YouTube videos. But, as I look to my right and find Rebekah Todd sitting at a booth with her band I am pleased to find that she looks exactly as you imagine her. The long cotton fringe sleeveless vest and the brown wool felt panama-esque hat on her head make her look like the love child of Stevie Nicks and Patti Smith. Appropriate given her musical chops.

Though many musicians can seem or actually are aloof, Rebekah is instantly warm and friendly while introducing me to her band and making me feel welcome in their circle. She's in the quiet lull between set-up and show-time for her Raleigh concert at Tir Na Nog. The noise of the bar fades to the background while we chat about music, muses, and Johnston County. For those of you not in the know, Rebekah Todd is from Benson, NC where she grew-up, in her own words, weird, "I was constantly trying to find ways to channel this creative energy I had." She admits that she had a few close friends but often preferred being alone with her latest project - painting, knitting, and papermaking to name a few. She recalls a funny story of using her mom's kitchen blenders in order to shred paper, adding water to make pulp, "she found me and her kitchen in a mess and was not any less mad when I simply explained that I was making my own paper".

It was this level of intense creativity that lead Rebekah to song-writing. She had been singing her whole life and writing music felt like an extension of that. It was her father who suggested a musical instrument, "he had a really good point," she says, "about having to rely on others to make the music, having to find a band or a partner. If I could play an instrument then I could be a singular act if I wanted to, it would lend me flexibility and autonomy. So he bought me a guitar." She was 16 at the time and her Dad's intuition paid off. By the time she went to college at East Carolina University she was able to make extra money playing gigs at local businesses - just her and her guitar.

Musical Influence - a Little Bit of Rock and a Little Bit of Soul

While having an amazing repertoire of original songs - more on that in a minute - Rebekah's live shows include an impressive collection of covers. Songs like Superstition, and Rhiannon which is a tie for her favorite cover (the other favorite being The Thrill is Gone). I asked what sort of music had an early influence on her own sound, "classic rock, my Dad listened to a lot of Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. I also love soul, like Aretha Franklin, so my own style is sort of a blend of rock, soul, and folk.

I ask her about her newest album Roots Bury Deep, out February of last year, and how writing is going for the next album, "I wish I could be like those artists who are disciplined enough to write an hour every day, but I have to wait until I really feel it. That might mean going days without anything and then spending hours writing when the right feeling and inspiration comes over me."

What was her favorite song off the last album? "Wishing Well is very meaningful to me even though it isn't the most popular on the album." I make a mental note to give it another few listens. You should too. The sultry tones of Rebekah's voice that make covers like Rhiannon feel so right in her capable hands elevates the haunting lyrics of Wishing Well and takes the song to a whole new level.

I asked about a manager and she just shakes her head, "I do it all on my own." This seems dubious to me, with my miniscule knowledge of the music industry. How do you know what to do and who to talk to and how to negotiate things? That's my true technical talk right there. She just laughs, "I taught myself.  When I started I was just working for tips and now I've done 100 gigs this year alone - it's only July! I've learned how to self-manage and the terrain that goes along with that." Rebekah has in fact turned herself into a booking agent as a side job. It evolved out of her knowledge in self-booking; she had so many gigs coming in that she was having to pass them up and she had the thought to start booking them for other artists and friends (and getting a small portion of the cut, as booking agents do). Truly entrepreneurial. But, then, that's the new music business... sports isn't the only industry moving slowly towards a free agent model. A lot of artists do it all on their own. Her latest album was financially supported by fans and sponsors through Kickstarter. Kickstarter is a website that allows artists and other individuals to raise money for social campaigns or creative endeavors.

On the Road, Take the Stage

Rebekah Todd is often a lone act, just her and her guitar, but she switches it up a lot. As a group act she is Rebekah Todd and The Odyssey - her band. However she is currently touring with The Oblations, a band out of Chapel Hill, making them Rebekah Todd and TRebekah Toddhe Oblations. She confided in me her dream celebrity collaboration would be Neil Young. This just makes me want to ask her to sing Heart of Gold. But instead I ask her if she has anything else she wants to tell me about her music, "I think I'm going to switch my guitar out for electric soon, go less acoustic. I'm ready to be edgy, add more rock to my soul." That sounds like something I'm ready to hear.

I ask her if she gets back to Benson these days with all the touring and what she loves about it. Her answer is wonderfully honest, "If you had asked me this question 5 or 6 years ago I would have had a different answer, but what I like most now about my hometown is the comfort of returning to the familiar. Benson never changes, not where it counts, and it's nice to be able to come back to that."

I ask her what place or business she misses the most, "it's crazy, but, El Charro. I cannot get chicken quesadillas like that anywhere else."

The deliciousness of Johnston County's unique Latino restaurant options seems like as good a topic as any to end on. This further confirms my growing notion by this point that not only is Rebekah Todd one heck of a musician, but a funny, kind, southern soul. If you haven't given this JoCo talent a try, please do. You can listen to all her music here, catch her video performances here, and get info about her latest tour dates here. Rebekah plays festivals and events in Johnston County from time to time - for a full list of events visit www.johnstoncountyevents.com.

Thanks for taking the time Rebekah, you rock!

 
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Local Artist Conspires to Take Clayton on a JOURNEY

Local Artist Conspires to Take Clayton on a JOURNEY

Local Artist Conspires to Take Clayton on a JOURNEY

 

Anyone venturing down Main Street in Clayton, NC last Wednesday night, June 24th, would have heard the familiar notes of an iconic rock song. A song that stretches across generations and genres with a message, Don't Stop Believing. The music was coming from the front lawn of a unique and chic newcomer to downtown Clayton called Wine on Main. But anyone not in attendance at the event would have never known that the music cutting through the sultry southern night and spilling out into the street was not a recording, nor was it the easily recognizable tones of singer and one time Journey front-man Steve Perry. It was the mellow tones of the songs creator, a talented musician and lyricist, and a founding member of Journey, Jonathan Cain. A god of classic rock sitting in a small spot light in the front lawn of a wine shop, playing to an intimate crowd of lucky and enthralled attendees.
Jonathan Cain
As one of those lucky attendees I had to take a moment to pinch myself as I sat less than 6 feet away from a member of one of my favorite bands of all time. My body feeling the minute vibrations as the piano notes spilled forth from the singular amplifier sitting on the porch beside where I had perched to watch Mr. Cain's set. But he wasn't just there to play, he was there to sign bottles of wine from his own label - a collaboration with De La Montanya Winery. As I listened to the melody of Open Arms wash over me I wondered how this event has all come together.

Since that magical night last week I have discovered that the answer to my question is Clark Hipolito. Clark is a local Clayton artist and part owner of Wine on Main, along with Mandy Tamplin and Temple Phipps. His story is an interesting one that inexplicably brings together art, guitars, wine, and Journey.

Evolution of the Artist

Clark Hipolito grew up in New Jersey, but his career as an artist really started when  he went to work at MTV in New York. Clark said, "working at MTV was pretty much the beginning of it all. Every single day I would meet a new rockstar and being around that kind of environment, it only was natural that I’d never be able to work a normal job ever again." He started out working on the sets at MTV- first doing graphics, then painting murals, and later having fine art shows featuring his paintings. Clark's work has been featured on the set of shows like Sex in the City and Dawson's Creek.

Living up in NYC was great, but very intense and fast paced, and in 1994 Clark was ready for a change. He considered moving to Atlanta or Charleston, but after doing some research and looking at the growth trends of the time he ended up in downtown Raleigh. Upon moving to Raleigh he started spending lots of time in Wrightsville Beach to blow off steam. At the time Wilmington was still a big hub for the film industry,and he made lots of great connections there as well.

"The evolution of my career has been very unique," Clark says. As unique as the evolving use of materials he uses as his canvas. Clark renders amazing works of art on surfboards, guitars, and even skateboards. When asked about the evolutionary process of moving from an aesthetic canvas to a practical one, he said it happened because of a personal interest he took in surfing, "at some point after I moved to North Carolina I went on a business trip to Charleston - and I came across Folly Beach and saw the waves there. I went to the local surf shop and bought a cheap used surfboard, that was covered in dings and duck tape, and I went surfing."  

When he returned to Raleigh he took it upon himself to restore the board and in the process he ended up putting a wood grained faux finish on it as well as some decorative scroll work. From that moment on every time he'd take it out to the beach people would ask him about it, "a lot of them wanted me to paint their own board and then things just snowballed from there." Journey Guitar

As Clark remembers it, "I started doing art shows using surfboards and skateboards as my canvas. I garnered lots of national recognition and great press from around the world for my work. I was getting lots of high profile clients- like Pink, Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top, and pro athletes like Mario Williams. At one point my friends from Line Up Magazine commissioned me to paint a guitar that they wanted signed by all the rockstars performing at the Bonaroo Music Festival. I painted it, then went to the festival and met with so many awesome performers like Robert Plant, Ben Folds, Phil Lesh, and Jack Johnson."

He adds, "We ended up taking the guitar to San Diego for a fundraiser sponsored by Line UP Magazine and Fuel TV at the Hard Rock Hotel and got even more recognition. I started getting commissions left and right for the guitars and surfboards, and I haven’t slowed down since."

Indeed that sounds like quite the whirlwind. Clark was introduced to Clayton when he started dating his friend and business partner, Temple Phipps, who owns a dog grooming business, Doggy Do’z, located in downtown. This was the catalyst for his interest in the area. He speaks fondly of this little piece of Johnston County, "after spending time here I’ve really fallen in love with the people and the amazing sense of community in Clayton. Main Street reminds me of how downtown Raleigh made me feel 20 years ago. We ended up opening Wine on Main a few months ago, and haven’t looked back.  Clayton just keeps getting better and better every day."

Wine, Art, and Music Meet in Clayton


And so we have come to the part in the story that wine, and specifically Wine on Main, enters in. This classy little wine shop did in fact burst onto the downtown business scene a few months ago. They offer tastings, classes, musical events, trunk shows, and all other manner of unique happenings. I asked Clark how Jonathan Cain ended up being one of those musical events.

It turns out, that's a rather short story. Clark has been the featured artist for The Triangle Wine Experience for the last 15 years. Along the way he's met lots of great wine makers and other people associated with the wine industry. A few months ago Clark got a call from a good friend, "Ziggy Eschilman, who’s a  radio personality in Napa, called me and told me someone wanted to meet me because they really liked my work, and that this person was coming to North Carolina to meet with me."

It turned out to be Jonathan Cain from Journey. Jonathan has his own wine label - Finale Wines - and he had heard of Clark's talent. Jonathan ended up giving Clark a couple of guitars to paint and in return, Clark asked him to come back for a visit and do an event at Wine On Main. The idea was to unveil one of the painted guitars and do a bottle signing, and possibly a performance. "He actually said yes and I was elated," said Clark. Who wouldn't be?!

As a Journey fan, I of course wanted to know what working with Jonathan Cain was like. Clark said, "meeting him was incredible, we hit it off right away! He’s a really cool guy and filled with cool stories about his life, music, and song writing.  After our original meeting here in NC, I flew out to Las Vegas to talk to him more about the project, and after spending more quality time with he and his wife, Paula White Cain, we decided that one of the guitars would end up in a glass display case at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas." Wow! From a wine shop in Clayton, NC all the way to Las Vegas, Nevada. What a heck of a journey. Sorry, I couldn't help myself. Wine on Main Group Shot

Clark wasn't wrong about Cain having some amazing stories. During his 30 minute or so set at Wine on Main he reminisced about his inspiration when writing iconic songs like Don't Stop Believing, Open Arms, and Faithfully.

I asked Clark about his own inspiration when it comes to his art. As someone who has had a career spanning various forms of artistic expression, what is his favorite? He gives an unbiased answer, "I honestly love it all! Designing nightclubs and restaurants can be very gratifying because it can encompasses all aspects of art and design. I get to create my dream environments and as part of that interior landscape I’ll usually incorporate a mural I've painted or use my surfboard and guitar art as part of the decor. But if I had to really narrow it down- I think I like painting surfboards and guitars most… at least for now." You can see some examples of Clark's art in Wine on Main.

 
To bring it full circle, I asked Clark what his favorite Journey song was. The answer - Stone in Love. An excellent choice, though he mentioned it was a tough call. I prefer Separate Ways myself. Speaking of going separate ways, I was buzzing with energy when I left Wine on Main last week after personally thanking Mr. Cain for visiting and sharing with him a story about my love for Journey music. Walking to my car I was again struck by the hidden gems that can exist in the fabric of small town life. The music of Journey on a quiet evening. The passion and drive behind Clark Hipolito's art. The realization that small, growing towns like Clayton, and others in Johnston County, sometimes surprise us with what they have to offer. And, like Clark said, things are getting better and better every day. Hey, don't stop believing.

Photo Captions in Order of Appearance:
1. Jonathan Cain plays piano while discussing his lyrical
inspirations. Photo courtesy of Krisp Photography.
2. The guitar Clark painted for Jonathan, photo courtesy of Clark.
3. Clark Hipolito pictured holding the painted guitar accompanied by Temple Phipps, Mandy Tamplin,
   Clayton Mayor Jody McLeod and wife, with Jonathan Cain and his wife Paula.  Photo courtesy of Krisp Photography.

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Day Tripping Ideas - FALL in Johnston County

Day Tripping Ideas - FALL in Johnston County

We all live very busy lives and just keeping the family organized, the house cleaned, the kids to practice or dance, and a hundred other things that fill up our day -- it all can be overwhelming.  That's why when you think about entertainment, outings with the children or family visiting for the weekend, we suggest you rely on your local Convention & Visitors Bureau for ideas, deals, and suggested itineraries.  That's what we spend our days doing to help visitors, local residents, and day trippers.  If you live within an hour's drive of Johnston County, we have several ideas for day trips for you to consider.

Fall is all about Festivals!

Benson Mule DaysIt's fall and that means football, fall leaves, the State Fair, and a host of festivals throughout North Carolina.  Johnston County has a long history of agricultural related venues and events with several festivals to choose from, the Clayton Harvest Festival is held the third weekend of September, the Farm Fest concert brings country music's best to Selma the first weekend in October.  Spend that Saturday strolling the streets of Selma's Railroad Festival and the evening singing along with your favorite country star. 

If you have done the State Fair year after year, and want to try a smaller version (less people, better parking), the Benson Mule Days Festival is as close to a county fair that Johnston County has to offer.  They have the midway with games, fair food, and vendors, as well as, carnival rides, concerts, parades, and rodeos.  Get the full details on their website, www.bensonmuledays.com  For a day trip, we suggest coming Saturday for the full experience...the parade, free Bluegrass in the Grove, carnival rides and BBQ by White Swan BBQ.

Like to get out on the farm for some pumpkin pickin', corn mazes, and grape stomping?  Visit the Boyette Family Farm near Clayton, or schedule a visit to the Lazy O Farm or Smith's Farm near Smithfield, or for something different, our wineries offer events in the fall, like the Grape Stomp at Gregory Vineyards or the Harvest Ball at Hinnants Family Vineyard and Winery.

Holiday time is for Outlet Shopping and Christmas Music!

AMJ Christmas ShowStarting in early November the traffic at Carolina Premium Outlet increases as we all start working checking off items on our Christmas List...check the deals we find at the outlets, including JR Outlets in Selma too!  Sign up for the VIP Club with Carolina Premium Outlets and get emails on special events and sales.  A day trip for shopping works any time of the year or if you need to get away, our Girlfriends Getaway package offers deals on hotels, area attractions, and is great for a weekend with your BFF. 

For some family fun, the American Music Jubilee Theatre is perfect for all generations.  This musical variety show for the Holidays begins the first week of November and runs through the week of Christmas.  It's fun and will keep everyone in the holiday spirit -- add a visit to an area restaurant for the family, or if you have a church group that loves to get out for a day trip...this a very popular trip.  Dates and tickets are available on their website, www.amjubilee.com

Love to explore the arts in Johnston County?

The Clayton CenterJust within the Triangle area, there are hundreds of options for art museums, concerts, art shows and more...but Johnston County has much to offer too!  There are three performing arts auditoriums with regular season shows, The Clayton Center, the Paul A. Johnston Auditorium and the W.J. Barefoot Auditorium.  Visitors will find local talent providing theatre productions to national acts touring the country.  Dinner and the theatre in our neck of the woods is very affordable compared to prices in the Triangle -- and just as much fun!  Check out the event calendar on our website for the most up to date concerts and art show schedules.

For a touch of Hollywood, visitors that love the Golden Age will enjoy a day visit to the Ava Gardner Museum in Smithfield which houses a vast collection of movie memorabilia on local girl, Ava Gardner.  Walk the streets of this historic downtown, enjoy lunch at an area restaurant, walk along the Buffalo Creek Greenway.  Check out what's happening at the museum, www.avagardner.org

For the details on times, themes, and contacts for several Day Trip Ideas for Johnston County, CLICK HERE.  Check our events calendar often for something new to do in Johnston County!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Clayton Piano Festival to Capture the Magic of Classical Music

Clayton Piano Festival to Capture the Magic of Classical Music

Ava Singing in Show BoatThe 4th Annual Clayton Piano Festival is scheduled for September 29 - October 10 at The Clayton Center Auditorium in Historic Downtown Clayton in addition to workshops held in area schools.  This year's festival will kick-off with a collaboration with the Ava Gardner Festival featuring iconic classical music from the movies including a segment on another local star, Ava Gardner.  Three more themed performances will be billed as; The inspiration of the church on western music, A celebration of women composers, which will be at The Wagner House and Classical music with a popular twist.


Home-town classical musician, Jonathan Levin began the festival in 2010 to give back to the community where he was raised, and in the venue where at age eight he performed his first recital.  "As many may know, I grew up in the Clayton area and it was here that my musical education began as well.  Clayton Piano Festival (CPF) is my way of giving back to a community which gave much to me and to share my love and enthusiasm for great music with as many people as possible," stated Jonathan Levin, founder of the festival. "Live performance is a vital part of this art form – when a performer is up there on stage tapping in to whatever wizardry the composer may have conjured up and the audience is able to relate and connect with that, there is a shared experience that occurs which is nothing short of magical.  And that is the mission of CPF – to create magic!"


On Saturday, October 4th, emcee Bryan Mims, WRAL news reporter, will lead the conversation about the piano pieces beginning at 7pm.  Following the concert there will be a coffee and dessert reception to meet the artist Azamat Sydykov.  This concert collaboration between the Clayton Piano Festival and the Ava Gardner Museum will interest fans and visitors coming to the Ava Gardner Festival which runs the entire weekend.  Fans of movies and fans of Ava's can enjoy a touch of artistry from her life.  During the hour long performance, the interlude featuring Ava Gardner will showcase songs from Show Boat and Ava's live-long fascination with flamenco music.  Tickets for the Saturday night concert are $20.00+ taxes and fees, and are available for purchase online at www.theclaytoncenter.com or by calling the Clayton Center Box Office, 919-553-3152.


Clayton Piano FestivalAzamat Sydakov, who recently performed at Carnegie Hall will be the featured pianist on Saturday, October 4th.  Sydykov was born into a musical family in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyz Republic, a former Republic of the Soviet Union and now resides in Kazakhstan.  A Member of the International Academy of Creative Endeavors (Moscow, 2009),  Sydykov has been the recipient of many awards and prizes including First Prize in five national music competitions in Kyrgyz Republic, First Prize at the “Musician of the 21st Century” International Piano Competition in Kazakhstan and the Grand Prize at the “EUTERPE” International Piano Competition in Italy in 2009.


It is the mission of CPF to bring outstanding concert pianists from throughout the country to the Clayton area in order to perform concerts and participate in other musically enriching events throughout the community. Through interactive presentations in local schools, public classes for local piano students, and commentary with the concert performances, CPF aims to bridge the gap between performer and audience, bringing great music to people of all ages and levels of exposure to classical music and the arts.

The Clayton Piano Festival list of performances and seminars, times and ticket info:


Sept. 29 – Oct. 3                 Educational Outreach Performances at local elementary schools.
Oct. 4                                 "Movie Tunes: Iconic classical music from the movies." - The Clayton Center,  Azamat Sydykov, 7pm. Tickets $20
Oct. 5                                 "Sanctuary: the inspiration of the church on western music."  -  The Clayton Center, Jonathan Levin, 3pm. Tickets $12/$8
Oct. 7                                 "In Her Shoes: A celebration of women composers." - The Wagner House, Clayton,  Julia Mortyakova, 7pm.  Tickets $20
Oct. 8-10                            Young Artist Seminar – classes and events for local piano students. (location and Schedule TBD)                                              
Oct. 10                               "From Brooklyn to Havana: classical music with a popular twist."  The Clayton Center, Milton Laufer, 7pm. Tickets $12/$8


The Clayton Piano Festival is supported by grants, donations, and tickets sales. Concerts are general seating admission with some reserved seats for Ava Gardner Festival sponsors only on October 4.  More information can be found on their website, www.claytonpianofestival.org or Ava Gardner Festival on www.avagardner.org.

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Clayton River Walk: A little bit country, a little bit art

Clayton River Walk: A little bit country, a little bit art

Living in Johnston County means we have ample opportunity to explore the great outdoors. Whether playing at a local park, kayaking on the river, or reliving history at Bentonville Battlegrounds, we've certainly got options. Our favorite outdoor adventure, though, is the Clayton River Walk on the Neuse. The trail is part of the Mountain-to-Sea trail of North Carolina, and because it's paved, everyone can enjoy it. 

Sam's Branch Greenway at the Clayton River Walk

Connected to the River Walk is Sam's Branch Greenway, which is equally maintained. Sam's Branch Greenway is 1.25 miles long (2.5 miles round trip), providing a 10-foot-wide paved trail, a butterfly art project and an accessible picnic area. We like Sam's Branch Greenway because of its gently rolling pathway -- bikes can soar down the "hill" but it's not too long to pedal up in the opposite direction. We also like the ever-changing landscape from season to season. Of course, it's at its best in October when trees display gold and red foliage, the field grasses wave a toasty brown and the grass is still green.

Nature and art come together at the Clayton River Walk

Beyond the natural beauty of this country trail along the Neuse, the public art display along the bridge by the butterfly park offers changing exhibits throughout the year. We ventured out early one morning this week (trying to beat the heat), to see the newest display, just installed in May. The new installation, Whimsical Birds, is sponsored in part by a grant from the Johnston County Arts Council to promote art projects on the trail. This art was created by local students from Clayton High School, Clayton Middle School, Cooper and Powhatan Elementary Schools. 

When we rounded a bend in the trail to reveal the bridge, my daughter instantly responded with a loud, "Oooooh!" as she ran ahead to look at all the birds on the bridge. My son, the dog and I (we will blame the heat), took a bit longer to arrive at the bridge. Still, broad smiles spread across our faces as we took in the colorful display. 

b2ap3_thumbnail_Clayton-River-Walk-Art-Installation-2.jpg

Clayton River Walk: Know before you go

 Three parking areas offer easy access to the Clayton River Walk:

  • 2928 Horseshoe Farm Road (2928 Horseshoe Farm Road)
  • Buffaloe Road Athletic Park (5812 Buffaloe Road)
  • Anderson Point Park (20 Anderson Point Drive)

The address to park at Sam's Branch Greenway trailhead (about 1 mile from the butterfly and art exhibit) is 1358 N. O'Neil Street, Clayton, NC. 

Drinking fountains and restrooms are available at the Buffaloe Road Athletic Park and Anderson Point Park. Doggie bags and garbage cans are located along the trail for the benefit of all guests.

 Please note:

  • Pets must be leashed
  • No motorized vehicles are allowed
  • Bicyclists are welcome!
  • Bring water bottles and sunscreen
  • Wear comfortable walking shoes!

 

 

 

 

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Frank Creech Art Gallery Debuts On JCC Campus

Johnston Community College has officially opened The Frank Creech Art Gallery. The new gallery, located in the Arts Building on the JCC campus, is a collaborative project between the College Foundation, the Johnston County Arts Council, and the College’s Fine Art and Graphic Design faculty to recognize the late Creech’s significant contributions to the visual arts community.

Frank and Friends, the gallery’s inaugural exhibit, will include 20 pieces of Creech’s collection from various periods in his career as well as well as other art of his colleagues and students.

An open house to introduce the museum-quality exhibition space to the college and larger community is planned from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 3. A private dedication ceremony will be held Thursday evening, Dec. 2.

JCC President David Johnson said the College is honored to house the art gallery in Creech’s name. The gallery will serve as an integral education component for JCC’s art students as well as a source of cultural enrichment for the Johnston County community.

“Frank was a unique individual who loved JCC, his community, and the expression of life through his art,” Johnson said. “It is fitting to have a specific facility on campus which memorializes his contributions as faculty member and artist. We are extremely grateful for all of Frank’s friends and family who have had a part in making this opening a reality.”

A graduate of Duke and Florida State universities, Creech was admired for his distinct collection of sculptures and paintings that reflected his passion for visual expression. Creech taught and later led the Art Department at JCC. His artwork is in private and public collections and in museums throughout the United States. His cast bronze and aluminum sculptures are displayed on the campuses of Duke, Yale, Delaware, Penn State and Francis Marion universities. Other public commissioned works include “The Story Teller” at the Gaston County Public Library and “The Reader” at the Public Library of Johnston County and Smithfield. Creech’s “The Rescue” is at the entrance of the Paul A. Johnson Auditorium on the JCC campus. In 2005, he was named to the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, the state’s highest civilian honor.

The 1,500-square-foot gallery contains state-of-the-art exhibition space as well as a 750-foot reception area to eventually be used for the public sale of artwork. The gallery interior is equipped with museum-quality lighting, climate control, hanging and security systems. With its grey, hand-finished concrete floors, contemporary white walls, and distinct crown molding, the exhibition space balances a modern feel with traditional Southern architecture.

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Beer Wine & Shine Trail

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Travel around the county to four award-winning wineries, two breweries and get a taste of brandy along the way!  Receive a Free $30 coupon book when you complete the trail.

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Meeting Planners

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Johnston County offers conveniently located and affordable conference facilities for meetings, reunions, and unique destination weddings sites.  Why not select a historic home or horse farm for your next event?

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Group Tour Operators

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Groups have discovered exits along I-40 and I-95 for outlet shopping, music theatre, museums and heritage sites.  Call today for custom itinerary planning.

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Hotel Packages

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We have created several special hotel packages including a Girlfriends Getaway for outlet shopping, we know you need a break and great deals on shoes!  Click here to book your getaway today.

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