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Mars Hill University Receives Blue Ridge National Heritage Area Funds for Documentary

Hannah Furgiuele And Roger Howell
Hannah Furgiuele, programming coordinator for the Liston B. Ramsey Center for Regional Studies at Mars Hill University, and master fiddler Roger Howell, in Howell's Mars Hill fiddle shop.

The Blue Ridge National Heritage Area Partnership has announced an award of $5,000 to the Liston B. Ramsey Center for Regional Studies at Mars Hill University to support a documentary film about Madison County master fiddler Roger Howell.

A lifelong fiddler, Howell may be best known for his “Memory Collection,” 532 recorded fiddle tunes together with historical information and personal reminiscences about each one. The collection was created entirely from his memory of tunes he had picked up over a lifetime of playing and hearing mountain music. He donated the massive collection to the Southern Appalachian Archives at Mars Hill University.

"We are so grateful to the BRNHA for their vote of support for our project," said Hannah Furgiuele, program coordinator for the Ramsey Center. "Roger is a musical treasure, whose knowledge of tunes, stories, and people is really exceptional."

Howell has been a longtime supporter and key participant in the Bascom Lamar Lunsford Festival at Mars Hill University, an annual celebration of regional traditional music. "When I started directing the Lunsford Festival in 2011, I quickly learned that Roger was instrumental not only in the festival’s ongoing success, but in the continuation of a tradition of music that could fade away without the efforts of individuals like him," Furgiuele said. "The idea to do a documentary on Roger first came to me while spending time weekly at his fiddle shop for lessons, hearing his stories and learning about his life. The many ways Roger has immersed himself in the music of this region since his childhood make his story one worthy of sharing with the wider world, and we are excitedly moving forward on this film".
In this grant cycle, the BRNHA Partnership awarded 22 grants totaling $170,000 in funding to preserve and promote Western North Carolina’s heritage.

“We appreciate and are grateful for all the wonderful work that is being done throughout the region to preserve our heritage and improve our communities,” said Angie Chandler, Executive Director of the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area Partnership. “This year’s grant cycle was extremely competitive—we had 52 applicants and some great projects presented, but we simply could not fund them all.”

Funded by the federal dollars the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area Partnership receives, the grant awards will help support diverse initiatives across the North Carolina mountains and foothills, focusing on craft, music, natural heritage, Cherokee traditions, and the region’s legacy in agriculture. These five facets of the region’s heritage earned the 25 counties of Western North Carolina a congressional designation as the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area in 2003.

All of the grant awards will be matched with local or state funding and donated services.

Since its inception in 2003, the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area Partnership, a public charity, has awarded 133 grants totaling over $1.9 million and leveraging another $4.2 million in matching contributions from local governments and the private sector. These grants have funded projects in all 25 counties of Western North Carolina.
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