The World is his Muse: Author Shane Wilson

Shane Wilson is a story-teller. It doesn’t quite matter what format those stories come in. Short stories. Novels. Plays. Songs. Podcasts. Shane’s always looking for the story and figuring out how to share it. 

Shane moved to Fayetteville in 2014, “for love. But it didn’t work out.” he says. (Another story) By day, he teaches in the English Department at Fayetteville Technical Community College. By night, he works on his own creations. He’s released two novels to date: A Year Since the Rain and The Smoke in His Eyes. A third is with his editor while he’s writing the first draft of a fourth. There are numerous short stories, including “The Boy Who Kissed The Rain”, which he adapted into a stage play after it won the 2017 Rilla Askew Short Fiction Prize. 

Then there’s Sequoia Rising, Shane’s band with fellow musician Jerry Smith. “I decided to learn to play guitar when I wrote Smoke,” Shane explained, “and then the muse hit me with the song “Before We Fade Away”.” Again, they are most interested in telling their own stories through their music. That led Shane to a writer’s retreat over the summer at an isolated artists’ cabin in the NC mountains. “I came back with an entire album’s worth of songs,” Shane grinned. (yet more stories) 

When I asked whether he considers himself a “teaching artist” or a “teacher and artist”, he admitted he “tried to compartmentalize but it’s absurd to think parts don’t creep into the classroom.” He loves teaching and knew from an early age he wanted to be in the classroom, partially because he had formative educational experiences in school with his own English and Literature teachers. “They allowed me to think differently and acknowledged my capacity for weird or out of the box thinking.” He tries to do the same for his community college students. “These are the people who need me: they need an advocate in academia.” 

In addition to his own artistic work, Shane is interested in collaborating with other artists on interesting projects. Fayetteville has quite a few local authors and Shane helped pull many of them together in December 2018 to partake in a literary scavenger hunt, leaving copies of their books downtown and encouraging the finders to post pictures with the hashtag #freereadsfay. He can often be found at Java Expressions Live, the longest running open mic in Fayetteville (yet more stories), at The Coffee Scene on Sunday and Monday evenings, trying out new tunes or talking with founder/master of ceremonies Neil Ray about some new act or idea. 

When asked what he is most excited about about Fayetteville, Shane commented on how “there are different pockets, something to cohere to but everybody has their own identity.” He talked about downtown’s regrowth and how there is a growing sense of an artistic and cultural community here. Much like the general atmosphere at Java Expressions, Fayetteville itself has a “If I can dream it, I can do it” vibe going on right now. Artists, teachers, collaborators like Shane play a huge role in that.  

Dr. Daniel Montoya is a Modern Day Renaissance Artist-Scientist

Dr. Montoya at LeClair’s General Store

It doesn’t come as any surprise that a neuroscientist–someone who studies the way the brain works for a living–would be interested in the concept of Resonance. “It’s the goal of many people vibrating at the same frequency,” Dr. Montoya grins, “and I’ve experienced it with music.” He researches the idea of consciousness from a cognitive psychological standpoint, but philosophy and arts are never far from his scientific work.

Dr. Montoya hails from Argentina, where he started playing guitar at twelve. When he was seventeen, he volunteered to work a visit from the Pope. Eventually, the music and religion overlapped when he started writing and playing music for churches here in America. Religious music is designed to lead to resonance within the congregants.

His creative muse is Electronic music and his latest album is Space Songs for Earthy People. He creates the ethereal tunes on the computer, records vocals on his iPad in found spaces, and overlays more traditional instruments to make the sound full and rich. Getting caught in the bain of the artist’s life — when is the work done? when is it finished? — is not helped by the computer. “I’m endlessly tweaking,” he chuckles.

Another aspect of Dr. Montoya’s love of music is working as a deejay, spinning ambient, house, new age, trap, and other genres of electronic music. One of his favorite musicians is David Bowie, not only because of his constant learning and reinventing, but because of Bowie’s business acumen. “You have to learn to do it all as an artist today,” Dr. Montoya says, “No one else will look after your business like you will.”

photo from Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland County Block Party.

A devoted community member, Dr. Montoya participated in a local board training program, and was selected to work with the Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland County on their Board of Directors. He is also a member of the Arts Council’s CMAC (Cumberland Makers and Creatives) team, which focuses on networking, training, and supporting independent artists of all forms in our neighborhood. “I’m excited about things that are happening [in Fayetteville], the people, the vision,” he remarked.

Editor’s Note: June

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Pexels.com

An editor’s note is typically where they talk about what the reader will see in the upcoming pages, what they are particularly excited about, or how the issue came together. It’s a sneak peek into the editor’s world and usually the last thing to be written before the issue goes to press, so it feels very of-the-moment.

And my future editor’s notes may have more of that feel, as I get into a consistent groove with content coming in a predictable pattern. But I thought this first one might be a look into why this publication is so necessary here-and-now.

I moved here in January (six months ago as of this writing), knowing all of a handful of people and a smattering about the “top shelf” arts organizations in town.

Professional arts administration and arts advocacy tends to be a small world/network. There are lots of reasons for that: not every organization has the financial coffers to have paid staff, not every artist wants to engage in visible advocacy, not all studios or theaters have administration but function as co-ops, etc. I mention this only to highlight that the number of people I knew here really was small: I knew a couple of folks at the Arts Council, I was familiar with Cape Fear Regional Theatre’s work, and had heard of the Fayetteville Symphony Orchestra.

BUT. Oh, the but. Or rather — sticking with my improv training — a gigantic YES AND. Yes, there are CFRT and FSO. AND. There is Gilbert Theater and Sweet Tea Shakespeare. There is the All American Jazz Collective and the Fayetteville Jazz Orchestra. There are the Open Mic nights at the Coffee Scene. There is a phenomenal spoken word/poetry scene. There are more bands than you can shake a stick at: seriously, you could see a different band every week for a year and still probably not see them all. There are hundreds of visual artists showcasing in galleries and studios and coffeeshops and tea houses. There are makers popping up as vendors at monthly events and weekly farmers’ markets: glass and paper and jewelry and usable and wearable and simply beautiful. There are writers! Oh the writers! The library has a whole display of local authors and can’t fit them all on the shelf! There are artists working with fabric, collage, leather, graphite, keyboard (both kinds), and beads. Comic book people. Dancers. Photographers. Every time I think I’ve finished this paragraph, I keep thinking of someone else I’ve met who does something completely different.

And more. So many more. People who are giants in their respective artistic medium. People who are making art and teaching it. People who are making art while doing other work completely unrelated. People who are just starting out. People who have moved here because the Army brought them to Fayetteville. People who were born here and decided to come back after the Army or marriage or college or life took them away.

I would say it’s impossible to talk about just how much art there is in Fayetteville. But that’s exactly what I’m going to do here.

I’d love to hear from you: who is an artist you know? Maybe it’s you or your cousin or your uncle or your friend from church or the guy you knew before you retired from service. Leave a comment below or shoot me an email at coloroffayetteville@gmail.com. There are so many stories to share. Color of Fayetteville celebrates all the creative artists and makers that call Cumberland County home.

“Minor Mood”, Major Chops: The All American Jazz Collective

Imagine eating lunch under the shade of an old oak tree, the mellow sounds of John Coltrane or Thelonious Monk wafting around you from a quintet sitting adjacent in the park. How melodious. How cosmopolitan. How All American.

Well, I have news for you: You can do just such a thing on the campus of Fayetteville Technical Community College (FTCC) every other Friday this coming fall when the All American Jazz Collective starts playing again. This loose quintet–sometimes a quartet, sometimes a sextet or more–plays on campus as well as various community gathering places around Fayetteville.

Jazz has a long history in the state. Coltrane hailed from High Point, Monk from Rocky Mount. Nina Simone is from Tryon, Billy Strayhorn spent formative years in Hillsborough. The NC Arts Council maintains a trail through eastern North Carolina dedicated to these luminaries and their stories. Perhaps we can get Fayetteville on the map: trumpeter Waymon Reed is from here. So the All American Jazz Collective is carrying on a proud North Carolinian tradition.

All American Jazz Collective
One lineup of the AAJC, Pappas far left, Carey in middle. Photo courtesy Anthony Russell.

AAJC started performing together in the fall of 2017. Co-founder Daniel Pappas mused, “Fayetteville had lots of R&B or Smooth jazz, even some fusion, but we wanted to do traditional jazz music.” Pappas moved here five years ago to teach and now runs the music department at FTCC. Jazz wasn’t his main musical focus before teaching at FTCC. “I felt I could speak about it better if I played it,” he chuckled. And with the wide spectrum of jazz styles, musicians, and songs to choose from, there is always something to play or to improvise around.

Jenne Carey, also a recent transplant to Fayetteville, and vocal instructor with FTCC, sings with AAJC. Jazz isn’t her background either–she’s a classically trained opera singer–but she jumped at the chance to grow her skills and range. “Ellington, Gershwin: these composers fused jazz with classical,” she enthused. The other members of the Collective vary from performance to performance. The March 2019 lineup at Holy Trinity included Jay Locklear on piano, Landon Oliver on organ, Anthony Russell on drums, and Willie Lockett (who is a former 82nd Airborne Bandmaster) on bass.

In addition to private functions, the AAJC has played at the opening of the Hope Mills Lake and with Sweet Tea Shakespeare. “I wish there was a jazz club here,” Pappas said. Hence the Friday Jazz Lunches and other community performances. Perhaps the new Jazzio’s restaurant on Bragg Blvd might be interested in the group to perform…

AAJC is an exciting contribution to the Fayetteville music scene. Pappas mentioned he was particularly enthusiastic about the Cape Fear New Music Festival, held at Methodist University in the Spring. Both Methodist and Fayetteville State University have strong music programs, including jazz studies. All these musical connections between educational establishments, bands, and individuals will make our city sound that much more rhythmic.

Art Attack Rides Downtown for Fourth Friday

It’s An Onslaught of Arts! Artists Wield Everything from Drumsticks to Tattoo Guns to Palette Knives!

Shawn Adkins gets shit done. Not content to simply run his store, Back-A-Round Records, Adkins is rebooting the Art Attack, a multi-disciplinary art event and networking opportunity for artists. This next iteration will happen all over downtown Fayetteville on Friday, May 24th, as the Fourth Friday celebrations put on by Cool Springs Downtown District.

The Art Attack started at Adkins’ former venture, the well-attended music & event center, The Rock Shop, which closed in 2017. “We did the Art Attack every week for three years,” he remembers. “Now that I’m here [on Hay St], I want to be a part of downtown.”

Adkins’ has worked with Cool Springs for years on the Zombie Walk every October, so the collaboration is well-established. And he’s been here for 28 years so when he remarks, “I want to help make Fayetteville cooler than it already is”, he knows what’s he talking about. Fourth Friday makes downtown a cool evening destination. Art Attack will have a little something for everyone: bands on a stage in front of Back-A-Round, Lacey Crime’s selfie stations from the Dogwood Festival will be back out, live dancing up and down Hay Street, spoken word and poetry artists, gallery showings, and more.

For the artists, the Art Attack is also a networking event. Having lots of different artforms represented allows artists a chance to talk to each other, maybe plan a collaboration, or simply be inspired by each other’s artwork. Adkins mused, “Hopefully there will be new friendships afterwards… they’ll go do some work together.”

Being part of Fourth Friday also means the event is designed for all ages and family friendly. Budding (or established) young artists are encouraged to attend and apply to show their skills, be they on stage or in a visual medium. With Cape Fear Music Center, Gilbert Theater, Fascinate-U Kids Museum, and Cape Fear Studios–all of which teach kids classes–within walking distance of the main traffic circle in downtown, it should be no trouble finding talented young artists to participate.

To keep up with all things Art Attack, make sure to follow them on Facebook. And mark your calendar for all Fourth Fridays: every one will be slightly different through the year. Adkins is confident that Art Attack will have some kind of on-going monthly presence after May. “If people come out to hear the performers and if the artists make some money, we’ll do more of these.” Adkins says assuredly.

Kevin Ward: Tooting His Horn

From Low Brass to Army Brass to the Classroom, Ward is making a difference.

Art-form teachers tend to wear a lot of hats. Kevin Ward, Max Abbott Middle School Teacher of the Year for 2019-2020 school year, has a full rack: he teaches orchestra at the middle school, is an adjunct professor at Methodist University, and arranges sheet music for Lindsey Sterling. On top of that, he promised his Mom, who passed away in 2018, that he’d continue his education, which he’s doing by pursuing a doctorate in curriculum instruction. “I want to have a huge dash on my tombstone. I want to make sure I’m making a difference,” Ward bashfully shares.

We sat down in the MAMS cafeteria recently to talk about middle school orchestra and his path from the Army to the classroom. After playing around the world, he wound up in Fayetteville as his last duty post. A few months prior to retiring in 2017, the MAMS orchestra teacher position opened up. “I was very interested, but couldn’t commit because I wasn’t finished in the Army yet,” Ward explained. “Mrs. Crenshaw [MAMS Principal] called me again in November and said, “Well, the teacher we hired didn’t work out, so the position is open if you still want it.”” Now he was out of the Army and could tackle the challenge of a middle-school orchestra program. This school year, he took the orchestra to the NC Music Educator’s Association Music Performance Adjudication contest in Raleigh for the first time in seven years. He had eight students chosen by audition for the Junior Eastern Region Orchestra. Some of his students play with the Fayetteville Symphony Youth Orchestra.

photo provided by Kevin Ward

Arranging music began in the Army. “I had to think outside the box about these arrangements” because of the potentially random assortments of instruments a particular performance might have. He did over 350 arrangements and compositions for the Army; it was through this work he met Lindsey Sterling. “I wanted to arrange a piece of hers for our holiday concert, so asked her permission. She liked the work I did so much, she asked me to do more.” It helps that he enjoys listening to a wide variety of music, from more traditional orchestral pieces to the crossover electronica of Sterling to harder rock.


Ward’s favorite instrument is the tuba and he also plays trumpet, french horn, and euphonium. Photo provided by Kevin Ward.

At heart, his genuine care for his students shines through. He’s researching the cognitive benefits of musical education for middle school students. He is actively fundraising for new chairs for his classroom on DonorsChoose.org, the sort of equipment cost that will make a huge difference for the students but the school system is not able to budget for. He is still teaching privately at Music and Arts on Morganton Road. His work on the Methodist University campus alerts him to opportunities for his middle school students, like the summer youth camps.

There is no doubt Ward is making a difference, for both his students and his fellow musicians. He would love for his next career step to be County Arts Coordinator for the entire school system. No doubt he’ll be able to make an even bigger, even better difference in such a role.

“Maid Marian” Hits the Mark

The latest in Sweet Tea Shakespeare’s Honey Series is Sweet and Tart

Looking back on my misspent youth, it is easy to connect the dots of learning archery and carrying boot knives (not to mention my love of nonprofits) with my adoration of the Robin Hood legend. I now have another turn of the tale to add to my collection, thanks to Sweet Tea Shakespeare‘s original script “Maid Marian.” Written by local teacher and STS regular Jessica Osnoe, the story is written as a prelude to the myth that has fascinated for hundreds of years.

marian play
Jen Pommerenke as Maid Marian in Sweet Tea Shakespeare’s original show

Osnoe’s script keeps us in Nottingham and the forest as we follow Lady Marian Fitzwalter, her siblings, and a cousin, as they attempt to outwit the Sheriff and Guy of Gisbourne who are stealing-er-collecting taxes for Prince John. Their merry band of women includes a pair of sisters from the village.

For those familiar with Sweet Tea’s set up, normally the spring & summer shows are held out behind the 1897 Poe House on Bradford Avenue. Audiences are encouraged to bring their own seating and sweet tea, beer, wine, water, and comestibles are all available (and all local: beer was from Hugger Mugger Brewery in Sanford, the tea from Winterbloom downtown on Hay St, and food from Fayetteville Pie Company in Westwood Shopping Center).

The night I took in the show, there had been rain, so the production was moved into the church social hall next door. Undeterred, the cast, musicians, and crew put forth a delightful performance, from the pre-show madrigal-esque tunes to the well-choreographed fight scene, and triumphant climax. As behooves this particular legend, there are plenty of ballads, interludes, rousing call-to-arms, and perhaps a love song, all of which fit into the story seamlessly.

Emma and sister Marian, plotting something!

Like the “bracing river” Marian and company use to delightful comic effect, this show is invigorating, both to the legend it’s based on and to local theater offerings. Contemporary without neglecting history, period without feeling dated: the show is stimulating for regular theater patrons and new audiences alike.

While this show runs through May 12, I am already looking forward to Sweet Tea Shakespeare’s summer rep programming, plus what they have in store with their youth council, Green Tea. Their shows are family-friendly–and if “Maid Marian” any indication–an exemplary way to get those not enamored with historical theater to be thoroughly in love by evening’s end.