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.  

“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.