• Truman Forbess smiles as he tells the small crowd gathered for the Judith Beyer Memorial Music Scholarship presentation about his plans to attend Belmont University. Photo by Samantha Sinclair
    Truman Forbess smiles as he tells the small crowd gathered for the Judith Beyer Memorial Music Scholarship presentation about his plans to attend Belmont University. Photo by Samantha Sinclair

SCOUTING AROUND: Guitarist wins Judith Beyer music scholarship

    Murphy – When he was 10 years old, Truman Forbess begged his parents, Stephanie and David, for guitar lessons. On Friday night, the Hayesville High School senior strummed his way into the hearts of those who had already been won over by his words.
    Forbess was selected by the Cherokee County Arts Council as the 2019 Judith Beyer Memorial Scholarship winner. Arts council member Shelly Stephens and Director David Vowell presented the guitarist with a $2,000 scholarship.
    “It was a pleasant surprise,” Forbess said, adding that he has seen many other awards he has applied for go to trumpet players or others in concert band. “I was super happy when David called me.”
    This is the third year the scholarship has been awarded, and the first year it has gone to a student outside of Cherokee County.
    The scholarship has always been open to graduating high school students in Cherokee, Clay and Graham counties who are pursuing music degrees, but this was the first year students from Clay County applied. There were five applicants this year, with two from Clay County.
    The scholarship was given in memory of Judith Beyer, who passed away in 2015. Beyer, a talented musician who taught others, was the only person to receive a standing ovation when the Henn Theater hosted concerts. Stephens said she, along with other close friends of Beyer’s, wanted to give her the opportunity to continue to encourage others after cancer took her away from them.
    “I’ve been secretly praying for a blues guitar player,” Stephens said. “I’m thrilled to be able to present this scholarship to him.”
    Vowell said the panel of judges for the scholarship were interested in what the students thought about what music does. They were easily swayed by what Forbess wrote in his essay for the scholarship.
    “Music contributes to the life of a community by preserving the culture of that community and giving the community a voice,” Vowell read aloud from Forbess’ essay.
    Forbess plays both guitar and piano, but prefers guitar because he can bend the strings.
    “I can put a lot more emotion into it,” he said.
    He’s been working with Eric Myers at Goldrush School of Music on piano. His guitar lessons started about three years ago, first with Mike Ridenour and recently with Zach Kilmer. He said he would have never played the song he played at the scholarship award presentation Friday night – “Lenny” by Stevie Ray Vaughan – if it wasn’t for Kilmer’s influence.
    Forbess was accepted to both Berklee College in Boston and Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. He decided to go to Belmont after visiting the campus and seeing it had an atmosphere that felt like home. He plans to be a commercial guitar major.
    He hopes the scholarship allows him to go through college without having to take out as much money in loans. In fact, he would like to be able to save enough money while in college to be able to invest in a recording studio or, if he is in a band, a tour bus when he graduates.
    Forbess said he is thankful for the support from family and friends.
    “It was a journey filled with work and doubt in the beginning, and they pushed through all of it without any hesitation,” he said.
    Funds for the scholarship were raised by direct donations to the council specifically for the scholarship as well as from funds raised at the Support Big Valley Music Concert last month.

Craft trails raises awareness
    Brasstown – The six state welcome centers have one more tool to bring visitors to Cherokee County. The Blue Ridge National Heritage Area unveiled its Blue Ridge Craft Trails map brochure for Andrews, Brasstown, Hayesville and Murphy last week at John C. Campbell Folk School.
    The brochure is set up as an itinerary for visitors to experience the area, with a focus on local crafters. The goal of the craft trails project is to promote craft, craft artists and cultural tourism in the 25 counties in the heritage area, and as a result, increase income of crafters, enhance cultural tourism and improve the local economies.
    “It’s going to make my business grow for sure,” said Jo Kilmer, owner of Spirit Tall, where she sells her crafts and shows visitors how to create rustic furniture and other pieces.
    The organization, based in Asheville, targeted Cherokee and Clay counties as the pilot project for the overall project. Jay Field, the project’s creative director, said the pilot would give them a template to use for the remaining counties. Research from Magellan Strategy Group led the group to create an itinerary approach for the trail.
    For Cherokee County, the printed itinerary includes the Murphy River Walk, Murphy Visitor Center, Murphy Art Center, Gallery 26, Cherokee County Historical Museum, Lotsa Memories, Spirit Tall Gallery, Turning Point Clay Studio and Valleytown Cultural Arts Center.
    “We made a good faith effort to include all communities in Clay and Cherokee counties,” said Leslie Hartley, Blue Ridge Craft Trails coordinator.
    In addition to the brochure, the heritage area created a website with detailed information about the participating crafters and partners, and the ability for visitors to select what locations they’d like to visit and create their own itinerary. Crafters and partners may ask to be added to the online directory, too.
    David Vowell, director of the Cherokee County Arts Council, said he liked that the website was not hard to navigate the project will help educate visitors about local crafters.
    “It raises awareness of what else there is to do,” he said.
    Since the brochure only gives a sample itinerary, Vowell said when speaking with visitors, he would tell them about local crafters and shops with local crafts that are not in the brochure. He hopes others on the trail would do the same to promote their community.
    The craft trails project was presented last summer as primarily web based, with the possibility of printed material to promote it to tourists. At that time, local artists expressed their concern about connectivity issues in the area making it harder to use a web-based tool here.
    Major funders of the project were the N.C. Arts Council, Conservation Fund/Resourceful Communities, Blue Ridge National Heritage Area, Appalachian Regional Commission, Cherokee County Tourism Development Authority and John C. Campbell Folk School. Local participating partners included the Murphy Visitor Center, Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce and Andrews Chamber of Commerce.
    For details, visit blueridgecrafttrails.com or email info@blueridgeheritage.com.
    Samantha Sinclair is the Scouting Around columnist for the Cherokee Scout. You can reach her by email, scoutingaround@cherokeescout.com; fax, 837-5832; or by leaving a message in the office at 837-5122.

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