The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

September 14, 2013

Shelia Kay Adams of Madison County Honored as National Heritage Fellow


Saturday, September 14, 2013 — RALEIGH -- One of North Carolina's best-known ballad singers, Sheila Kay Adams. will be honored as a 2013 National Heritage Fellow in a live awards presentation of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) fellowship concert Friday, Sept. 27 at 8 p.m. The program will include a performance by the Madison County native.


The free, public program will be broadcast live online at North Carolina residents can get a sneak preview by listening to a podcast at of Adams at


Adams is one of nine National Heritage recipients named by the NEA this year, and the 12th North Carolinian to receive the national award. Each fellow receives a $25,000 award.


"Sheila made it her mission to absorb old love songs from her elders and she became a bridge that has enabled young people to learn, and to love, ballad singing," Executive Director Wayne Martin, N.C. Arts Council, observed.

"That venerated 17th century tradition had been in danger of becoming irrelevant."


Ballad singing flourished when rural communities didn't have access to newspapers, magazines and books, and provided a way to discuss events and ponder the human condition. Adams learned to sing from her great-aunt Dillie Chandler and the Wallin family (including National Heritage Award winner Doug Wallin). In addition to ballad singing, Adams is an accomplished clawhammer-style banjo player and storyteller. She began performing in her teens and has performed at festivals, music camps and workshops in the United States and the United Kingdom.


"Arts, in addition to enriching our lives, has also sparked an economic renaissance in many of our towns and cities in North Carolina attracting new business, downtown redevelopment and historic preservation,' says Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources Susan Kluttz. "We are thrilled that the NEA has recognized one our uniquely North Carolinian musicians."


A new travel guidebook, "Blue Ridge Music Trails of North Carolina," features a profile of Adams and other traditional musicians in the mountains and foothills of the state. Published in partnership with UNC Press, it is a guide for citizens and visitors to experience living Blue Ridge music traditions, including ballad singing.


Adams is the author of two books:  "Come Go Home With Me," a collection of stories published by UNC Press, and winner of the North Carolina Historical Society's award for historical fiction in 1997; and "My Old True Love," a novel published by Algonquin Books in 2004. She has recorded several albums of ballads, songs and stories.