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Clarion Native, North Carolina Folklorist Hired as Boone’s Cultural Resources Director

Tuesday, July 16, 2019 @ 12:07 AM

Posted by Ron Wilshire

MarkFreedBOONE, N.C. (EYT) – Love of the banjo brought Mark Freed, a Clarion Area High School graduate, to Boone, North Carolina, where he was just hired as Town of Boone Cultural Resources Department Director.

Freed holds a B.A in Journalism from Indiana University of Pennsylvania; an M.A. in Appalachian Studies from Appalachian State University; and an M.S.L.S in Library Science from Clarion University of Pennsylvania.

He has been employed as the Cultural Resources Coordinator with the Town of Boone Cultural Resources Department since 2012 and has served as an Adjunct Instructor with Appalachian State University teaching for both Appalachian Studies and the School of Music.

After earning his journalism degree, Mark played music professionally in a band with some friends.

“We were playing in Michigan where I met my wife, Sunnee. I had already started playing a little banjo, and there was a store in Lansing, Michigan, that had a lot of acoustic instruments, including banjos,” Freed explained.

Freed started buying lots of cassettes of older banjo musicians because that was about the time when cassettes were being phased out.

“At that point, I realized I didn’t want to make that my primary source of income, and it wasn’t the type of lifestyle I wanted to live long term. I came down here really because I fell in love with the banjo.

“Going to grad school was a better choice than just saying I’m leaving for North Carolina to play the banjo. The love of the banjo gave me a little more direction to do grad school.”

It was a good fit for Freed with Appalachian State and such a good fit that he never really left.

“As soon as I finished my graduate degree, I applied to Indiana University to do a Ph.D. in musicology, and I got accepted but at the same time, I was offered a job as a folklorist with our local art council here. We had just been in Boone for a couple of years at that point, and we were establishing ourselves in the community, and we weren’t ready to go. I figured I’d take the opportunity to work as a folklorist instead of going back to school.”

Freed’s experience includes positions as Folklorist with the Watauga County Arts Council; Project Manager with the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area; and Project Manager with the North Carolina Folklife Institute. He also possesses a wealth of knowledge in various fields including marketing, technical writing, grants, and programming.

As the Town of Boone Cultural Resources Department Director, Mark will be administering all cultural resource programs throughout the town and operations at the Jones House Cultural and Community Center and Daniel Boone Park.

“I love the banjo, and western North Carolina is the place to be if you want to play banjo — it’s known as a mecca for that stuff. The excuse was to go to grad school and that just led to the next thing and doors just opened up.”

The Jones House Cultural and Community Center were built in 1908 that features several programs such as concerts and music lessons, jam sessions, art gallery, holiday events, parades, a downtown trick or treating event, and those sorts of events.

“We are also a resource for the community in terms of cultural activities and things going on.  We’re also an information center.”

Mark’s promotion means more duties and developing new initiatives.

“We came here because we fell in love with music and the area, and that passion hasn’t ended. I love what I do and the opportunity it has allowed me to surround myself with all that kind of thing,” Freed added.


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