Duke Performances

Music Maker 25: Honoring Our Musical Traditions

April 15, 2020


By Joel Johnson

Last December, public historian Kimber Heinz and I were privileged to put together the exhibition Music Maker 25: Honoring Our Musical Traditions (part of Duke Performances’ Music Maker 25, a music festival co-presented in December 2019 with the Music Maker Relief Foundation [MMRF]). The exhibition, staged at The Fruit in downtown Durham, chronicled the 25th anniversary of the Foundation, which helps support American roots music and groups of southern artists who, against great barriers, uphold musical traditions and help preserve our cultural heritage.

Exhibition in progress at The Fruit. Photo by Joel Johnson.

We started working on the exhibition last July with a visit to the Foundation in Hillsborough, NC. There, we were able to tour founder Timothy Duffy’s studio. The visit was mind-blowing, from the beautiful Duffy tintypes to hundreds of historic music memorabilia. Going through Duffy’s studio was like walking through his brain. It was a privilege. It gave us a deeper understanding of Duffy and MMRF’s work, allowing us to tell their quarter-century story through a series of photographic prints, musical instruments, and ephemera. 

We’re also excited to share another beautiful documentary glimpse into our programming — this time, expressing the range of events that made up the Music Maker 25 festival last December. As with the American Ballet Theatre short film, this piece was shot and edited by the KidEthnic team.

Film by KidEthnic.

We feature this media this week as we gear up for our livestream concert this evening with singer, guitarist, and interpreter Jake Xerxes Fussell, part of the ongoing series co-presented with Duke Arts and WXDU. Fussell performed on the first night of the Music Maker 25 festival (“Pickers & Storytellers”), splitting a bill with Dom Flemons, Gail Caesar, and “Blind Boy” Paxton. You can read Fussell’s reflections on his making and listening practice during an uncertain time — which includes hummingbirds, archival recordings, and the nature films of Stephen de Vere — here.

Joel Johnson is Art Director at Duke Performances.

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