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Other Local Programs and Services


The NCTA is committed to bridge building between highly deserving traditional artists and the general public.  The artists served during decades of festival and touring work have frequently been disadvantaged by minority, ethnic or regional status, or language barriers. The NCTA has presented, or provided assistance to, hundreds of talented and deserving local traditional artists representing a broad range of cultural traditions. The NCTA offers performance opportunities and national exposure to the area’s traditional artists through its festivals and other events. These festivals each draw audiences in the 150,000 to 200,000 range and reach many thousands more through annual public radio broadcasts to regional and national audiences.  In the last three years alone, the NCTA has presented 416 Maryland artists in its various public programs.

Often as a result of initial participation in an NCTA-produced event, significant new opportunities for performing present themselves to these artists. The NCTA assists traditional artists through a variety of means to take advantage of such opportunities, including the production of professional recordings, and securing national distribution for these products.

Performance opportunities

Area artists are regularly featured in NCTA-produced events (local, regional and national) – major festivals, concerts, tours, and special events in venues that have included:

  • National Folk Festival
  • Lowell Folk Festival
  • American Folk Festival
  • Richmond Folk Festival
  • Montana Folk Festival
  • Bluebird Blues Festival
  • Maryland Traditions Folklife Festival
  • The ALTA Awards
  • Maryland Masters in the Schools
  • Working Waterfront Festival
  • Blue Ridge Music Center Summer Series
  • NEA National Heritage Fellowships
  • American Roots 4th of July
  • Washington Irish Festival
  • National Medal of Arts
  • The White House
  • The Library of Congress

National tours: Masters of the Steel String Guitar • Masters of the Folk Violin • Masters of the Banjo • Juke Joints & Jubilee • Echoes of Africa

NCTA-produced recordings

15 recordings featuring 16 area artists have been produced and distributed including:

  • Brendan Mulvihill and Donna Long
  • Ivan Cuesta y sus Baltimore Vallenatos
  • John Cephas and Phil Wiggins
  • Dudley Connell
  • Jesse Smith
  • Kieran O’Hare
  • Bill Kirchen
  • Stony Point Quartet
  • Lowell 20th Anniversary Anthology (various artists)
  • Billy McComiskey
  • Mike Auldridge*

*The NCTA is supporting the recently released recording of Maryland dobro master Mike Auldridge, recipient of a 2012 National Heritage Fellowship. A towering figure in the MD/DC/VA bluegrass community and beyond, Auldridge’s mastery of the dobro radically redefined the possibilities of the instrument, and has inspired subsequent generations of players.  In 1971, he co-founded the Seldom Scene, a seminal group that created a new urban bluegrass sound which has profoundly influenced the development of bluegrass music.


The NCTA produces and presents a number of highly visible local events, both independently and in cooperation with other organizations, which include major annual events* (indicated by an asterisk), tour concerts, school programs and various special events. Recent activities include:

Event:                                                                  Venue:

  • Maryland Traditions Folklife Festival*           Creative Alliance, Baltimore, MD
  • The ALTA Awards*                                             Montgomery College, Silver Spring, MD
  • Maryland Traditions in the Schools*              Montgomery County, MD (pilot program)
  • The Washington Folk Festival*                        Glen Echo Park, MD
  • The National Heritage Fellowships*               Week-long activities, various area locations
  • Music From the Crooked Road tour               Public concerts in Frederick, Owings Mills and Annapolis; educational K-12 programs in Silver Spring, Annapolis, Germantown and Baltimore

National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) National Heritage Fellowships

This NEA lifetime honor is the nation’s highest for folk and traditional artists. The annual, free National Heritage Fellowships Concert is the most prestigious annual folk arts event in the country, and is the culmination of a week of activities in the Washington, D.C. area which honor each year’s group of nine recipients.  For 30 years, the NCTA has produced the concert and all other National Heritage Fellowship activities for the NEA. Beyond the regularly sold-out live concert, the NCTA has worked to build national audience through a live webcast, and to expand the event’s national presence on public radio through a partnership with the popular weekly series American Routes. Folklorist Nick Spitzer, host of both American Routes and the Fellowships concert, produces a two-hour Fellowships special that airs on over 300 stations with an estimated 1,100,000 listeners.

NCTA Tours

Over the years, many of NCTA’s conceptual national tours have presented multiple concert performances and accompanying educational community/school programs in Maryland.  These include:

  • Masters of the Steel String Guitar  
  • Masters of the Folk Violin
  • Masters of the Banjo
  • Juke Joints & Jubilee
  • Echoes of Africa
  • From Plains, Pueblos & Tundra
  • The Big Apple/The Big Easy
  • Master of Mexican Music
  • Master of Caribbean Music
  • Music From the Crooked Road


Area audiences and artists have both benefited from the local and national public radio and television programs produced from the NCTA’s live programs in which area artists are frequently featured.

Public television

17 area artists/groups featured in 4 hour-long specials (multiple airings on Maryland Public Television and other regional public stations.)

Public radio

34 Maryland artists/groups featured in 47 programs:

  • “The National Heritage Fellowships” annual 2 hr. special on American Routes (300 stations)
  • “Live From Boarding House Park” – WGBH annual 6-hr. broadcast, Lowell Folk Festival
  • “Live From the Richmond Folk Festival” – WCVE annual 13-hr.broadcast
  • National Folk Festival, Butte, MT – Montana Public Radio 13-hr. annual live broadcast
  • National Folk Festival, Nashville, TN, Folk Alley 13-hr. international streaming
  • American Folk Festival – Maine Public Radio and WERU 13-hr. broadcasts
  • WDCU-Pittsburgh: 41 hour-long conceptual programs featuring music from NCTA’s audio archive


The NCTA has provided consultation and technical assistance to other organizations and institutions in Maryland and the D.C. metro area including:

  • Maryland State Arts Council
  • PGCC, Bluebird Blues Festival
  • Smithsonian Institution
  • Library of Congress
  • National Geographic
  • The Music Center at Strathmore
  • National Park Service
  • National Endowment for the Arts
  • Frostburg State
  • National Public Radio
  • Washington Folk Festival
  • Institute of Musical Traditions
  • Class Acts Arts
  • Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation
  • Folklore Society of Greater Washington
  • Reston Community Center
  • Kennedy Center Millennium Stage


Work is ongoing to preserve the NCTA’s precious and endangered archive of historic audio recordings, which contains important documentation of Maryland traditional artists.  Over 6,000 hours of recordings have been preserved and digitized to date in the NCTA’s audio lab, and are now available to the scholarly community and the public as “The NCTA Collection” at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.

The NCTA is making portions of this historic collection accessible to the general public through rotating features on its website.  The NCTA also make its audio preservation facilities and services available to other area institutions and groups with at-risk audio materials.