Charles Pettee - Hear the Sound

Charles Pettee - Hear the Sound

Charles Pettee, guitar and mandolin-wielding songwriter from Asheville, NC, loves sharing not only the catchy rhythms of NC Bluegrass and Folk music, but also the segregation-defying stories behind this culturally diverse tapestry of sounds. Transitioning from fronting Chapel Hill, NC’s world-traveling Bluegrass band The Shady Grove Band for over 25 years, Mr. Pettee has become an accomplished teaching artist and music educator whose programs and residencies are in high demand throughout North and South Carolina. In addition to in-person programs, he is excited about using digital platforms to carry his musical message to an even wider audience. Pettee offers several age-adjusted presentations that align with NC Essential Standards for both Music and Social Studies for grades preK-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12, as well as adults. He performs at festivals and special events with some of NC’s finest acoustic musicians, including his son, guitar player Jackson Pettee, under the name Slippery Hill. Pettee’s group FolkPsalm performs beautifully arranged settings of Pettee’s original Psalm settings. That group now boasts four full length albums. Pettee has logged over 6,000 performances over the course of his career, and has recently begun work on his 14th CD/album.


  318 Burris Place, Chapel Hill, NC 27516



Bluegrass: North Carolina's Global Music

Program description

Charles Pettee’s “Bluegrass: North Carolina’s Global Music” (grades 6-12) picks up the international and historical themes from Charles Pettee’s “Bluegrass Stomp” (grades 3-5) program, and expands on these for middle and high school audiences. Singing and performing on guitar, mandolin, banjo and harmonica, Mr. Pettee surveys the development of American folk music over time, and shows how NC Bluegrass is a product of many cultures from many parts of the globe. Pettee starts in the present, performing an up-tempo Appalachian fiddle tune, followed by a contemporary vocal song in a Bluegrass style. He then takes his audience back into the late 1700s, when there was, basically, no distinct “American” music yet. Pettee performs a few numbers from these earlier days, giving the audience a sense of the sounds of the times. Continuing the musical timeline, students hear samples of “freedom songs” by enslaved African-Americans (as wells as “Follow the Drinking Gourd” from the underground Railroad movement), followed by some samples of music from the Civil War. With the abolition of slavery, American music began to reflect more and more African influences. By the end of the 1800s, “Blues” tonalities, (Pettee calls these “African sounds” and demonstrates them for the audience), became more and more prominent in southern folk music. This led to the creation of the distinctly American music genre known as Blues, which, in turn gave rise in the 1900s to Bluegrass, Jazz, Rock and Roll, and Hip-Hop. Pettee involves his audience for “Q & A”, and a bit of singing, as he demonstrates the global connections of NC Bluegrass on the guitar, mandolin, banjo, harmonica and voice. Everyone is invited to “own” a piece of our unique NC sound! “Your presentation was one of the most instructional, entertaining and professional performances we sponsored all year.” (PTSA Cultural Enrichment Committee, East Chapel Hill High School).

Program detail
Artistic discipline: Music
Cultural Origin: African, American, European
Program type: Assembly/Performance, Out-of-School-Time, Virtual/Online Program, Workshop
Population served: Grade 10, Grade 11, Grade 12, Grade 6, Grade 7, Grade 8, Grade 9
Subject: History, Music, Social Studies / History
Bilingual: No


NC Standard Course of Study:

SL4: “Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.” In his presentations, Mr. Pettee demonstrates a variety of musical styles from around the world that combined in the US to provide the ingredients for NC Bluegrass music. By the end of a program or residency, many students will be able to “hear” how, for example, sounds from West Africa played on a banjo, have been carried over to the harmonica or guitar to make what are now known as “blues” music. Mr. Pettee also describes how these “blues” sounds form the basis for Bluegrass, Jazz, and Rock. L3: “Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.” Regarding music as “language” please see the SL4 and R6 above. Regarding song lyrics as language with different meanings and uses, every program contains a variety of songs, whose lyrics express either historically significant moments (e.g., the Civil War, or the Underground Railroad), tell stories (e.g., “The Lollipop Tree” song), or simply provide clever, catchy rhythms and rhymes (e.g., ‘Old Joe Clark” or “Ain’t No Bugs on Me”)

NC Essential Standards:

* 6.ML.1.3 Recognize expressive elements (such as dynamics, timbre, blending, and phrasing) of music. * 6.MR.1.1 Illustrate perceptual skills by moving to, answering questions about, and describing aural examples of music of various styles and cultures. * 7.CR.1.3 Understand the functions music serves, roles of musicians, and conditions under which music is typically performed. * 8.CR.1.1 Understand the role of music in North Carolina and the United States in relation to history and geography. * B.CR.1.1 Use music to explore concepts in world history and relate them to significant events, ideas, and movements from a global context. * B.CR.1.5 Compare the various roles that musicians can and do perform and the conditions under which music is performed. * I.CR.1.5 Classify specific musical works in terms of the particular culture and time period in which they were produced. * P.CR.1.1 Understand the role of music in United States history as a means of interpreting past eras within an historical context. Social Studies Connections: *7.C.1.2 Explain how cultural expressions (e.g. art, literature, architecture and music) influence modern society. *8.C.1.1 Explain how influences from Africa, Europe, and the Americas impacted North Carolina and the United States (e.g. slavery, the decline of the American Indian populations).


Conducts educational programming for 2 or more years: Yes
Performs criminal background checks on staff with youth contact: Yes
Three letters of recommendation / references available: Yes
Provides study guides for teachers and or students: Yes
Connects to State and or Common Core Curriculum Standards: Yes
Provides tools to assess student learning (workshops and residencies): Yes
Provides scholarship and reduced fees: Yes
Conducts ongoing assessments of program quality: Yes