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Upcountry South Carolina News


Date ArticleType
12/13/2017 Heritage Cherokee & Beyond
A City with Musical Roots: The Spartanburg Music Trail

You’ve probably seen the clock tower in Morgan Square in Spartanburg, but did you know that the clock came from the Spartanburg Opera House, which originally sat where the Masonic Temple now resides?

Did you know that the Marshall Tucker Band is not named for any of the band members, but for a Spartanburg piano tuner who rented rehearsal space on Spring Street?

Thanks to the efforts of Hub City Writers Project, the city of Spartanburg, the Spartanburg Convention and Visitors Bureau, and now the Spartanburg Philharmonic, the Spartanburg Music Trail educates locals and visitors alike about the rich musical heritage of Spartanburg.

In 1997, Hub City Press published Hub City Music Makers: One Southern Town’s Popular Music Legacy by Peter Cooper—the press’s second book—which tells the stories not only of those who achieved fame for their musical accomplishments, but also those who made their mark on music in a variety of ways, including “Singing Billy” Walker, who popularized shape notes in America. Together, these stories position Spartanburg as a hub of musical influence.

Shortly after the publication of the book, says Hub City Writers Project director Betsy Teter, “We had a sold-out concert in Twitchell Auditorium—1400 seats—with as many of the living artists as we could get.”

After the book and the concert, though, years went by before the idea for the Spartanburg Music Trail was born. “There was a lot of discussion in those years about how to celebrate our musicians and make them visible,” Teter says. “When the City of Spartanburg was spending money on new signage, we approached them with the idea of including signs” to mark geographical locations associated with the musicians. 

Earlier this year, Teter says, Hub City Writers Project turned over the reins for the project to the Spartanburg Philharmonic. Of that transition, she said, “We are thrilled that the Music Trail has found its home with the SPO, the musical heart of our community.”

The first round of 12 inductees was chosen by a committee of representatives of various arts groups and nonprofits, but subsequent musicians have been chosen by a reader poll that was run in the Spartanburg Herald-Journal. Each inductee has a placard placing him or her geographically in the city, even if nearly all of the locations referenced are no longer standing.

There is an audio tour that visitors can listen to on a smartphone, narrated by Hub City Music Makers author, Peter Cooper. Cooper himself may be listed among the music makers, although he is not a musician—he was a fledgling music writer in his twenties, Teter says, when he wrote the book, but he went on to a career as a music columnist for the Nashville Tennessean, and recently joined the Country Music Hall of Fame as in-house writer and editor.

The most recent two inductees were installed in 2015 at the location of a new sign on St. John Street, just west of The George Business School. The induction of these two artists indicated a move towards the classical end of the musical spectrum, with David Daniels,an acclaimed opera countertenor, and Carlos Moseley, who has served as the managing director of the New York Philharmonic.

The goal is to add a signpost approximately every two years, says Spartanburg Philharmonic general manager Peter Kay, and the next one is in the planning stages. The trail will ultimately make a loop around the downtown area of Spartanburg that includes Main Street, Liberty Street, St. John Street, and Daniel Morgan Avenue.

Kathryn Boucher, executive director of the Spartanburg Philharmonic, says, “The Spartanburg Philharmonic is thrilled to expand our partnerships and initiatives in the community with the Spartanburg Music Trail. The trail is a fun afternoon event for a family as well as a historical resource for the community showcasing our musical history. Additionally, the trail serves as a unique tourist activity, and we look forward to expanding in the next few months.”

Maps for the music trail can be found at Hub City Bookstore, which resides in the Masonic Temple on Morgan Square, and copies of Hub City Music Makers can be purchased there as well.


Sharon Purvis is a freelance writer and editor who makes her home with her husband in Spartanburg, South Carolina. You can find more of her work at SharonPurvisWrites.com.
Article originally appeared on http://www.ourupstatesc.info/