The 2021 Season of An Appalachian Summer Festival Presents a Mix of Indoor, Outdoor and Virtual Programming
Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, Leslie Odom Jr., Alan Cumming & Ari Shapiro, Paula Poundstone and more!

BOONE, NC— Appalachian State University’s annual summer arts attraction, An Appalachian Summer Festival (AASF), proudly celebrates its 37th season from July 2-31, 2021. This monthlong whirlwind of music, dance, theatre, visual arts and film programming has emerged as one of the nation’s leading regional arts festivals. After last summer’s transition to all-virtual programming, the festival is pleased to return to a full schedule of events featuring a variety of in-person outdoor and indoor performances, along with additional livestreaming and virtual options. Tickets for festival events will be available online and at the Schaefer Center for the Performing Arts box office beginning Monday, May 10 at 9am. For more information, visit or call the box office at 828-262-4046.

AASF will feature nearly 30 days of live, in-person, socially distanced and COVID-compliant performances starting July 2. The season will be staged across two outdoor venues, including Kidd Brewer Stadium and the State Farm Road Concert Lot, a university-owned space adjacent to the Greenway Trail, which will be outfitted as an outdoor theatrical stage with pod seating to ensure a fun, festive and safe concert setting. The Schaefer Center will host several limited-attendance events, including performances that offer two different show times and livestream options. The 35th Anniversary Rosen Walk, Turchin Center exhibition openings, and a variety of virtual offerings round out the festival’s diverse arts menu this summer. Additional details about each event are available at  

“Feedback from our audiences and supporters in recent months has been tremendously helpful in determining how best to safely gather and celebrate the festival’s broad array of arts programming, while also creating the safe and protected atmosphere they are seeking,” said Denise Ringler, Director of Arts Engagement and Cultural Resources. “Measures such as reduced capacity, socially distanced pod seating, enhanced cleaning protocols in our venues, elimination of intermissions and indoor concessions, touch-free ticketing, and digital communications are all designed to provide the health and safety assurances that are consistent with the university’s protocols, and which are so important to our audiences.”

With 27 events set across these three venues, and with limited seating in each, An Appalachian Summer Festival will only support a fraction of its normal capacity compared to previous festivals. That will make tickets harder to get, but the decision to limit audience sizes, in accordance with current state and local guidelines, fulfills a critical goal: keeping performers and audiences as safe as possible while providing the live indoor/outdoor experiences synonymous with App Summer. To keep audiences spaced safely, tickets will be sold in seated pods of two, four and six. Select performances also feature a livestreaming component to accommodate patrons who are unable to attend in person.

The Schaefer Center will be home to two artists on the Schaefer Popular Series slate, a celebrated dance company, and all events on the chamber music series. Comedian Paula Poundstone will offer two performances, the latter of which will also be livestreamed for a nominal fee, as will the performance by award-winning playwright Sarah Jones. New York City’s Parsons Dance will offer two in-person shows, with family-friendly price points set for the matinee performance. And the diverse chamber music series, which includes Emerson String Quartet, Canadian Brass, Tessa Lark and Michael Thurber, Tesla Quartet, and Julian Gargiulo, offers a livestream option in conjunction with the in-person concerts.

The festival’s largest outdoor event features the wildly popular Americana band Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit entertaining an audience at Kidd Brewer Stadium. The new State Farm Road location welcomes Leslie Odom, Jr., star of Broadway’s Hamilton; Tony winner Alan Cumming and NPR personality Ari Shapiro in a cabaret-style show; and the Charleston, SC-based band Ranky Tanky, wrapping up the festival with some certified funk. The Turchin Center for the Visual Arts’ Summer Exhibition Celebration will welcome visitors using a timed-entry reservation system, and the 35th anniversary season of the annual Rosen Sculpture Walk will take place outdoors on the university campus.

Virtual-only events include the play Freedom Summer, a Civil Rights-era drama by NC Black Repertory Company, preceded by a Meet the Artist event with the company’s artistic director, Jackie Alexander; the Weicholz Global Film Series, which features award-winning international films that spotlight human migration stories; a celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Rosen-Schaffel Competition for Young & Emerging Artists; and a series of visual artist Lunch & Learn events.

“Our hope is to offer multiple ways for our audiences to enjoy the festival — whether it’s attending live events or continuing to enjoy festival programs via live streaming,” says Ringler, adding that the virtual and livestreaming experience over the past year has proven to reach audiences across the nation –– and the world –– who would have otherwise lacked access to these programs.

The complete schedule for An Appalachian Summer Festival 2021: 


  • Paula Poundstone (July 3, Schaefer Center, 5pm & 8pm, plus ticketed livestream for 8pm show only)
    $40 in-person / $15 livestream
    Humorist, author and comedian Paula Poundstone is known for her clever, observational humor and spontaneous wit. Time magazine listed her HBO special, Cats, Cops and Stuff, as one of The 5 Funniest Stand-Up Specials Ever. Paula Poundstone continues as a panelist on NPR’s Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!, and is recognized in innumerable lists, documentaries and literary compendiums noting influential standup comedians of our time.
  • Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit (July 10, Kidd Brewer Stadium, 8pm)
    Starting at $60
    Americana outfit Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit make a tour stop in Boone to promote their newest release, Reunions. The former Drive-By Trucker and his bandmates open the season with an unforgettable evening of rousing anthems and lyrical standouts. Spill Magazine says Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit “are the freshest sound to emerge from the nexus of folk and country in many years. Their music is articulate and rocking, simple and yet able to present complex ideas; rooted in the past with their eyes and hearts fixed firmly on the future.”
  • Leslie Odom Jr. (July 17, State Farm Road Concert Lot, 8pm) THIS EVENT HAS BEEN CANCELLED
    2, 4 and 6-person pods: $110/$210/$300
    Be in the room where it happens when Oscar nominee and Tony® Award winner Leslie Odom, Jr., the original Aaron Burr from the Broadway phenomenon Hamilton, appears in concert for a special evening of song.
  • Alan Cumming and Ari Shapiro: Och & Oy! A Considered Cabaret (July 24, State Farm Road Concert Lot, 8pm)
    2, 4 and 6-person pods: $100/$190/$270
    Tony winner and TV star Alan Cumming (Cabaret, “The Good Wife”) and NPR staple and singer Ari Shapiro (“All Things Considered,” Pink Martini) join forces in song and storytelling with this evening of tunes and tall tales.
  • An Evening with Sarah Jones (July 29, Schaefer Center and ticketed livestream, 8pm)
    $40 in-person / $15 livestream
    Called “a master of the genre” by The New York Times, Sarah Jones is a Tony® and Obie Award-winning performer and writer known for her multi-character, one-person shows (Broadway hit Bridge & Tunnel and her current critically-acclaimed Sell/Buy/Date). Jones has also appeared in film and TV projects ranging from Sesame Street to Broad City to recent Oscar nominee Marriage Story.

  • Ranky Tanky (July 31, State Farm Road Concert Lot, 8pm)
    2, 4 and 6-person pods: $70/$130/$180
    The soulful songs of the Gullah culture are brought to life by this Grammy-winning quintet of native South Carolinians who mix Low Country traditions with large doses of jazz, gospel, funk, and R&B (“Ranky Tanky” translates loosely as “Work It” or “Get Funky”). From playful game songs to ecstatic shouts, from heartbreaking spirituals to delicate lullabies, the musical roots of Charleston, SC are fertile ground from which these contemporary artists are grateful to have grown.


  • Broyhill Chamber Music Series presents Emerson String Quartet (July 6, Schaefer Center plus ticketed livestream, 7pm)
    $35 in-person / $15 livestream
    Emerson String Quartet, one of the world’s premier chamber music ensembles, performs an all-classical program of Purcell, Shostakovich, and Beethoven. “With musicians like this,” wrote a reviewer for The Times (London), “there must be some hope for humanity.”
  • Broyhill Chamber Music Series presents Canadian Brass (July 11, Schaefer Center plus free livestream, 7pm)
    $35 in-person
    Canadian Brass, who has earned the distinction as “the world’s most famous brass group,” perform an engaging, spontaneous and virtuosic program ranging from Bach to The Beatles.
  • Broyhill Chamber Music Series presents Tessa Lark and Michael Thurber: (July 16, Schaefer Center plus free livestream, 7pm)
    $35 in-person
    Award-winning violinist Tessa Lark and virtuoso composer/bassist Michael Thurber fuse classical and American music influences to create a wholly original sound. The pair will perform a program that includes works from Bach’s Two-Part Inventions as well as classic fiddle tunes and original compositions that pull from the duo’s paired backgrounds of bluegrass, Appalachian, jazz and bebop music.
  • Broyhill Chamber Music Series presents Tesla Quartet (July 20, Schaefer Center plus free livestream, 7pm)
    $35 in-person
    Praised for their “superb capacity to find the inner heart of everything they play, regardless of era, style or technical demand” (The International Review of Music), the Tesla Quartet brings refinement and prowess to both new and established repertoire. The ensemble expertly interprets the many layers of Dvorak, Haydn and Bartok in the evening’s program.
  • Rosen-Schaffel Competition: 10th Anniversary Celebration, featuring Andrew Rene and Morgan Short (July 25, virtual, 7pm)
    The festival, in partnership with the Hayes School of Music, celebrates the 10th anniversary of the acclaimed Rosen-Schaffel Competition for Young & Emerging Artists, known for the pivotal role it has played in launching the careers of some of our state’s most promising young artists.
  • Broyhill Chamber Music Series presents Julian Gargiulo: Pianist with the Hair (July 30, Schaefer Center plus free livestream, 7pm)
    $35 in-person
    Commonly referred to as “Pianist with the Hair” because of his distinctive look, Julian Gargiulo is a renowned classical pianist and composer who performs all over the world, in prestigious venues from New York’s Carnegie Hall to Singapore’s Symphony Stage, interacting with his audience to provide a truly memorable experience. “Expect to revise any preconceived notions you have about classical music concerts. … Saturday Night Live meets Carnegie Hall” —Huffington Post


  • Parsons Dance (July 8, Schaefer Center, 4pm & 8pm)
    $40; $25 students (for 4pm matinee only)
    Contemporary dance juggernauts Parsons Dance, known for their remarkable athleticism and stunning ensemble work, performs a program featuring the company’s iconic Caught, a preview on The Road (set to crowd-pleasing music by Cat Stevens), and “Balance of Power.”


  • North Carolina Black Repertory Company presents Freedom Summer (July 15, ticketed livestream, 8pm)
    The celebrated North Carolina Black Repertory Company, recently named Distinguished Career Award recipients at the Southeastern Theatre Conference, returns to the festival with Freedom Summer, which follows two black sisters in the summer of 1964 as they question civil rights, black identity, and what it means to be free.
  • Companion Event

Meet the Cast of Freedom Summer: moderated by Jackie Alexander, NC Black Rep Artistic Director (July 13, free livestream, 7pm)


  • Weicholz Global Film Series (July 7, 14, 21 & 28, ticketed virtual screenings, 7pm)
    $5 per film
    – Quo Vadis, Aida? (July 7)
    – The Road to Mandalay (July 14)
    – Transit (July 21)
    – Complicity (July 28)


  • Summer Exhibition Celebration (July 2, Turchin Center for the Visual Arts, 6-9pm)
    Free; registration required
    Celebrate summer and the opening of new exhibitions at the Turchin Center for the Visual Arts – explore, discover and connect through the arts! This is an opportunity for art lovers to surround themselves with stunning artwork and meet the accomplished artists exhibiting in the galleries at the Turchin Center. Experience diverse artwork by nationally and internationally renowned artists right here at the crossroads of Appalachian State University and downtown Boone.
  • Connecting with Place: Cyanotype Workshop for K-12 Educators (July 9, Turchin Center, 1pm)
    Workshop participants will learn about historic and contemporary uses of the cyanotype printing process and will get hands-on experience with the process to utilize in their classrooms. After printing and developing their own cyanotype photographs, participants will experiment with toners made from regional plants to achieve a wide range of colorful photographs deeply rooted in place and ecological connection. Led by artist Shauna Caldwell. CEU: 3 contact hours

  • 35th Annual Rosen Outdoor Sculpture Walk (July 10, Schaefer Center*, 10am)
    *participants will gather at the reception tent adjacent to the Schaefer Center
    Free; reservations requested
    The Rosen Sculpture Competition and Exhibition is an annual national juried competition presented by the Turchin Center for the Visual Arts on the campus of Appalachian State University and brings an astonishing array of contemporary sculpture to the campus and community each season. To celebrate the 35th anniversary of this dynamic program, join competition juror Rachel Stevens on an educational outdoor tour of the nine sculptures from this year’s competition, with an additional sculpture available for viewing at the Blowing Rock Art & History Museum. The tour concludes with an outdoor reception adjacent to the Schaefer Center and will include a tribute to the Rosen family, a reflection on the 35th anniversary and an awards presentation. Made possible by the continued support and generosity of the Rosen Family.

  • Lunch & Learn Lecture Series (July 12, 19, 22 & 26, virtual, Noon)
    July 12: Where are the birds? Retracing Audubon: Artwork by Krista Elrick
    July 19: Dulatown: Documentary Film Screening and Panel Discussion
    July 22: Testimony — Indonesian Lullaby: Surviving the Shoah in the Netherlands, Dr. Alfred Münzer
    July 26: Ruminations: Cheryl Prisco — From Studio to Gallery

Indoor In-person Events
Summer Exhibition Celebration, Paula Poundstone, Emerson String Quartet, Parsons Dance, Educators Workshop, Canadian Brass, Tessa Lark and Michael Thurber, Tesla Quartet, An Evening with Sarah Jones, and Julian Gargiulo: Pianist with the Hair

Outdoor In-person Events
Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, 35th Annual Rosen Sculpture Walk, Alan Cumming and Ari Shapiro: Och & Oy! a considered cabaret, and Ranky Tanky

Livestream and Virtual Events
Paula Poundstone, Emerson String Quartet, Weicholz Global Film Series, Canadian Brass, Lunch & Learn Lecture Series, Meet the Artist: Jackie Alexander, NC Black Repertory Company presents Freedom Summer, Tessa Lark and Michael Thurber, Tesla Quartet, Rosen-Schaffel Competition: 10th Anniversary Celebration, An Evening with Sarah Jones, and Julian Gargiulo: Pianist with the Hair

Tickets for An Appalachian Summer Festival:
With a wide range of ticket prices, as well as several free events, the festival offers unique opportunities for residents and visitors to create arts experiences suited to their individual artistic tastes and budgets. To purchase tickets or to register for virtual events, call or visit the Schaefer Center box office at 800-841-2787 or 828-262-4046. Tickets can also be purchased online at Registration is required for all streamed events with the exception of the chamber music concerts supported by The Violin Channel.

About An Appalachian Summer Festival:
Presented by Appalachian State University’s Office of Arts & Cultural Programs, this annual celebration of the performing and visual arts is held every July in venues across the university campus, and features an eclectic, diverse mix of music, dance, theatre, visual arts and film programming. An Appalachian Summer Festival began in 1984 as a chamber music series, and retains strong roots in classical music, combined with a variety of other programming geared to almost every artistic taste and preference. With an audience of 27,000, the festival has been named one of the “Top Twenty Events in the Southeast” by the Southeast Tourism Society in recent years.

Festival Corporate Sponsors:
Westglow Resort and Spa, McDonald’s of Boone, Mast General Store, Goodnight Brothers, Boone Area Visitors Bureau, SkyBest Communications, Appalachian Home Care LLC, PNC Bank, Peak Insurance, Scholars Bookshop at the University Bookstore, Holiday Inn Express-Boone, Courtyard by Marriott, Peabody’s Wine & Beer Merchants, Chetola Resort, and Creekside Electronics

Festival Media Sponsors:
WBTV, WCYB, PBS North Carolina, Spectrum Reach, Our State Magazine, Creative Loafing Charlotte, Yes! Weekly, Winston-Salem Journal, Greensboro News & Record, WNC Magazine, The Mountain Times, Watauga Democrat, High Country Radio, WHKY AM 1290, WDAV 89.9FM, WFDD 88.5FM, WETS, and WASU 90.5FM.