Sheila Kay Adams
A seventh-generation ballad singer, storyteller, and claw-hammer banjo player, Sheila Kay Adams was born and raised in the Sodom Laurel community of Madison County, North Carolina, an area renowned for its unbroken tradition of of unaccompanied singing of traditional southern Appalachian ballads that dates back to the early Scots/Irish and English Settlers in the mid-17th century. Adams learned to sing from her great-aunt Dellie Chandler Norton and other notable singers in the community such as, Dillard Chandler and the Wallin Family (including NEA National Heritage Fellow Doug Wallin). In addition to ballad singing, Adams is an accomplished claw hammer-style banjo player and storyteller. She began performing in public in her teens and, throughout her career she has performed at festivals, events, music camps, and workshops around this country and the United Kingdom. Other performances include the acclaimed International Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee as well as the 1976 and 2003 Smithsonian Folklife Festival as part of The Bicentennial Celebration and Appalachia: Heritage and Harmony.
Adams is the author of two books: Come Home With Me, a collection of stories published by the University of North Carolina Press and a 1997 winner of the North Carolina Historical Society's award for historical fiction. My Old True Love, a novel, was published by Alonquin Books in 2004.
Sheila Kay has also recorded several albums of ballads, songs and stories including; My Dearest Dear (2000), All The Other Fine Things (2004), and Live at the International Storytelling Festival (2007). Adams appeared in the movies Last of the Mohicans (1992) and Songcatcher (2000), a movie for which she also served as technical advisor and singing coach.
Adams' devotion to preserving and perpetuating her heritage earned her the North Carolina Folklore Society's Brown-Hudson Award in recognition of her valuable contributions to the study of North Carolina Folklore. In a letter supporting her nomination as a NEA Heritage Fellow, George Holt, director of performing arts and film at the North Carolina Museum of Art wrote, "Sheila Kay Adams is the key figure in carrying forward to this day the tradition of unaccompanied ballad singing that has enriched her community for more than two centuries. promoting its beauty throughout our country and beyond, and insuring that it will be perpetuated by younger generations of singers well into the 21st century."