The Spartanburg Philharmonic and the Spartanburg Convention and Visitors Bureau will unveil the 10th music trail sign on September 26, 2018.
Located in front of the Subway in downtown Spartanburg, between East Saint John and Magnolia, the new sign will feature American gospel singer, Rev. Julius “June” Cheeks (August 7,1929- January 27, 1981) and internationally renowned soprano, Gianna Rolandi (August 16, 1952- ). The unveiling will take place at 10am and the community is welcome to hear a few words from Chris Jennings, Executive Vice President of the Convention of Visitors Bureau, Kathryn Boucher, Executive Director of the Spartanburg Philharmonic, Betsy Teter, Editor and Director of Development at the Hub City Writers Project and Stefan Sanders, the Spartanburg Philharmonic’s new maestro.
The unveiling is part of the Philharmonic’s season of celebration. As the oldest performing arts organization in Spartanburg, the Philharmonic is celebrating its 90thseason this year and the sign is yet another symbol of the Philharmonic’s commitment to Spartanburg and its culture. Boucher says, “As the Philharmonic celebrates its 90-year legacy in Spartanburg, it seems fitting that we unveil a new Music Trail sign to honor musicians who represent two areas of our musical heritage. Gianna Rolandi performed with the Philharmonic many times over the years and audience members fondly remember her outstanding work. And while June Cheeks never worked directly with our organization, his legacy in gospel music is unparalleled. Both made significant impacts in the community and we are thrilled to recognize their achievements.”
Gianna Rolandi enjoyed considerable success on opera, concert, and recital stages. Rolandi performed on the Twichell stage in 1982, 1985 and 1995. Rolandi graduated from the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia in 1975 and made her operatic debut that year with the New York City Opera where she went on to sing more than 30 roles.
Rev. Julius “June” Cheeks was famed for a gritty, powerful baritone which influenced the next generation of gospel singers and secular stars including James Brown and Wilson Pickett. As a child, Cheeks was enamored of the recordings of Dixie Hummingbirds, the Soul Stirrers and others. Cheeks began singing in second grade, joined a local gospel group dubbed the Baronets and in 1946 was spotted by the Rev. B.L. Parks, a former Dixie Hummingbird and tapped to join a group called the Nightingales.
Chris Jennings of the Convention of Visitors Bureau says, “The Spartanburg Music Trail is another great example of collaboration, which began with Hub City Writers Project publishing the book, Hub City Music Makers: One Southern Town’s Popular Music Legacy. The Spartanburg Convention & Visitors Bureau then partnered with Hub City Writers Project, the City of Spartanburg, and the Spartanburg Philharmonic to produce the latest version of the tour.” The book Jennings refers to, written by Peter Cooper, will be available for purchase at the unveiling. New brochures for the music trail will also be available for music lovers. “The Music Trail celebrates Spartanburg’s rich music heritage and provides our visitors with a hands-on experience, while allowing opportunities to explore downtown Spartanburg’s diverse dining, cultural assets, and attractions,” he adds.
This will be Maestro Stefan Sanders’s first unveiling of a Music Trail sign, but he is no stranger to how Spartanburg celebrates its musicians. “The honoring of gospel legend, James Cheeks and opera star, Gianna Rolandi on the Spartanburg Music Trail will forever enshrine these world-renowned Spartanburg musicians in perpetuity. The Music Trail celebrates our musical past, not only memorializing these great artists but also reminding us all of our community’s affinity and commitment to art and culture.”
The trail will eventually make a loop around the downtown area of Spartanburg that includes Main Street, Liberty Street, St. John Street, and Daniel Morgan Avenue. Jennings encourages residents and visitors alike to enjoy this interactive outdoor experience that combines history and music to celebrate Spartanburg’s cultural roots. “Bring your smartphone and listen to samples of their music, while following the trail.”