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Sign honoring new Spartanburg Music Trail inductees unveiled

October 1, 2018

SPARTANBURG, S.C. (AP) — The Spartanburg Music Trail now has a class of 20 inductees.

The newest two-sided sign, honoring internationally-renowned opera soprano Gianna Rolandi and the late gospel singer Rev. Julius “June” Cheeks, was unveiled in a ceremony near the corner of West Saint John and Magnolia streets.

The Music Trail “boosts the popularity of Spartanburg and puts us on the map,” said Mayor Junie White, after pulling the ribbon that revealed the new sign. “It’s a great thing that we recognize people who spent time in Spartanburg and played music that’s had such a big impact. . This is a great tradition that we need to continue.”

The Spartanburg Music Trail opened in 2011 under the stewardship of the Hub City Writers Project, which has since turned over the reins to the Spartanburg Philharmonic.

“I love the fact that Spartanburg now is recognizing people who have sort of been forgotten in history,” said Betsy Teter, editor and director of development for the Hub City Writers Project, who gave a few remarks during Wednesday’s ceremony. “This is a legacy that I’m very proud of and I think the whole community should be proud of.”

Rolandi, who was born in New York but grew up in Spartanburg, has enjoyed considerable success on opera, concert and recital stages throughout the world.

Now 66, she performed on Converse College’s Twichell Auditorium stage in 1982, 1985 and 1995. She 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.

Cheeks, a Spartanburg native who died in 1981 at age 51, 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. He 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.

Other speakers at Wednesday’s ceremony included the Spartanburg Philharmonic’s new music director and conductor Stefan Sanders, an Austin, Texas, native who recently moved to Spartanburg from Buffalo, N.Y.

“Not every city has a music trail that celebrates its musical luminaries,” Sanders said. “This is a testament to how much people care about art and culture in this community.”

The Spartanburg Music Trail honored 12 inaugural inductees in 2011, expanded in 2013 to include four more and added an additional two inductees in 2015.

It will eventually make a loop around the downtown area of Spartanburg that includes Main Street, Liberty Street, Saint John Street and Daniel Morgan Avenue.

“For a city to commit to a Philharmonic for 90 years, that tells you something about much music is appreciated here,” said Kathryn Boucher, executive director of the Spartanburg Philharmonic. “And then you look at the breadth of musical heritage throughout the community, and it covers a lot of other genres and is rich in history. It’s just exciting to see two more people recognized and presented to the community in such a wonderful way.”

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Information from: Herald-Journal, http://www.goupstate.com/

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