The George Hamilton IV Memorial Folksy Music Festival

The George Hamilton IV Memorial “Folksy Music Festival” is a celebration of Americana music to benefit the RJ Reynolds High School’s Arts Magnet Program and in memory of RJ Reynolds alumnus, George Hamilton IV.  The event takes place at RJ Reynolds Auditorium from 5pm til 10pm on Saturday, September 22 and is the culmination of many special occasions including R.J. Reynolds High School transitioning to an arts magnet school, a beloved teacher suggesting the creation of an Arts Hall of Fame and the induction of George Hamilton, IV into that Hall of Fame in September of 2017.

“When the Arts Magnet Grant Committee was researching to write the federal magnet grant in 2007, they learned about many Reynolds alumni who went on to have impressive careers in the arts,” said Karen Morris, Arts Magnet Director. “The idea to have an Arts Hall of Fame and to celebrate these artists while connecting them to current students was born. When George Hamilton, IV was inducted into the R.J. Reynolds Arts Hall of Fame in 2017, his family attended and accepted the award on his behalf. George had first performed on the RJ Reynolds stage as a high school student. When the family learned about the arts magnet program at Reynolds, they proposed moving [and event known as] FolksyFest to the place where their dad/husband got his start and to hold it as a fundraiser for the magnet program.”

It then took several people working together to make it all happen. “It wasn’t until Roby Walls (beloved former RJR history teacher who produced the Key Club Follies for many years) said at the retirement breakfast in June of 2017, ‘Karen, I have a bone to pick with you. We have had a Sports Hall of Fame for many years, but we don’t have an Arts Hall of Fame and it is high time!’ Roby and another former teacher, Phyllis Dunning, joined current parents, teachers and other community members to put on the first Arts Hall of Fame in September of 2017. Thirteen members were inducted and many made connections with current students. For example, music students Skyped with Ben Folds and performed for him via technology; theatre students learned from director, Michael Wilson, in person; Howell Binkley (Tony Award winning lighting designer) spoke to the technical theatre students, visual artist and museum curator, Endia Beal, spoke with the entire student body, etc. The ceremony exceeded our expectations and met the goal of connecting current students/families to those who are making art their career,” said Morris.

Art is a very important part of RJR for many reasons, but the impact art can have on students is immeasurable. “In the 11 years since becoming an Arts Magnet School, our enrollment has increased, our test scores have increased in nearly all areas, our graduation rate was 92% in 2017 and teachers are working to differentiate instruction and to meet the needs of all students who enter our doors,” said Morris. “In fact, our students have exceeded expected growth in recent years and, through increased opportunities and support for students, our 2018 graduates earned entrance into competitive universities and nearly $18 million of scholarships. Although nearly 50% of our students qualify for free and reduced Lunch, 92% of 2016 and 2017 graduates went on to colleges or universities.”

For those interested, the process to enroll in a magnet school should answer all questions prior to making a decision. “Families should know that if they want to attend a magnet school, they should visit the potential schools, attend the WSFCS Magnet Fair in November and apply in January,” said Morris. “Schools like Reynolds that have more applicants than spaces participate in a lottery to select out-of-residential-zone students. People who wish to donate to the Arts Magnet Program can send a check to R.J. Reynolds High School at 301 North Hawthorne Road in Winston-Salem with ‘Arts Magnet Program’ in the memo line. Readers who wish to get involved in this innovative program (classroom speaker, volunteer, tutor, participant in our career fair, visiting artist, field trip site, etc.) can contact me by emailing or calling 336.703.4145.

Whether you are directly involved with R.J. Reynolds or not, you are encouraged to attend FolksyFest on September 22ndfrom 5-10pm. The Arts Hall of Fame inductions will be at the beginning of the program and will honor Music Educator, Robert Mayer, Visual Artist Judy Voss Jones, and Musician, Mitch Easter. Ticket prices range from $10-$20 depending on when you register and those younger than 12 get in free.  More Information and Tickets@

Artists Performing on Sept. 22 include Dori Freeman, Scott Freeman & Willard Gayheart (3 Generations of Appalachian Americana), Award-Winning Bluegrass Band Chris Jones & The Night Drivers, the bo-stevens, the LEGENDARY Mitch Easter & Band, Host/MC George Hamilton V, RJR Students/Faculty, and Many More!



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