Matt Peiken

Arts Producer

Matt Peiken, BPR’s first full-time arts journalist, has spent his entire career covering arts and culture.

He spent ten years at the St. Paul Pioneer Press in Minnesota writing profiles, opinion columns, and trend stories on visual, literary and performing arts. At WCPO Television in Cincinnati, Ohio, he produced videos and created podcasts for WCPO.com about area artists and cultural events.  Returning to Minnesota, he created an independent online arts television series, 3-Minute Egg, which he expanded into a weekly broadcast series on Twin Cities Public Television.  

Matt has served as a regional editor for Patch.com, part of a national network of hyperlocal news sites. He was also the Managing Editor of the Walker Magazine, the bimonthly publication of the Walker Arts Center in Minneapolis.

Matt says he was drawn to Blue Ridge Public Radio and Asheville for the opportunity to produce public radio journalism in a region that is renowned for its creative community. He’s especially interested in forming partnerships across Western North Carolina that shine a light on regional artists for new audiences. He received his Bachelor of Arts in journalism at California State University – Fresno, and was the recipient of a National Arts Journalism Program Fellowship and a Poynter Institute Fellowship.

Ways to Connect

Matt Peiken | BPR News


Jamieson Ridenhour remembers himself as a 10-year-old, reading the original “Dracula” novel and staying awake with his mother well past midnight to watch classic horror movies.

Nearly four decades later, Ridenhour has built a career from his early obsession.

“Good horror writing works when it’s more than just the horror, when it has some kind of psychological depth to it,” he said. “There’s a metaphor for something else going on.”

Sandlin Gaither


Imagine you’re in a band performing at a club or even if you’re just a solo artist with a guitar in a coffeeshop. You want to sense people are listening. You want engagement. You want applause.

That is, unless you’re one of the members of the longtime Asheville trio Free Planet Radio. They recall a recent show at the Light Center in Black Mountain that was one continuous flow of music for nearly 90 minutes.

“Everyone is lying on their backs with their eyes closed,” said guitarist and composer Chris Rosser. “It’s more like a meditative experience, definitely the opposite of a concert, really.”

Matt Peiken | BPR News


Melodie Galloway is bothered by what she sees every time she takes the podium at a rehearsal of the Asheville Choral Society.

“We are very, very white,” she said with a chuckle. “We have a few people of color, but we are heavily caucasian.”

Magnetic Theatre

As Asheville’s Magnetic Theatre prepares to open its new show, 13-year-old Cory Silver has two concerns.

“Of course my main goal is to pull it off,” he said. “But my second goal is definitely to not offend anybody.”

Matt Peiken | BPR News


Like the artform it’s dedicated to, Asheville Bookworks is hidden. You could stand right in front of its building in West Asheville and patronize four other storefronts without ever knowing—because there’s no sign to tell you—the entrance is tucked onto the side.

That’s worked just fine for the screenprinters, papermakers and mixed-media book artists who, since 2004, have regarded Asheville Bookworks as their town square.

Matt Peiken | BPR News


Browse around the Cottage Craftsman, a gift shop in the center of Bryson City, and you’ll see candle holders, wall hangings, baskets, pottery, jewelry, a small selection of wine.

Paige L. Christie is too modest to point them out on her own—and they do look a bit out of place— but if you ask her about the fantasy novels displayed on a small stand near the register, she’s more than happy to tell you a little bit about the author.

“I’ve been developing the world of my novels since I was about 14 years old,” Christie said.

Matt Peiken | BPR News


Like many novelists, Jacqui Castle stumbled into fiction through a side door. She mixed a background in psychology, some surrounding social and political upheaval and a few encouraging friends to wind up with “The Seclusion,” her debut novel.

“For years, people have been telling me to try to write fiction, and I just kinda brushed it off,” she said. “I hadn’t really felt a drive to do that, but once I started, I haven’t stopped.”

Courtesy of Bask


Zeb Camp was studying Appalachian history and Southern literature four years ago, at UNC-Asheville, when he began writing lyrics for the Asheville band Bask.

While folk, bluegrass and the iconic singer-songwriter are the soul of our regional music scene, guitar-driven heavy music is emerging here, and Bask is at the forefront. The music is soaked in heavy guitars, but the tone and lyrical sentiments are baked in this part of the south.

Courtesy of Jeanie Linders

Jeanie Linders has inspired a lot of people to think they, too, can create or copy a hit stage show and change their own lives forever.

“My show has been knocked off 14 times by other people,” she said. “There’s ‘Weight Watchers: The Musical,’ ‘Assisted Living: The Musical,’ all written by guys that think it’s different. Because the show was a cash cow.”

Matt Peiken | BPR News

Most people associate the Brevard Music Center with summer classical concerts featuring world-class performers in an open-air auditorium. Away from the spotlight, about 400 teens and twentysomethings come from around the country to spend most of their summer studying classical performance at Brevard Music Center.

“I’m totally illiterate when it comes to pop culture, because my head is in classical music,” said Myles McKnight, an 18-year-old violinist from Hendersonville.

Matt Peiken | BPR News


The remote, Western North Carolina town of Highlands is known for its leafy mountains, tony shops and pricey living. Only 941 people claimed it as their home on the last census.

That doesn’t seem to deter some of the nation’s top young stage talent from spending their summers at Highlands Playhouse, building up their resumes and entertaining a largely senior audience with the tried and true in musical theater.

Matt Peiken | BPR News

Robert Beatty was still in his 30s when he sold his tech company for millions of dollars and moved with his wife and three daughters from Michigan to 32 acres of green forest in Fletcher.

 

Beatty never had to work again, and his story could have ended there. But success in business was just one of his two life goals. Beatty set a detailed, determined plan to fulfill the second.

Eakin Howard


Brooklyn Reese is 12 years old and, when she’s healthy, she’s sort of a second mother to her younger sister and brother.

“Before I got sick, I had a lot of responsibility, because Izzy, she had trouble with math and homework, so when we got home from school, I’d help her with her homework,” she said. “And I’d take care of Jackson and give him a sippy and make him a peanut butter sandwich.”

Holly Kays


Holly Kays studied creative fiction in college and saw herself on a path to becoming a novelist.

 

“Everybody who likes to write is writing a book at some point,” she said. “Most of those books never actually wind up being written.”
 

Like most budding novelists, Kays has another job to pay her bills. Unlike most, Kays works for a sympathetic boss.

Natural Born Leaders


Mike Martinez doesn’t like talking about growing up in Union, N.J., but he will say moving to Hendersonville as an 18-year-old saved his life.

“I was getting in trouble in ways I don’t necessarily want to talk about, but I was not headed on a good path,” he said. “I’m not even sure I’d be alive if I lived in New Jersey.”

Photo: Casey Lance Brown. Background: Clinton C Brown


If you feel a rumbling in the air this week, don’t look to the weather report. Instead, check out the schedule for the Asheville Percussion Festival. To the ears of founder River Guerguerian, this festival is as much about community as it is about music.

“I look at it like there’s a kitchen, there’s 10-12 cooks, each cook brings one recipe,” he said. “You put the recipe on the table and we all work on it together.”

Matt Peiken | BPR News


Like a lot of excited, ambitious entrepreneurs, Heather Maloy put her head down and bulled forward with her plan: She wanted to create a fulltime professional ballet company in Asheville.

“With it being a summer tourist community and being very alive in the summer, it seemed like a great starting point,” she said. “But I wasn’t really thinking fully how to get past that summer point to a year-round point.”

courtesy of Janet Oliver


From her earliest memories, Janet Oliver was different than every other child she knew in Batesville, Ark. Her father was a white civil rights lawyer, her mother black, and the adults around her—particularly the women in her matriarchal family—pushed her to greatness.

“The women around me said you will get a great education, you will leave Arkansas and you will have a life,” she said. “I was self-directed, I was opinionated, I was articulated and I was obedient, and I think they liked that factor far more.”

After a season devoted to auditioning six finalists, the Asheville Symphony Orchestra has tapped Darko Butorac as its next music director. Butorac succeeds Daniel Meyer, who departed the orchestra after the end of the most recent season, his 12th in Asheville.

Butorac, 40, began his life in classical music as a cellist, but had his first chance to conduct an orchestra when he was 17. From then on, he knew he wanted a life on the podium.

Matt Peiken | BPR News


It’s hard to miss Sharon Cooper on the dance floor. Her expression is almost always wide-eyed, focused and intense. Even her slowest movements carry urgency.

But then there’s Cooper, the pediatric nurse. With her young patients, she’s smiling, animated and tender.

“I’ve always been interested in it, and always very interested in the body and the way it works and muscle systems,” Cooper said of nursing.

Matt Peiken | BPR News

EDITOR'S NOTE: The audio version of this story includes incorrect information about the frequency of flooding of the French Broad River. The river has crested above 10 feet during seven of the past 15 years, drawn from National Weather Service data.

Around 11am Wednesday, Pattiy Torno stood on the steel mesh deck of the open gallery and meeting space at 14 Riverside Drive, looked out over the brush at the rising tan-brown waters of the French Broad River and sighed.

“If the river gets to 11 feet, I’m moving my stuff. It’s that simple,” she said. “I have a storage locker about two blocks away specifically for this purpose.”

Matt Peiken | BPR News


Before she went by the singular name of Lytingale, Lois Henrickson envisioned a career fronting a folk rock band.

“Any day now I’m going to be discovered. Don’t you know this?” she said with a laugh.

courtesy of the artist

The suicides last year of Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington touched millions around the world. But as someone struggling with his own depressive anxiety, soon to be 18-year-old Ian Ridenhour couldn’t help viewing their paths as a potential harbinger for his own.

Matt Peiken | BPR News

Like the swallows that return every year to San Juan Capistrano, David Wilcox’s most devoted followers — it’s an insult to refer to them as mere fans — return every spring to Kanuga Lake, outside Hendersonville.

Wilcox Weekend, as it’s known, is an annual ritual drawing a couple dozen people from around the country, along with some of their children and several of their dogs. The eighth Wilcox Weekend was May 4-6.

Matt Peiken | BPR News

Gavin Geoffrey Dillard has a story to tell.

“I ended up being in a relationship with David Geffen,” he said.

And another.

“I wrote comedy for Joan Rivers, Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin, Vincent Price, Peggy Lee.”

And another.

“I was the No.1 gay porn star in the world for two years.”

And another.

While Asheville's twice-annual LEAF Festival is best known as a music festival, the Trillium Dance Company has performed each spring and fall at LEAF for the past five years. In this video, step inside a company rehearsal and learn what Trillium founder Leslie Rogers has on tap for the spring 2018 LEAF.

Courtesy of Brie Capone

When Brie Capone talks about her roots in music, she can seem a little impressionable.

“I had a very serious crush on John Mayer, and he went to Berklee,” Capone said. “For me, that was definitely a marker of ‘Oh, musicians go to Berklee.’ OK, I should definitely do that if I want to do this fulltime.”

And years later, she recorded her debut album at Asheville’s Echo Mountain studios because she learned the band Dawes recorded “Stories Don’t End” album there.

Courtesy of Corey Parlamento

Corey Parlamento’s music sounds like it doesn’t have much structure. His songs wander and flow, and if you find yourself lost in the textures, you’re not alone.

“When I’m practicing with my band, they’re like 'Let's go back to the ... Chorus? I don’t know. Bridge? I don’t know. Pre-chorus? I don’t know!’” Parlamento said.

Matt Peiken | BPR News

Willie Repoley named his company the Immediate Theatre Project, and watching Repoley in rehearsal, the name is clearly appropriate. Sets are minimal and casts are small -- and with his new original show, called “Burden,” -- the cast begins and ends with Repoley.

Courtesy of Andrew Finn Magill

Andrew Finn Magill had no choice. From his bloodline to his name, Irish heritage stamped Magill’s identity.

His parents played traditional Irish music in the home. He ditched Suzuki method violin practice to play Irish music. And he went to Ireland twice to compete in the all-Ireland violin championships. As a kid, he would take part in the jam sessions at Asheville’s Jack of the Wood, and his father, Jim, founded the Swannanoa Gathering.

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