RIGHT HAND TURN: Small tragedies and improved artistry often go hand-in-hand — sometimes literally. When classical musician Nathan Shirley broke one of his two portals to the piano, he developed a unique song concept that he hopes to feature as his next album's title track.

Faces in the crowd: WNC crowdfundi­ng initiative­s

Each week, Xpress highlights notable WNC crowdsourcing initiatives that may inspire readers to become new faces in the crowd. This week features the unique, two-part song that resulted from pianist Nathan Shirley’s musical twist of fate, Piper Jones Band’s new recording project Crossing the Sabine, and Asheville Humane Society’s interactive pet fundraiser.

MOUNTAIN MAJESTY: The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the most beloved and most visited sites in the National Park System, attracting millions of visitors and tourist dollars to the region each year. Its creation was the result of over a decade of legislative wrangling, relentless promotion and fundraising, and the tireless efforts of WNC residents such as George Masa, a Japanese immigrant who helped introduce the Smokies to the American people through his photography. Photo via North Carolina Collection, Pack Memorial Library, Asheville

George Masa and the birth of Great Smoky Mountains National Park

“These efforts really are about protecting places for all Americans and for future generations,” notes Brent Martin of The Wilderness Society. The leaders of the national parks movement, he maintains, “all saw a much bigger picture, not only for all human beings, but for all living things.”

2014 WNCOS Orchid Show attendees enjoy hundreds of orchid exhibits. Photo by Julie McMillan courtesy of WNCOS

Farm & Garden: Asheville Orchid Festival will draw thousands

The 18th Annual Asheville Orchid Festival is expected to be the biggest ever, thanks to a joint effort among the North Carolina Arboretum, the Western North Carolina Orchid Society (WNCOS) and the American Orchid Society. The festival — which is being held in conjunction with AOS’ 2016 national spring meeting — is expected to attract […]

RETURN OF THE RAIL: For more than 20 years, a collective of WNC communities between Asheville and Salisbury have strived for the return of regular passenger rail service into the region. At a March 2 meeting, the WNC Rail Corridor Committee outlined a new three-pronged strategy to reinvigorate freight service, expand excursion train opportunities and explore a pilot thruway bus service into the region through Amtrak. Photo by Max Hunt

WNC Rail Corridor Committee hatches new strategy

For more than 20 years, the WNC Rail Corridor Committee has worked tirelessly to prove the economic viability of restoring the historic rail link between Salisbury and Asheville. With changes in the rail industry looming and younger travelers showing increased interest in train travel, the committee is partnering with towns and municipalities and freight rail companies to pursue a new, three-pronged strategy.

ICYMI 3/30

ICYMI: Xpress feature reads of the week

Ahh, Spring is in the air! The tourists are buzzing around downtown and the lovely smell of Bradford pear trees is wafting on the breeze….which means we’re probably in for a heavy frost or one more freak snow shower in the coming weeks. Anyway, here’s some feature stories from the past week, if you’re looking […]

INTERACTIVE EDUCATION: The new Zaniac Asheville STEM education center, which celebrates its grand opening on April 19, engages children grades kindergarten through eight through interactive learning modules, game-based curriculums and hands-on instruction to foster interest in technology and engineering principles at an early age. Photo courtesy of Zaniac Corporation

Zaniac brings innovative STEM education to Asheville

A recent Forbes magazine article asked whether Asheville could be “an emerging Silicon Valley.” And while some locals might wonder where the jobs that one might expect to come with such a claim are to be found, there’s little debate about the importance of getting young students interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics — […]