Conscious Party: Travis Stuart benefit concert

FRIEND IN NEED: Revered Haywood County old-time musician Travis Stuart is currently battling esophageal cancer. To help offset medical bills while he's unable to work, Stuart's friends have organized a benefit concert April 8 at The Grey Eagle. Photo by Clelia Stefanini

WHAT: A concert to benefit the Travis Stuart medical fund

WHEN: Sunday, April 8, 6 p.m.

WHERE: The Grey Eagle, 185 Clingman Ave.

WHY: As is often the case in the Western North Carolina musical community, when one of its members needs help, others are quick to give support. A recent beneficiary of this generosity is Travis Stuart, who’s begun chemotherapy and radiation to treat esophageal cancer.

“The effects of [the treatments] make you feel sick and tired,” says Stuart’s friend Rennie Elliot. “He is still able to play a little banjo at home but can’t work or teach at his job at East Tennessee State University’s Old-Time music program. Travis feels very positive about beating cancer and has been doing everything possible to ensure success.”

To raise funds for medical expenses not covered by health insurance, Elliot decided to host a benefit concert and worked with fellow friends Rodney Sutton and Kari Sickenberger to organize the event. Because Travis is a beloved area player, both on his own and in The Stuart Brothers with his twin Trevor, a fiddler who passed away unexpectedly in 2016, the event came together quickly.

On Sunday, April 8, at The Grey Eagle, Alice Gerrard & Friends take to the stage at 6 p.m. Gerrard has been playing for over 50 years and has collaborated with Stuart on numerous concerts and music camps, including The Swannanoa Gathering. David Holt & the Lighting Bolts — whose frontman as well as member Laura Boosinger are close friends with Stuart — go on at 7 p.m.

The evening closes out with a set from Balsam Range at 8 p.m. Sutton says that every person in the band is a neighbor of Stuart’s in Haywood County, and that whenever bassist Tim Surrett is told his bluegrass group is tops among Haywood instrumentalists, he points them toward the Stuarts, specifically Travis, who’s also a talented guitar and bass player.

Additional gifts may be given via a donation box at The Grey Eagle the night of the show as well as online through a You Caring campaign at

“Most likely, Travis will not feel well enough to attend, as the effects of the chemo and radiation are cumulative,” says Sickenberger. “By April 8, he will have been on treatments for over a month. However, many members of his immediate and extended family do plan to be there.”

The benefit concert for the Travis Stuart medical fund takes place Sunday, April 8, at 6 p.m. at The Grey Eagle. $20 general admission/$50 VIP reserved seating.


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About Edwin Arnaudin
Edwin Arnaudin is a staff writer for Mountain Xpress. He also reviews films for and is a member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association (SEFCA) and North Carolina Film Critics Association (NCFCA). Follow me @EdwinArnaudin

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