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Arts & Culture
These articles were excerpted from Tapestry, a weekly newsletter that examines the arts and entertainment world in Charlotte and North Carolina.

Catawba Library Hosts Performances Inspired By NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts

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Catawba County Library System
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String players from the Western Piedmont Youth Symphony play at the Catawba County Library System's man branch in Newton on Aug. 12.

If you’re an NPR fan, you’ve probably heard of Tiny Desk Concerts. If not, here’s a crash course: Since 2008, artists have been performing at the NPR headquarters desk of “All Songs Considered” host Bob Boilen. Over the years, the concerts have become something of a pop culture rite of passage, with guests ranging from Wilco to Lizzo to Yo-Yo Ma. The pandemic switched the format to Tiny Desk (Home) Concerts, but the spirit is still very much intact.

The live-performance series has many fans, including Sarah McElhone with the Catawba County Library System. She wondered: What would it be like if the system’s main library in Newton could host live music?

Now it does.

“Tiny library concerts” with local performers have been taking place on Thursdays throughout August. They’ve showcased a pianist, a teenage singer-songwriter, a youth orchestra and, most recently, Erin Shull, a guitarist and former library employee who’s now director of contemporary music and graphic design at Denver United Methodist Church.

Catawba Library Director Siobhan Loendorf says the audience has grown over the last several weeks. She’s even heard from a mother who started adding Thursday afternoons to their library schedule just to watch the free performances.

“I would say last week there were at least 20 people watching live from within the library,” Loendorf said. “And it's really just a 20-minute concert. What's kind of cool is when you see people come in the front door ... and they're like, ‘Oh, music!’ And they either stop and watch or they keep going and go on about their business.

“It's almost like at the airport when you hear somebody playing the piano. It just lightens your day a little.”

So far, Loendorf says, no library patrons have asked for peace and quiet.

Up next: Fiddle player Don McGalliard, who’s a retired game warden and deputy sheriff, and guitarist Bob Nails. All performances can be watched live inside the main Catawba County Library branch in Newton or on the Catawba County Library System’s Facebook page.

Loendorf says the program was intended to last through August but that staff are considering whether or not to extend it. After all, the performances so far have fit in with the library’s goal of being a place to help the Catawba County community “connect, explore and grow.”

“A ‘Tiny Desk Concert’ kind of hits all three of those,” Loendorf said. “We're connecting people with local talent, exploring different instruments from piano to orchestra strings to guitar and fiddle, and all age groups… So it's really encompassing all of our community.”

WFAE's weekly arts and entertainment email newsletter, Tapestry, will keep you in the loop on arts and culture in the Charlotte region.

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