Sarah Luisa Bryan – Durham, North Carolina


  • MA, Folklore (2003), University of North Carolina
  • BA, American Studies (1999), George Washington University


Second Language

  • Fluent Spanish (spoken and written)



  • 2022 Cauthen Fellowship, Alabama Folklife Association, with co-awardee Hal Pugh
  • 2019-2020 North Carolina Arts Council Artist Fellowship in Literature
  • 2019 William C. and Susan S. Mariner Southern Ceramics Fellowship, Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts
  • 2016 Archie Green Fellowship from the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress.



Publications (please click to see Publications tab)


Professional History


  • Executive Director, North Carolina Folklife Institute 

2017 – present (Executive Director)

2015 – 2016 (Director of Administration)

2007 – 2011 (Program Manager)

2005 – 2006 (folklife fieldworker and writer)

Durham, North Carolina

My work for the North Carolina Folklife Institute includes directing fieldwork among traditional musicians and craftspeople in dozens of North Carolina counties, fundraising and grant-writing, financial and administrative management, and research and writing for a variety of folklore programming and heritage tourism programs across the state.


2021 – present

For the Pomeroy Foundation’s Legends & Lore program, I assist in evaluating applications for historic markers to commemorate the folk traditions of communities nationwide.


2016 – 2019

I served as the Editor of the ARSC Journal, a peer-reviewed journal published twice annually, which covers a wide variety of topics related to recorded sound, including field recording, archival practices, sound restoration, discography, collecting, and copyright. 


Durham, North Carolina

2008 – present (Editor-in-Chief and Executive Director)

2006 – 2008 (Assistant Editor)

As Director of the OTMG and Editor of its publication, I am responsible for planning each issue, supervising two part-time employees, and overseeing all editorial and financial functions for the quarterly Old-Time Herald, which has been a preeminent publication in the field of traditional Southern music for 30 years.


  • Freelance Folklife Researcher and Writer

2011 – present

As an independent folklorist, I offer research and writing services to cultural organizations. My work for such institutions includes folklife fieldwork (identifying and interviewing traditional artists and other heritage bearers), writing based both on my own fieldwork and archival sources, and writing for both general and specialized audiences in a variety of online and print media.

Selected Projects:

Survey of South Carolina’s Tradition Bearers. For the University of South Carolina’s McKissick Museum and the South Carolina Arts Commission, in a project funded by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), I conducted folklife surveys of Allendale, Berkeley, Calhoun, Charleston, Chesterfield, Clarendon, Colleton, Darlington, Dillon, Florence, Georgetown, Hampton, Horry, Kershaw, Marion, Marlboro, Sumter, and Williamsburg Counties.

Statewide Heritage Initiative. For the North Carolina Folklife Institute’s NEA- and North Carolina Arts Council-supported initiative, I conducted asset mapping and created cultural resource inventories based upon fieldwork with traditional artists and other tradition-bearers, created extensive reports based on archival research, and worked to establish on-the-ground relationships between cultural organizations and individual artists. Regions covered include Anson, Davidson, Halifax, Harnett, Hoke, Montgomery, Pender, Robeson, Scotland, Stanly, Vance, and Warren Counties, North Carolina.

Blue Ridge National Heritage Area (BRNHA) website. For the website of the BRNHA, a federally-funded heritage tourism agency based in Western North Carolina, I created web content introducing general audiences to the musical traditions of the Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountains region of North Carolina.



Radio and Online

  • In 2015 I appeared in two episodes of the Radiotopia podcast Criminal, discussing the folklore and traditional music related to the murders of Pearl Bryan (no relation) and the Lawson Family, 2016. 2016. (The episode on Pearl Bryan was cited by the Atlantic in its list “10 More of the Year’s Best Podcast Episodes.”)
  • Panel discussion on WUNC’s The State of Things. With coauthor Michelle Lanier, I discussed the African American musical heritage of North Carolina on the occasion of the publication of African American Music Trails of Eastern North Carolina. December 11, 2013.
  • Panel discussion on WUNC’s The State of Things. With country music historian Dick Spottswood and old-time musician and collector David Holt, I discussed the life of banjo player Wade Mainer, and traditions of banjo music in Western North Carolina. April 21, 2011.
  • Appeared on NPR’s A Prairie Home Companion, playing old-time fiddle. May 9, 2009.

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