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)



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 (part-time Director of Administration)

2007 – 2011 (full-time 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.


North Carolina Folklife Institute Projects:

Blue Ridge National Heritage Area Traditional Artist Directory. Between 2005 and 2010, I conducted research to identify and promote approximately 200 traditional artists in the 12 southwestern-most counties of North Carolina’s Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains, and the Qualla Boundary (Cherokee Tribal lands).

“Changing Places”: For the Levine Museum of the New South’s 2009 exhibition “Changing Places: From Black and White to Technicolor,” about newcomer communities in Charlotte, I carried out field research and interviews to document Charlotte-area immigrants’ religious, culinary, sports, and material culture. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish.

African American Heritage Music Project: For a long-term initiative to recognize the heritage of African American musicians in Eastern North Carolina, I conducted oral histories with musicians and historical research on the musical heritage of Lenoir, Jones, Wayne, and Pitt Counties, NC. In 2014, the resulting guidebook, African American Music Trails of Eastern North Carolina (which I co-authored with Beverly Patterson and Michelle Lanier), was published by UNC Press.

Discovery research for Wilmington-area arts council development:  In 2009 I interviewed approximately 20 artists, arts administrators, and arts advocates in Wilmington, NC, in support of the NCAC’s efforts to establish a new arts council for the Lower Cape Fear region. With NCAC folklorist Sally Peterson, I co-wrote the final report on the discovery research, “Report on the Arts Resources and Cultural Traditions of Wilmington and New Hanover County.”

Statewide Heritage Initiative: Towards NCFI’s long-term development of statewide infrastructure to support the traditional arts, I conducted county-wide folklife surveys in Anson, Davidson, Halifax, Harnett, Hoke, Montgomery, Pender, Robeson, Scotland, Stanly, Vance, and Warren Counties, North Carolina, and have been responsible for writing and co-writing resource guides.


Editor, Association for Recorded Sounds Collections Journal

2016 – present

I serve 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.


Executive Director

Old-Time Music Group

Editor, Old-Time Herald

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.

Recent 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.

Representative early projects:

Myrtle Beach Oral History Project (2003 – 2009).  For an archive of local history at Myrtle Beach’s Chapin Memorial Library, with funding from the Chapin Foundation, I researched and recruited interviewees, and conducted extensive oral history interviews with Myrtle Beach and Horry County residents about their lives and careers.  The interviews contributed to Myrtle Beach: A History, 1900-1980, by Barbara Stokes (University of South Carolina Press, 2007).

Native American Breast Cancer Registry (2002-2006). For the Department of Radiology at the University of North Carolina, I transcribed and analyzed oral history interviews with breast cancer survivors for a research initiative to improve North Carolina Native women’s access to medical treatment and cancer survivors’ support services.

Folklore Consultation (2003). For the Episcopal Farmworker Ministry in Newton grove, North Carolina, I conducted interviews in Spanish with folk artists in the migrant farmworker community in Eastern North Carolina, and wrote newspaper articles, in English and Spanish, about the artists and their work.


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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