Through the efforts of Darren Nicholson, mandolinist with Balsam Range, and Bill Byerly of Whitewater Bluegrass Company, a third annual memorial benefit concert in honor of North Carolina banjo player Steve Sutton was held in March of this year. The show featured performances from the Darren Nicholson Band and the Whitewater Bluegrass Company and raised $4800 which was donated to the IBMA Trust Fund, which offers financial assistance to members of the professional bluegrass community in need.
Sutton was a very popular figure in western North Carolina bluegrass, and a close friend to Darren. The two played music together for years until Steve died quite suddenly and unexpectedly in the spring of 2017. Everyone who knew Sutton recalls his quick wit and fun loving nature, in addition to his fine banjo picking.
He also made his mark with his five string, working stints with Jimmy Martin, Rhonda Vincent, and Alecia Nugent, as well as the Darren Nicholson Band and Whitewater Bluegrass Company.
Nicholson says that helping organize these ongoing concerts in his friend’s name was the least he could do.
“Steve Sutton got me my first professional traveling job in the music industry, bought this kid a Gibson mandolin, and spent years inspiring me… inspiring me musically as well as showing me how to treat others. Constantly encouraging young musicians and being a great steward of the music, Steve spread laughter and kindness everywhere he went. So, it’s only fitting that we keep that legacy alive.”
During the March benefit show, Darren and Bill also made an important announcement. A sizable grant was received that has allowed them to officially form a Steve Sutton Memorial Benefit Foundation as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, where they will accept donations from one and all to allow them to host a memorial concert each year, and to raise funds for both the Trust Fund and for scholarships to students in their local Haywood County Schools.
Byerly said that this donation came from a western North Carolina native that went on to found the Ovation Guitar company.
“Raising money in Steve’s name is a tremendous honor we bestow on our good friend and colleague who left us way too soon. This year, we received an important gift from a good friend and member of our bluegrass community, Bill Kaman. Bill donated $20,000 towards a trust in Steve’s name.
Bill Kaman is no stranger to the music industry and had traveled the world with Steve. Bill has a huge heart and is also passionate about bringing something positive to the world. Bill has gone above and beyond with this donation – this is huge in helping us make a long-term impact in our community.”
Kaman had known Sutton well himself and was happy to be in a position to endow the Steve Sutton Memorial Benefit Foundation.
“My thoughts were to make a donation that would be able to self-perpetuate for future years. My ‘other brother’ Steve Sutton was a very special person. He was a great musician, a caring person, and always fun to be around. I learned far more about music from him than I ever would have otherwise, and I’m sure many others will agree.”
Well done all!
More information about the Foundation and how you can add your donations can be found online. It is a most worthy endeavor all around.