The City of Raleigh Arts Commission has selected six outstanding individuals and two organizations to receive the 2018 Raleigh Medal of Arts, the City’s highest arts honor, the Office of Raleigh Arts announced today.

The individual awardees are Jerome Merritt Davis, company co-founder and director, Burning Coal Theatre; Gregg Gelb, jazz musician, advocate and educator; Freddie Lee Heath, dancer, choreographer and arts educator; Martha Needels Keravuori, arts leader, non-profit arts executive and volunteer; Dr. Jonathan Kramer, classical cellist, music scholar and teacher, and Dr. Fran Page, Meredith College Professor Emeritus and the founder and conductor of the Capital City Girls Choir. The medals for extraordinary achievement in the arts by an organization will be presented to The Dix Park Conservancy, a nonprofit that exists to support the creation and long-term success of Dorothea Dix Park, and Pinecone, the Piedmont Council of Traditional Music.

The City of Raleigh Medal of Arts awards ceremony, featuring special guests and performances, will be held Nov. 13 in the Fletcher Opera Theater at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts. 6pm: Preshow Entertainment & Reception Featuring: Kevin & Greg
7pm: Presentation & Performances The Capital City Girls Choir, The Carolina PineCones Honoring Extraordinary Achievement in the Arts

The Raleigh Medal of Arts is awarded for extraordinary achievement in the practice or support of local arts. Based on the National Medal of Arts program, the Raleigh award was created in 1984 by the Raleigh Arts Commission to recognize and honor excellence in the arts. Over the past 34 years, 157 medals have been awarded.

There follows additional information about this year’s Medal of Arts recipients:

Jerome (Jerry) Davis
Mr. Davis has been at the artistic helm of the Burning Coal Theatre Company for 22 years. He led the $1.5 million effort to transform the Murphy School Auditorium into a permanent home for the Burning Coal Theatre Company. In the last year, his contributions have included producing a full season of shows led by female directors and running a fundraiser for Equality North Carolina featuring the reading of The Laramie Project, which raised $110,000. He also produced a Shakespeare marathon in honor of the 400th anniversary of the playwright’s death, which was streamed from the NC Museum of History; 38 theater companies across the nation participated.

Mr. Davis has also presented more than two dozen world premieres, providing Raleigh audiences with stimulating new works by local, national and international playwrights. He has always shown exemplary inclusiveness, guided by his goal to give theatre meaning and value for all audiences. He has allowed artists to take risks in presenting shows, resulting in compelling productions that linger in the memory.

Gregg Gelb
Mr. Gelb arrived in Raleigh in 1979, straight from his graduation from Boston’s Berklee College of Music, a center of jazz studies. His first teaching position in Raleigh was at West Millbrook Middle School, and he continued to teach and direct student bands in the Wake County Public School System until 1989. In 1991, he created the Heart of Carolina Jazz Orchestra/Society as part of his outreach as Visiting Artist for the North Carolina Community College System; the orchestra still performs regularly today.

A gifted composer, Mr. Gelb was the recipient of the 1900 Jazz Composers Award from the North Carolina Arts Council. One of his most notable and major accomplishments is serving as director of the Triangle Youth Jazz Ensemble since 2010. In that time, close to 500 high school musicians have benefited from his extraordinary instruction, influence and mentorship – an experience they will remember for a lifetime.

Freddie Lee Heath
A veteran dance educator for almost three decades, Freddie Lee Heath took over the role of Senior Administrator K-12 Arts for the Wake County Public School System in 2016. Working with more than 500 arts instructors of all disciplines in more than 160 elementary, middle and high schools is a task requiring incredible skills in human relations, arts and problem-solving on a huge scale.

Before taking the position, Mr. Heath worked as the dance teacher in seven Wake County elementary, middle and high schools from 1992 to 2015. He kept dance current and relevant to the needs of his students while developing a new curriculum for Wake County Public Schools that includes Swing Dance, Dance in the Media, Video Dance, and Twist and Tone.

Martha Needels Keravuori
In her role as Executive Director of the North Carolina Theatre Conference (NCTC) from 1985 – 1997, Mrs. Keravuori was a national trailblazer. Her inspiring, inclusive vision brought theatres and K-12 and college drama education programs together under the NCTC umbrella, coalescing the statewide theatre community into a powerful cultural force.

She is a founding board member of Arts Access, a ground-breaking organization in our state, focusing on inclusion for all artists, organizations and audiences. Mrs. Keravuori served on the City of Raleigh Arts Commission for multiple terms, working with many of the city’s arts partners and serving as the chair of the committee that created the inaugural City of Raleigh Medal of Arts program. As the commission’s liaison to the organization Creative Exchange, she helped guide and transform that organization into the United Arts Council of Raleigh and Wake County.

Dr. Jonathan C. Kramer
Since coming to North Carolina in 1983 to perform as cellist with the North Carolina Symphony, Dr. Kramer has exemplified the public roles of artist, scholar and teacher. After two seasons with the NC Symphony, Dr. Kramer joined the music faculty at North Carolina State University, first as a visiting artist and then as a faculty member. He served as Director of Orchestral Activities for 10 years and has taught nearly 20 undergraduate and graduate courses, many of his own creation.

For years, Dr. Kramer has organized the Price Music Center Lectures, which have brought many musicians from distant cultures to Raleigh to share their music and expertise. Their performances and lectures on how music came into being and how it fits and functions within a given society have had a tremendous impact on the musical life of Raleigh and Wake County. The lecture series is a musical resource unlike any other in the Triangle and is possible only because of Kramer’s knowledge, connections, and respect within the international music community. He has also organized local concerts in support of various humanitarian efforts, including those benefiting victims of natural disasters in the Philippines, Nepal, Haiti, Pakistan and Cambodia.

Dr. Fran Page
For more than three decades, Dr. Fran Page has shaped the lives of the youth of the great Raleigh area as well as young women from around the United States. She is considered a pioneer in her field – balancing the demands of leading a college music program (at Meredith College) with the time involved in creating one of the finest girls’ choir programs in the country. Her three choirs have a busy performance schedule both nationally and internationally.

When Dr. Page arrived in Raleigh, she found that the area offered the Raleigh Boy Choir and several other groups performing in the European tradition of choral music, but there was a lack of opportunities for girls interested in choral arts. Fast forward to 2018, and Raleigh is now the home to one of the top 10 choral education experiences for girls in the United States – the Capital City Girls Choir. Membership in the choir is open to all girls in the greater Raleigh area – something that Dr. Page has underscored since creating the program 30 years ago. She leads fundraising efforts each year to cover scholarships and travel, with the goal that the choirs should reflect the diverse make-up of Raleigh.

The Dorothea Dix Park Conservancy
This outstanding group of civic leaders worked closely with the City of Raleigh to acquire the Dorothea Dix Hospital property from the State of North Carolina. At the time the hospital was established, it was a trail blazer in mental health; its namesake, nurse and mental healthcare reform crusader Dorothea Dix, strongly believed that having access to a large natural area was essential to the recovery of mentally ill patients.

Continuing this tradition of valuing the power of nature, the Dix Conservancy and the City of Raleigh obtained the 325-ace property in order to ensure that it would continue to be a green space. Thanks to the Conservancy’s advocacy, the beauty of the Dix land will continue to enhance the lives of Raleigh residents as well as visitors from across the United States and the world. The Conservancy has and will continue to work closely with Raleigh to guide the design development, allocation of funds and vision of the park and park activities. Members have supported many art activities at the park, ranging from popular pop-up classes to the immensely successful public art installation “Light the Woods with Sound.”

PineCone – The Piedmont Council of Traditional Music
Founded in 1984, Pinecone is a Raleigh-based non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and promoting all forms of traditional music, dance and other folk performing arts. Pinecone presents music found in a variety of NC’s cultural communities, including blues, gospel, country, old-time bluegrass, Irish, Klezmer, Moravian, Canadian, Native American, Indian, Latin music and more.
Pinecone’s promotion of performers and music extends beyond concerts. Post-performance discussions help artists explain their motivations and background, and consultation services help new performers “learn the ropes” of the music business. Jam sessions bring together musicians of all levels, giving them a chance to play together as well as develop connections and exchange ideas.


The Office of Raleigh Arts supports and promotes the arts in Raleigh by administering the programs of the City of Raleigh Arts Commission and the City’s Public Art and Design Board, and by supporting the Pullen and Sertoma arts centers. The Office of Raleigh Arts is part of the City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department.