Where have the last 4 years gone? I have been honored to provide welcoming remarks and thanks from the stage prior to the many of our season shows for the past 4 years. I still remember my nervousness of that first time. There were butterflies, big ones, let me tell you. Now it seems to be a natural part of my connection to the community through the programming we provide. One thing that never changes however, is the feeling of having more to say in the limited time I have with each of you on such evenings.
So that leads me to the reason I am sitting writing this in a hotel room in Kansas City, MO. What’s in Kansas City, you ask? Well on this particular weekend, aside from friendly people who love arts programming, unseasonably warm weather and many great KC barbeque joints, it is the 29th annual Folk Alliance International conference and Kansas City Folk Festival. More on this a little later.
This is my initial attempt to provide you, the reader, with inside and hopefully informative thoughts as the Clayton Center team and I work to build a world class arts center right here in Blount County. Our social medial and web marketing staff were kind enough to let me take a stab at this concept. I thank them for their confidence that this will be a positive communication.
So back to Kansas City and my reasons for being here. One of my regular and pleasant duties is to preview shows by performers we would like to bring to the Clayton Center. Listening to the suggestions of our patrons and researching artists they suggest, talking to other arts presenters around Tennessee and the broader region, watching a lot of on-line videos, and attending booking conferences and other live performances are the main ways I accomplish this. I was referred to this conference by one of our former performers, Ken Waldman, who we featured a couple years ago in a performance series in the more intimate setting of our Lambert Recital Hall. Ken, dubbed as Alaska’s fiddling poet, spends time with lots of “roots” music performers across the country. Our common appreciation for this broad music style and Ken’s positive experience playing on the Lambert Stage has kept us talking about ways to build a strong “brand” and provide this type of programming to our patrons annually. My dilemma has been, what type of “roots” music should we have? There are so many choices out there. Should we limit it to just one? With such a broad base of talent available, it just didn’t seem right to limit it in such a way. I think I may have found the answer this weekend in the broader context of Folk Music and festivals.
During the weekend, I saw a broad range of performers who fit the bill of building a successful folk festival. I saw everything from singer/songwriters playing their own compositions, seasoned bluegrass and string bands as well as up and comers melding old and new into their own individual sounds. Other American stylings such as ballads, blues and Cajun roots were available. There were international performers providing music based on the folk traditions of their respective countries. Most performances lasted from 30 to 45 minutes with quick change-overs between groups so patrons at the Kansas City Folk Festival really got a lot of bang for their entertainment buck.
So how does this help with our programming at the Center? It is my goal to add this or a similar type of festival weekend to our future programming. The variety of performance spaces we have in our wonderful center give us the ability to host many performers simultaneously. This type of festival seems to be a natural fit for a festival, in addition to our national and international single performance offerings.
There are still a lot details that must be considered before fully embarking on this idea. We must consider schedules, financial considerations, potential sponsors and partners, as well as ways to engage local patrons and visiting tourists. Parking and shuttle needs, hotel and restaurant availability are just a few of many items to be worked out in this area.
I am confident that the community will support our endeavor and we will find a way to move from this glimmer of an idea to a well-planned, successful and sustainable event we can all be proud of and that is worthy of our world class arts center.
Thanks for taking a minute to read this and stay tuned for more on this and other topics in posts to come.
Clayton Center for the Arts