I’m in the midst of the ninth summer of organizing concerts in Greencastle, Indiana, the small town where I live. For the last few summers, we’ve been calling it the Greencastle Summer Music Festival. We have a concert every Wednesday night, staring after Memorial Day and running for twelve (this summer thirteen) weeks, until classes at DePauw University start up.
I say “we,” because it’s uncomfortable to say “I,” and, besides, nothing would get done were it not for all the people who perform, who let us use their church, who donate money so we can tune the piano and give small honoraria to the performers, and who come to the concerts. True, I picked the name. But the rest of us like it, at least for now, and so it is “our” name.
That may change; I think this is the third name “the series” (as I tend to refer to it) has had, as my understanding of what we do has evolved. We started as the “Greencastle Summer Chamber Music Series.” Then, realizing we were having voice recitals from time to time, I changed it to the “Greencastle Summer Classical Music Festival.” I don’t even remember now why I decided to use the word “festival,” just that it seemed like a good idea. One of my colleagues at DePauw, where I am honored to teach, pointed out somewhat sharply that festivals don’t usually last twelve or thirteen weeks with just one event a week. (Fine. Go start your own concert series!) “Festival” sounded presumptuous to him.
No one else objected, though, and people seem to like it. It’s kind of nice: we have a festival in our little town!
Two years ago, I had become interested in including non-classical music, and, like many people, realized that “classical” is a term (along with many other genre labels)that may have outlived its usefulness. So I cut out the “classical,” and now it’s just music.
“Festival” may have been slightly prophetic. This summer, we are having some additional events. Two weeks ago, the pianist Taka Kigawa came in from New York for several days. He played at Starbucks. He played for the kids at the Summer Enrichment Program (a kind of day camp for at-risk children) at the church that hosts the concerts. He played at the assisted-living facility where my mother lives, and he played for over two hours at the Indiana Women’s Prison, where I teach a Friday-morning Music Appreciation class. This week, in addition to our regular Wednesday night concert, the folk-music group I play in is performing at a local restaurant. Next week, we’ll do an additional event as well. So maybe it’s turning into a festival after all.
Why am I telling you this? Good question. I agreed to write an article on starting a concert series, for a print publication, and have been stuck. I’ve interviewed a number of other performers, some quite well known, who started a series (so far I’m the only one to call his series a “festival”). I wrote the first half or so of a first draft, and the editor, who I’d been a bit put off by to begin with, didn’t like it, rewrote what I’d written, missing the point I was trying to make, to show me the tone/style they want. I basically quit–it pays only a token amount and I have no ambitions to be a published writer, at least in the style he’s wanting–but he hasn’t given in and we are still in communication. The only thing I know to do is to just start writing, about what I’ve learned from starting and running my own series/festival and from talking with others, and this is what came out this afternoon.