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Organizers seek online donations for proposed Indiana jazz festival

| Friday, Jan. 3, 2014, 2:48 p.m.
Elaine Jacobs Smith
Indiana area jazz group the Dad Band, with help from local and state arts organizations, has launched an effort to bring a proposed new jazz and blues festival to Indiana this year. Members of the band include (from left): Corbin Krug, who plays piano; Dave Ferguson, on bass; Mike Powers, on saxophone; and Stuart Chandler, on drums. Missing from the photo is Ken Sherwood, who plays trumpet with the group.
This logo has been designed to promote the proposed Westsylvania Jazz and Blues Festival in Indiana

Indiana area jazz quintet Dad Band and the Indiana Arts Council are teaming up in an attempt to hold an open-air jazz and blues music festival in downtown Indiana this spring.

The Dad Band came up with the idea for the Westsylvania Jazz and Blues Festival while looking for a way to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the group's formation.

At the same time, the Indiana Arts Council was looking for ways to promote free, outdoor concerts in Indiana County.

“The Arts Council's board did strategic planning over the summer and into the fall, and one of the things that came out of that was that the board really wanted to see the Arts Council helping to make outdoor music happen, meaning it's open and free to the public,” Arts Council Executive Director Rebecca Slak said. “Somewhere along the line, the Dad Band, over the summer, got in touch with the Arts Council and said, ‘Hey, we're thinking about doing this project, is there any way you can see of working together?'

“Of course it was an obvious fit. That's one of the nice things about a smaller community, when you can turn to another group and very quickly find partners like that.”

After getting the ball rolling with grants from the Pennsylvania Rural Arts Alliance and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, and a donation from Indiana University of Pennsylvania's Lively Arts Program, the band organized a kickstarter.com campaign to help raise additional funds it could use to pay performers to come to the festival.

“We looked at our budget and said if we had another $6,000 that would be the bare minimum to do a festival,” said Michael Powers, the Dad Band's saxophonist and IUP's director of electronic communications. “Now, if we get $6,000 we're going to keep going to get some additional funds to make it an even better festival.

“At this point, with the need to book artists and to actually put this thing together the way we want, we really need that $6,000 plus some additional money we already have to do this and make it work. If we cannot, by the middle of January, get that amount of funding, then we know to just walk away from it and try to do it again next year.”

The kickstarter.com campaign, as of Jan. 3, had raised $2,040 toward its $6,000 goal, with a deadline of Jan. 15.

Powers envisions the festival as an all-day event drawing local, regional and national talent.

“We wanted to have a celebration and didn't want to charge people,” Powers said. “We wanted to make sure that people who aren't normally exposed to jazz and blues music have a chance to see it because it will be outside and it will be free.”

Organizers settled on a preferred location for the festival in the newly-finished IRMC Park on Indiana's North Seventh Street.

“It quickly became our place of choice,” Powers said of the location. “It's right downtown, it has great parking and we like having the festival downtown to celebrate downtown Indiana as much as the music itself. We think it's a great place; we want to introduce more people to it.”

The ability to provide a free public music festival and showcase downtown Indiana was especially appealing to the Indiana Arts Council.

“We're not duplicating a service that already exists. We hear a demand for outdoor public music events, and we can see that no one is providing that type of thing in town, so that was an attractive feature,” Slak said. “The fact that it is free and open to the public in that beautiful new space, ... that was just an opportunity we couldn't pass up to try to make that happen in that space.”

The Dad Band, which began performing together for the members' children and classmates, played a show on New Year's Eve at the Coventry Inn in Indiana to raise funds for the festival and is playing another fundraising show at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Artists Hand Gallery, 732 Philadelphia St., Indiana.

The one-day festival is tentatively scheduled to take place May 24. Powers said he hopes to include bands from local schools in the day's entertainment.

“Part of what we're doing has an educational aspect,” he said. “Our band will certainly be in the schools, and we'd like the other bands that participate to do school visits and talk to students and get their interest in music.

“We're hoping that we have a couple of high school or junior high school bands earlier in the day so they can get to experience playing there, and hopefully they can hang around to see some professionals playing later in the day, too.”

The groups playing at the festival could also schedule shows at local restaurants and bars after the conclusion of the event and potentially drive a boost in business throughout the area by attracting extra visitors to the county.

“The economics of running a festival like this are such that you have to pull people from a broader region,” Slak said. “Pulling people in, people who are going to come here and spend their dollars in our restaurants and maybe stay overnight in our hotels, those are really critical pieces. That happens when you propose a project like this that has a broader, regional spirit to it.”

For more information about the proposed festival, visit westsylvaniajazzandblues.org.

Greg Reinbold is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-459-6100, ext. 2913 or greinbold@tribweb.com.

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