Monday, October 12, 2015

Support needed to keep music alive in Sheboygan

Danika Williamson/Sheboygan Press

(Photo: Gary C. Klein/Sheboygan Press Media)
As performing arts coordinator at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center, I am entrenched in the research, selection, promotion, and presentation of live entertainment to the Sheboygan area. As a member of the Sheboygan-based band This Big Life, my band mates and I spend countless hours writing, rehearsing, recording and promoting ourselves to whomever will listen.

So it might be surprising to hear that I consistently arrive at the question: Why live music? Isn’t the personally curated recorded soundtrack of our handheld lives, delivered via smart phones and other devices, enough to fulfill the call of music in modern day life? Why live performances at all?

The live-music fan wants a shared experience and a fresh perspective on everyday life. The live-music fan is a social creature who recognizes that the fullness of living has to do with our community, where we come from and where we live. The live-music goer wants something deeper than the transactional $1.29 download.

Every live performance is ripe with potential, whether it is a seasoned pro or an emerging local talent.

The John Michael Kohler Art Center books live music that is thoughtful and engages the listener on many levels. All year, every month at least twice a month, events are going on at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center and at least one of them typically involves music — live music. There are the Friday night dance parties with fabulous musicians performing rock, disco, and swing — not to mention the free pizza, cash bar and open galleries.

Several times a year, musicians from all over the world come to the Arts Center for residencies that offer unique insights into a particular kind of music. They may be folk musicians from South America or an American ensemble exploring new musical connections with performance and video art. Our exhibition celebrations, festivals, and special events almost always include live music.

In the summer of 2014, local musicians performed weekly at “Open Mic on M.I.K.E.” and the “Best of Summer” competition. The result was an outpouring of talent from the Sheboygan-area music community.

In 2015, we “amped” up that series as one of 10 cities nationwide that received Levitt Amp grant money. With additional support from the City of Sheboygan, Sheboygan Squared, and generous local sponsors, the series brought a variety of national, international, regional, and yes, local artists to the stage.

Area artists including Jetty Boys, Dead Wood Chop, The Inventors, Buffalo Joe, The Scrubbers, Ryan Kautzer, Polka Potion, Karmah and even Sheboygan Symphony Orchestra were center stage at the Levitt Amp Sheboygan Music Series.

What can you do to support this stellar, live music community in the greater Sheboygan area? Help the Arts Center bring back the free Levitt Amp Sheboygan Music Series that served over 14,000 people this past summer.

We will need thousands of votes beginning Nov. 2 to be considered for the Levitt Amp grant money again in 2016. Visit the John Michael Kohler Arts Center on Facebook to keep up-to-date on when, where and how to vote. You could say that the music needs you as much as you need the music.

The Art Center aims to bring not just pop, nostalgic or American traditional music to our community; there are fantastic new kinds of live music experiences out there—we want to help you discover and enjoy them all.

Check out all the exciting performers coming to the Arts Center in the coming months. Stop at the Arts Center (608 New York Ave.) or visit jmkac.org. Who knows, you may find a new favorite to add to your playlist!

Looking to the future, the Arts Center continues to generate new explorations in the arts that foster creative exchanges between an international community of artists and a diverse public, making real the power of the arts to transform lives and strengthen communities.

The John Michael Kohler Arts Center is supported by corporate and foundation donors, government grants, and its many members. The Arts Center is not an entity of Kohler Co. or its subsidiaries.

More information about the Arts Center can be found at jmkac.org.