I am late again getting my April President’s Message to editor Mark Varner and am going to insert instead a review I wrote about our first ever CBA Youth Program fundraising concert held February 26th in Alameda CA. We made a couple hundred dollars for the Youth Program and probably will put together another similar event in the future and maybe make more money. We met our goals: we produced a wonderful concert with great sound for a large number of attendees at a new venue.
I am pretty proud of the event in Alameda and think it might be useful to describe the process we went through to produce an event just in case there are other members who would like to do the same thing in their own part of our great State. We start fundraising for the CBA Youth Program scholarship fund in October each year. I was looking for schemes other than begging individual members for checks and in September I had contacted Jim Roe (the agent for Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper) to float an idea for a fundraising concert in February by adding another date to the tour already in the works by Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper. I knew that they were starting their tour with the Morgan Hill concert on Saturday, February 27th. I asked Jim if we could meet at IBMA in Raleigh to work out some details and that I had nothing but an idea: no space, no budget and definitely no expertise in producing a concert. Jim assured me that we were both smart and could probably figure something out.
Board member Geoff Sargent and I had been talking about possible concert spaces in the East Bay for a number of months. For the last few years it has been almost impossible to find space for touring bluegrass bands to perform and we had been talking about starting a CBA concert series in the East Bay. Neither of us had the time nor the expertise to produce concerts but we did have access to the Board of Directors of the CBA and we knew agents and lots of bands were always contacting us. The CBA has insurance and pays annual BMI and ASCAP fees. We also knew others who might be interested in helping us make this pipe dream a reality.
Geoff called me to tell me his friend and CBA member Mark Haskett was a member of the Alameda Elks Lodge and was inviting us to take a look at their venue. I called CBA Lifetime member Butch Waller and asked him to join us for a tour and to give his opinion about the space. I also asked CBA member Jacob Groopman to come along for the ride. I wanted band members to give an opinion about the space. Jacob has been working with us on Youth Program events (he has managed all the Youth Academies thus far as well) and as a younger CBA member he could let us know if the space would appeal to a younger audience demographic than the demographic Geoff, Butch and I represented. We toured, were wowed, spoke to the manager of the Lodge and found that the venue was available on the date (February 26th) I was thinking about, the price to rent was reasonable and they were willing to rent to us. I then called Paul Knight to ask him to check the space out for sound possibilities and asked about his availability. I knew Paul was probably in town because he was doing the sound for Morgan Hill. I also wanted the best sound possible for a first concert. Paul drove to Alameda the next week, gave the venue his thumbs up and agreed to work “on spec” for this first ever concert.
I went to Raleigh with a possible space, a definite date and great sound production and spoke to Jim Roe who agreed to let us give the concert a shot and we booked the band with a promise of a percentage of the gate (after a guess at expenses to pay for the venue and sound and advertising). To be fair, the CBA has a great track record with Jim and we are known for being hardworking and honorable. Jim Roe also appreciates what the CBA Youth Program does.
The Board of Directors agreed to let the CBA Youth Program “gamble” on this event and approved a budget and we signed a contract with the Elks Lodge and Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper. CBA members Ted Kuster and Jess Poteralski jumped in and created artwork for advertising and a flyer and Ted ordered posters and flyers on his own credit card. I had been working with the Freight & Salvage since early autumn (see article in this issue) and they volunteered to and advertised our event on their website and in a emailer to their mailing list.
I knew I wanted a youth band to open the concert and I knew I wanted to market to all the East Bay kids who were taking fiddle lessons and who I believed needed an opportunity to see Michael Cleveland live in concert. CBA members Catherine and Chad Manning readily agreed to advertise to their population at Manning Music. CBA member and Alameda resident Mariaelena Quale volunteered to be on our team and asked if we would be interested in the Rambling Minors opening for the concert. We jumped on that offer immediately. The Rambling Minors are Teo and Miles Quale (Alameda), D’jango Ruchrich (Grass Valley) and Daisy Kerr (Placerville) and all are participants of our Kids on Bluegrass or attendees of the CBA Youth Academy and Daisy was invited by Kim Fox to appear with the Kids on Bluegrass in Raleigh last year. We immediately called CBA member Ray Edlund to book the Rambling Minors on his KPFA Sunday radio show, Pig in a Pen, the Sunday before the event and he said “yes.” We asked CBA member Peter Barnato of Alameda ( McGrath’s and the Frog and Fiddle) to join us to help us with advertising in Alameda.
We were off. Gary Mansperger agreed to come to the concert and help us with our gate (he is our tix.com expert), Jacob Groopman volunteered to handle all our Facebook advertising while touring with his band Front Country all over the US. Maria Quale was our secret weapon because a mother of three boys who travels via minivan everywhere everyday and always has flyers or posters and can call or text to contact local newspapers while waiting for kids to finish soccer or music lessons or playdates is exactly what we needed to spread the word.
There was definitely some nail biting and anxious moments. We all contacted all our friends. The Bluegrass Breakdown and CBAWeb.org helped immensely. We knew that bluegrass events in the Bay Area were risky business and getting people out to a new venue in a new city was risky. We knew that our gate price was inexpensive and that we were marketing free tickets as well so there wasn’t much margin. The week before the concert we knew we were going to be able to pay the band, pay the sound guy and pay the opening band (we had already paid for the venue). The night of the concert we checked 302 people in through the door. The entire volunteer team bought tickets. CBA member Chuck Poling volunteered to emcee as did new Teen Ambassador John Gooding. The room at night was gorgeous and it was full! The sound was great. There were children everywhere. Chuck Poling said the dancers at the front of the stage “looked like a mosh pit of Disney Princesses.” Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper were HOT and gave the crowd a fabulous show.
We are pretty proud of what we accomplished. The East Bay can bring bluegrass fans out for an exciting evening of music to a venue no one has ever heard of. It was an enormous amount of work but with all our hardworking Bay Area CBA members we can accomplish a lot. A large number of children and families were able to experience the amazing Michael Cleveland. We didn’t make much money but we didn’t lose any either. My sleeping four year old “Dancing Disney Princess” granddaughter was carried out to our car by lead singer and guitar player Josh Richards at the end of the evening. I think we will try another concert when she is five.