FAIRMONT – An idea that started out as a way to enjoy the beauty of Palatine Park has turned into a multi-faceted boon for several evenings.
It all started when Marion County Administrator Kris Cinalli began looking for ways to organize entertainment in the park so residents could enjoy the riverside setting while listening to live music. or by attending a festival.
“Kris contacted me a few years ago about booking opportunities,” said Joshua Swiger, assistant professor in the music industry program at the University of West Virginia. “He wanted to make Palatine Park a bigger part of the Marion County community. He said, ‘I see this park sitting there with all this potential.’ “
Mind you, the concerts in Palatine Park were nothing new under the sun. In previous years, concerts were booked, managed and organized by the Marion County Parks and Recreation Commission until Cinalli, the Marion County Commission, and MCPARC disagreed after the 2019 concert series. .
Due to Swiger’s dual role as Assistant Professor at WVU and Producer at RMA Presents, he saw Cinalli’s idea as a perfect opportunity for students.
“Josh suggested that we create a program that gives students the opportunity to gain real experience in the music industry,” Cinalli said. “The Palatine was the perfect conduit for this.”
“I thought it would be great if we could use [WVU students in the music industry program] as interns to help with the shows, ”Swiger said.
But Swiger saw more than just a collaboration between the university and the county government.
“West Virginia doesn’t have the reputation of other cities like New York or Nashville, and we always wonder how to keep young people from leaving. So now we can say, OK, you’ve learned it, now let’s apply it.
The idea caught on. Cinalli worked with Swiger and Darko Velichkovski, WVU’s Music Industry Program Director, to come up with a plan that would bring live music and entertainment to the park every weekend from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and at the same time, would give students a chance to work on shows and gain real industry experience.
“We are starting to plan everything. Everything has to be done well in advance, ”Swiger said. “We knew we wanted different kinds of music: rock, blues, country and bluegrass. We also had tribute groups, a good mix of the best musicians from the area. We wanted to bring in artists from out of town and local musicians.
“Kris knew what his budget was and what we could do at the Palatine. We set it up for two student interns to work on it with Kris, ”Swiger said.
For the first year, which began in the fall of 2019, Sarah Giles and Ben Wilson were chosen to initiate the internship. At the time, both Giles and Wilson were enrolled in the Music Industry Masters program.
The Music Industry Program at WVU delves deep into the business of music and teaches students about live event production, music publishing, marketing and promotion, copyright laws and other topics that have less to do with creativity and more to do with technique and people skills.
The program is placed under the auspices of the WVU College of Creative Arts School of Music and offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
“We are proud of our students for their outstanding efforts in this endeavor,” Velichkovski said. “And we are grateful to all those responsible for the Palatine Park who have helped make this important opportunity for our students a reality.”
For trainees, the heavy lifting usually begins about three or four weeks before each performance. That’s when they have to call the tour directors and figure out the logistics of setting up a show. Setting up a live musical performance has a specific set of requirements, and trainees quickly learn that the checklist is long and detailed. And with performances scheduled almost every weekend, the work doesn’t stop for the entire season.
“It’s a huge job,” Swiger said. “Here, these students are learning to apply what we have taught in the classroom to the real world. And it doesn’t look like a classroom – they have to know what to do.
Act booking is handled and paid for by Cinalli and the county, and Swiger and other industry professionals are there to help students as needed.
The level of responsibility increases as the show approaches. On the day of the show itself, trainees run around the myriad of tasks in final preparation for a live performance.
“They have to do sound checks, the staging, all kinds of things on the day of the show,” Swiger said. “But it’s not all about them. They do everything, but it’s like a production assistant. And they learn what has to happen if you’re a professional sound company.
Internships are channeled through the College of Creative Arts at WVU. Although the final product of the partnership took a few steps to go through, those involved saw enough value in the relationship that they could streamline the process.
This year would have been the program’s third year, but last year’s cancellations pushed most events back to 2021. Although it is only two years old and fairly new, the program itself. same seems to work.
The commitment to working with local and national musicians was evident by the talent that appears in the park. At the Sounds Good to Me festival on September 11, musician Aristotle Jones worked with Cinalli and Swiger to book musicians who had recently signed with My Hill Records, a division of My Hills Music Group, the professional component of the industry program. musical at WVU.
“Our program’s collaboration with the Fairmont Palatine Park is an important opportunity for our students not only to improve and strengthen their hands-on experience in managing and producing live music, but also to contribute meaningfully to the community and to the quality of its cultural life, “Velichkovski said.
“Whether it’s working with the artists from Mon Hills and Go 1st Records, or helping us run the shows, it’s been a great opportunity for everyone,” Cinalli said. “Networking is an important part of creating a successful venue, so we’re happy to partner with WVU to help create a regional entertainment destination here in Fairmont and in Marion County. “
The end result, Swiger said, is a real sense of accomplishment.
“It’s more than taking a course,” he says. “Be 21 or 22, and their resume says ‘I did that.’ It is worth a lot.