After so many years on the road, I have become friends with a number of extraordinary people. I have decided to periodically invite them to contribute a piece about their venue and their way of doing things. Our guest contributor today is Susan Mumma. She is one of these remarkable people that you feel like you’ve known all your life after about five minutes. I met her at the Farwest Folk Alliance (www.farwest.org ) three years ago. She promptly hired me for her festival and we’ve been friends ever since. And watch out. What she says about Seldovia is true. I can’t wait to play music there again; wonderful people, wonderful place. Once you have been there, you think of it all the time and you always want to go back. If the Wendigo lives some place, it lives in Seldovia, Alaska
Here is a short bio of Susan Mumma of Crazy Crow Productions (http://crazycrow.vox.com ) followed by what she has to say about herself and her series: Susan Mumma is an avid music advocate and singer/guitar player/artist. She hosts Crazy Crow House Concerts at the Seldovia Rowing Club Inn in Seldovia, Alaska; is director of the Seldovia Summer Solstice Music Festival each June and is currently Programming Director for the Seldovia Arts Council...She is also a host of other unmentionable things...
and here’s what she sent to me this week:
Upon being a presenter and programming director in a small town in Alaska.
I like the John Prine song, "In a town this size...there's not place to hide....." because it is so true about the presenting business here in my small town of Seldovia , Alaska . It is a wonderful place for performers because generally when someone comes to town it is not a secret. Performances don't happen that often and are thus a special treat. When someone with a guitar steps off the airplane or the ferry boats it is because "something exciting" is going to happen. One can only get to Seldovia by air or boat and it is rather an island unto itself. The Seldovia Arts Council is one small arts agency in rural Alaska which represents the grassroots approach to programming. For the most part, we are not a high dollar presenter able to attract talent by dollars alone, instead we attract by what we do best... by our hospitality and of course our to-die -for scenery. We are real and we expect performers to be. If the audiences like you, they take you home with them literally, they take you out fishing, or out on the bay for a scenic sunset boat ride.
Audiences expect the best from the performer and really listen and totally engage in the performance. The stage setting is small and most events take place in Susan B. English School in a large commons room surrounded by a four-sided mural made by school children depicting the animals of the various regions of Alaska. The sound is good. The lighting is good. There is no alcohol or smoking which bothers a few folks, but on the whole is liberating. Most artists must also be prepared to do a school show or a workshop for the community. Every bit of technical know-how is local. Expect to do a bit of your own sound engineering.
When I look for someone to come to Seldovia. I have to tell them that they will probably be up close and personal with the locals, that although we have beautiful bed and breakfasts and hotels, they will not get room service, bell hops or porters nor do the hotels have a built -in refrigerator bars. Sometimes the restaurants are closed during the winter and special diets are a bit hard here, but not impossible.
I have to tell them that they might get a fresh halibut cooked for them in someone's home or given a kayak to paddle for the fun of it and that they will never go hungry or feel unloved. Most artists who have come to Seldovia long to come back, and wish that they had booked a day or so extra in their tour to spend in Seldovia, but I also have to tell them that it is possible to get weathered in. Most of the time have to tell them to watch out because people fall in love with the place at first sight .
When I look for acts to come to Seldovia, I am really looking for flexible persons. I have to tell them that they should leave a good impression with their hosts by being rather easy to care for. People who live in the bush have lives that are not easy, or polished, but instead rich in experiences to which most will never have access and that these experiences are worth learning about. In other words, the artist is best who is not "all about me" when coming to a small town. Oddly enough, he may be judged by his personality as much as the quality of his act.
That all being said, The Seldovia Arts Council looks for high quality performers who have soul and heart. Many genre of arts are appreciated and variety is expected. They produce the Seldovia Summer Solstice Music Festival and numerous concerts, arts workshops, dramatic productions and other presentations about the arts throughout the year.
If you are a new performer, someone traveling around Alaska and looking for gigs, you might try house concerts. CRAZY CROW House Concerts http://crazycrow.vox.com/ is just such. Here, in this small setting at the Seldovia Rowng Club Bed and Breakfast, you will meet people, have a place to stay, and eat. You can keep the gate and sell CDs to an invited client list. There are various concert series around the state and are generally booked by word of mouth by those who host them. Lots of fun.
All of these highlighted places are booked by me, Susan Mumma and represent artists both in public and personal settings. You can find out more about them the web at http://wwwseldoviarowingclub.net