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Concert series scrambles for funds to ensure encore

Lead singer Noel Harris performs with the Local Celebrity Band during the Bandshell Bash last May.

KERI WIGINTON | Times (2007)

Lead singer Noel Harris performs with the Local Celebrity Band during the Bandshell Bash last May.

BROOKSVILLE — By all accounts, the Bandshell Bash series has been a rousing success.

For more than three years, the free monthly concerts have done what few other public events have managed to do: breathe life into sleepy downtown Brooksville.

The Hernando County Fine Arts Council, which organizes the monthly music series, has earned accolades for bringing in world-class talent such as the Coasters, the Rick Derringer Band and the Cab Calloway Orchestra. But with a two-year, $48,000 state cultural endowment grant about to run out, Fine Arts Council members fear the free concert series could be in jeopardy unless more community financial support can be found.

"We're coming to a crossroads in the next few months," said Fine Arts Council member Brian Brijbag, who helped launch the first Bandshell Bash concert in February 2005. "Whether we can continue the bash depends on whether we can find adequate funding. It's as simple as that."

Brijbag, who is community development coordinator for the city of Brooksville, said that the benefits from the concert series have helped spark a subtle reshaping of the city's downtown district by attracting new visitors and providing locals will family-friendly entertainment.

The series, which is staged the second Saturday of each month at the Hernando Park band shell, has managed to attract a faithful following of mostly middle-aged and older listeners who relax in lawn chairs or on blankets and listen to professional jazz, blues, doo-wop, country and reggae artists.

In 2006, the concert series and its organizers received recognition from the state's Division of Cultural Affairs and was presented with the $48,000 grant.

Although far from being a high-priced production, staging the concert series requires more than just the dedicated work of a few volunteers, Brijbag said. The average $2,500 needed for each event goes toward paying costs such as insurance, park-use fees, security and performer fees. And though the council has managed to save money from time to time by using local entertainers, Brijbag says the big-name acts have typically drawn the largest crowds.

"The Coasters and Rick Derringer each drew a couple of thousand people for their shows," Brijbag said. "Unfortunately, those are also the kinds of acts that cost the most money."

Fine Arts Council chairman Tony Covell said that while the organization has considered applying for additional grant money, he believes that with wiser spending, the concert series can remain self-sufficient.

"We need to learn to be more frugal," Covell said. "I don't think you necessarily have to spend a lot of money to put on a good concert that people will enjoy."

In the meantime, the council has turned its attention toward beefing up its coffers to keep the concert series going. On April 27, the organization will stage a doo-wop benefit concert at the Palace Grand in Spring Hill featuring area acts the Legends of Doo Wop and Joey Dee.

Even with successful fundraisers, Covell thinks the council could do more to attract local sponsorships by better promoting the concert series to local businesses.

"We've established a very good reputation over the past three years," Covell said. "So now it's time to cash in on it. I'm sure with the right promotion, we could find some local businesses who are eager to get on board."

Logan Neill can be reached at lneill@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1435.

Concert series scrambles for funds to ensure encore 04/12/08 [Last modified: Saturday, April 12, 2008 5:46pm]
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