There's something to be said about vulnerability.
Before starting this festival, I held the notion that the core ideological debate between the Rochester community and the local arts scene was whether careers in music and the arts were feasible career paths and whether those pursuing said career paths deserved to be praised/rewarded for their commitment to their craft. I believed I was the only one with this idea. It was me vs. the world-- with "the world" being the city of Rochester.
As a high school student feeling creatively hindered in the public school system and limited in the scarce musical opportunities in town, my form of rebellion was writing (generally) angry and (sometimes) contemplative music as well as rounding up a tag team of any high schooler that was playing non-school-related instruments.
We got better together. We felt the same emotions.
At the end of the day of the inaugural ROCKchester Festival at the now-deceased Wicked Moose, there was an outline of a future arts community. People showed up and were interested in what we had done. We were able to pay every teen performer $50-- exactly what we had aimed to. However, I misconstrued the success of the event as a "fad". Obviously, that opinion was misplaced, but the need to be taken seriously has guided most of the creative decisions in my life-- including the development of this festival.
Fast forward to ROCKchester pt. 2 held at Pure Rock Studios last summer-- the day that I realized this festival was bigger than what I could handle (but like-- in a good way). 500 people expected; attendance totaling just barely under 200. Although the attendence of the event was disappointing, numerous lessons were learned that day, including:
1. Community engagement is not a number. Experiences cannot be quantified.
2. Preparation anxiety only happens as a result of taking on too much responsibility by yourself.
3. A shift in culture only happens when passionate people make a conscious, united effort.
4. People will stand at music shows (see 3)
These takeaways led me to continue to work to opening myself up to new viewpoints and opportunities. Vulnerability and trust in people is invaluable in festival production and in life. To the friends, mentors, and colleagues I have made through music and festival planning, thank you teaching me the skills to be emotionally and creatively vulnerable and to approach new ideas and problems in multiple different ways.
From the inception of our festival in the summer of 2015 to now, the local Minnesotan music climate has changed in a major way thanks to a number of key players. To all of those listed: I have the utmost respect for all that you are doing and am continually encouraged to work harder every day because of what you have put into the world.
These are groups (see: My Town, My Music, Cafe Steam, Carpet Booth Studios, Positive Tuesday, The Jive Mill, Pure Rock Studios, Riverside Concerts, Gallery 24, Northern Sun Productions, etc, etc) that are making music happen and continually bringing big names into Rochester. In the broader SE MN area, there are even more (see: the Current, the Garage, Midwest Music Festival/Big Turn Music Festival, etc, etc).
The young adult music scene in Southeastern Minnesota has big, touring names now (see: Vansire, Good Morning Bedlam, Early Eyes, Yung Gravy, Hippo Campus, Remo Drive, The Happy Children, etc, etc).
Local music has never been better/more diverse (see: Fauna & Flora, Wyatt Moran, Greentop, Sam Butterfass, Loud Mouth Brass Band, the D'Sievers, Pat Egan, Annie Mack, Second Story, Fires of Denmark, Local Sports, The 9th Planet Out, ZOOTBOYS, Kidd Fla$h, etc, etc).
And local creatives are doing amazing things constantly (see: Will Forsman, Andy Furness, Chad Allen, Emily Nelson, Elle Pollock, Corrie Strommen, Kristen Brown, Amarama Lynn, Cassandra Buck, Beth Sievers, Tyler Aug, etc, etc).
In our third year, ROCKchester will hold fast to our principles of highlighting young adult creators, artists and musicians and compensating them for their time and immense talent. Additionally, we will continue to work and partner with all the other groups in Southeast Minnesota and surrounding areas that are doing cool things in an effort to cultivate a strong and united arts community. Finally, I am invested in making this festival and myself more vulnerable in the way we present ourselves. Feel free to reach out anytime to myself or my team (see: About Us page); we could all use a little more human connection and a lot more music.
TL;DR: This festival is one part of a broad community we are trying to build. We'd love for you to be a part of it.
MUSIC IS PEOPLE.