Recession threatens local concert series
A local musical organization with over 20 years of history in Jefferson County might be the latest victim of the recession.
Joanie Blanton, the director of the Upper Potomac Music Weekends group, perhaps best known for hosting the popular Upper Potomac Dulcimer festivals here in Shepherdstown and Harpers Ferry, recently issued a bleak sounding email to UPMW members late last month.
“After our spring programs, we will either be rolling up the rug, taking a hiatus from programs or rethinking our current plan and programs,” wrote Blanton in the email. “Our numbers are low, lower than they’ve been in our 22 year history…we have never needed your help as much as we do right now…next year may be to late for us.”
The Upper Potomac Music Weekends were started 22 years ago by Nick and Joanie Blanton as a gathering for hammered dulcimer players, but the range of programs has grown to include hammered dulcimer weekends, a Celtic music weekend, a fiddle retreat and the piper’s weekend.
In a phone interview on Wednesday, Blanton said attendance at events is down dramatically. In the past UPMW had tried to keep events affordable. The plan worked while attendance was high, but with falling attendance numbers, her events have a hard time breaking even.
Blanton says that people can help UPMW survive by signing up for a music weekend (the fourth annual Potomac Pipers festival is this weekend on the Shepherd University campus, more info below), donating to the UPMW scholarship fund, or just simply by getting the word out. Blanton encourages people to spread the word about UPMW’s programs by posting brochures at music stores and libraries, or posting event announcements on Facebook.
“Even if you are at a point where you can’t come frequently, others can come in your place if you help us get the word out,” wrote Blanton in the email. “But if the students don’t come, then our mission has failed.”
Over the phone, Blanton said that her email, sent on Dec. 30, has already generated an influx of applications for an upcoming fiddle festival and spring music weekend.
UPMW has, over the last two decades, provided local folk musicians the opportunity to interact with prominent folk music teachers and musicians playing instruments ranging from the dulcimer to the fiddle, to the pipes, and more.
Events hosted by UPMW are a draw for many regional folk musicians, many of whom make use of local hotels and restaurants during their stay in Shepherdstown. UPMW’s website promintently lists information on local hotels and restaurants for visitors to patronize.
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This weekend, UPMW hosts the annual Potomac Pipers festival held on the Shepherd University campus. It features a variety of bellows-blown bagpipes from England, Ireland and Scotland. The weekend starts out on Friday evening with a Piper’s Round Robin in the Cumberland Room at the Student Center, a sort of combination of open mike, jam session and show-and-tell. Saturday and Sunday daytimes are divided up into workshop sessions of two-hour lengths in technique and repertoire. The private tutorials with these highly esteemed professionals is what brings many of these students to the workshop. Saturday evening is a more formal concert with the weekend staff, at Shepherd University’s Reynolds Hall, followed by informal jam sessions back at the student center where folks can play tunes together.
– For more info on UPMW, visit www.upperpotomacmusc.info, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.