Posts Tagged ‘Kent music festival’

Not only is Katie O. a strong vocalist and rockin’ guitarist, but she’s O. so glamorous and O. so fun. Yup, she’s the entire package and exactly what country music is looking for these days. If my job was focused in the artist and repertoire area, I’d take her. She has what it takes to make it.

Katie O. standing in street with guitar

Picture courtesy of Katie O.

Katie is from the Upper Ohio Valley – Powhatan Point, Ohio, to be exact. Do you know who else is from the Ohio Valley? Country superstar Brad Paisley was born and raised there as well. Now that’s what a girl needs to have some confidence. It is possible for someone from a small town to make it big.

Making it big involves expanding your fan base, and the Rockin’ Country Festival is (hopefully) playing a role in it. Katie is excited to debut in Northeast Ohio, and the Pufferbelly Restaurant is equally excited to have her. Katie opens the Walk of Fame night of the Rockin’ Country Festival. She’ll be entertaining guests beginning at 5:30 p.m. on April 1.

Entertaining is definitely the key word in that sentence. Katie really gets into her shows because she’s so passionate about what she’s doing, about what she’s singing. Katie said she chose to sing country music because it defined her best.

Plus – here comes the re-emerging theme of this blog and festival – country music is the genre the Ohio Valley related to musically and lyrically. And Jamboree in the Hills, country’s biggest party of the summer, is right down the road, giving her so many opportunities to sing along with some of the biggest country stars.

“The energy of a crowd that size is unbelievable,” Katie said, referring to Jambo (Ohio Valley native lingo – I’m from there, so I’m allowed to say it, too). She’s had the opportunity to perform in 2008, 2009 and 2010. Here’s part of the 2010 performance with her band mate Corey Congilio.

Although Katie sings covers of some of the top country performers, she definitely has the knack for making them her own. Obviously. Isn’t that one of the qualities American Idol judges looked for from contestants? Indeed, it is, in addition to the ability to write your own songs.

“Here come the butterflies, the fireflies, oh inside of me. And you say how you been, and I fake smile.”

That’s one of Katie’s originals. Her self-penned song “Butterflies and Fireflies” is catchy. I like to sing along. You should, too. Remember. April 1 at 5:30 p.m.

Katie reminds me of Carrie Underwood, one of my all-time favorites. I’m always singing Carrie’s songs in my head (and in my car, duh).And not surprisingly, Mrs. Underwood is one of Katie’s idols. Her strong vocals and success are idol worthy, for sure.

“Thelma and Louise.” I think I’ve listened to that song about 10 times since I’ve been writing this blog. Along with “You Get Me.” And “That’s All I Better Say About That.” Yes, more Katie originals. I love them. And I don’t think you’ll be disappointed with her show by any means.

Katie O. posed with her guitar on a creek's edge

Picture courtesy of Katie O.

Katie said there are more originals to come later this year. She has an album in the works and continues to write music with Corey, who Katie says helps her become a stronger musician.

“Hold on Thelma…you’re gonna need a Louise.”

Is Corey Katie’s Louise? This sounds like trouble. Just kidding. They make a great team, and I look forward to hearing her new songs.

O.K. I’m off to sing along to Ms. Katie O. Don’t make fun of me too much if you see me at the festival singing either.

“You can’t sweet talk your enemy…”


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In a previous post, I mentioned other community events that seem to go perfectly. When I think back to the CMA Music Festival, everything seemed like it was perfect. The shows went well, the vendors seemed happy and fans had a blast. It all went off without a hitch, right?

Biggest fans at the CMA Music Festival

Kirby Smith, Bob Doerschuck, Lindsey Bynum and I -- the biggest country music fans having a blast at the CMA Music Festival.

Wrong. It may seem as if everything is fine because of the glamour of events themselves, but I bet someone behind the scenes is struggling, praying everything works out for the best. That’s what I do.

As I plan the Rockin’ Country Festival, I realize that it’s very unlikely anything has ever gone off without a hitch. Between the plans that lead up to the event, the promotion and the event itself, something is going to cause frustration for those involved in the strategic planning process.

Yes, strategic planning. What? I mentioned this before. Do you think events just happen? Nope. Do you think people just show up? Again, no way. Every event takes a lot of effort. I’ve been working on this festival month after month. And if you count my brainstorming sessions, it’s been a year! I put together a plan, which definitely evolved before I began implementing it all.

Well, now I’m a month out from the Rockin’ Country Festival, and boy, oh, boy do I feel frustrated. I still do not have the lineup finalized, and I need to begin heavy promotions. I’ve been working on this for a solid two months straight now. Coordinating everyone’s schedules with everyone else’s schedule is more difficult than I ever imagined it would be.

Tip #1: Over estimate the amount of time for people to respond to your message. It’s better to allow too much time than not enough time. It will reduce your stress level and provide you more time for other things you need to accomplish.

Clock representing time ticking away

Image from nysut.org

The clock is ticking. Therefore, the next four weeks of my life are devoted to promoting the Rockin’ Country Festival. Here are the promotional tools I think will work best:

  1. Social media
  2. Blogging
  3. Traditional PR
  4. Smaller, pre-events

And here’s why I’m using them and why they’re important for all you musicians out there (hint: promote your show on your end).

Social media seems to be the best method in today’s era. Check out this year’s Facebook statistics to see why it’s such a valuable mechanism. And of course, Twitter is ideal to keep it short and sweet.

Ping Logo

Apple's logo for Ping

Tip #2: If you’re a musician, get on all social media sites, especially Ping. It’s my newest social media membership, but for musicians, it’s ideal. You can be recommended by your fans, which is an authentic way to grow your fan base. Without true fan endorsements, how will increase your visibility? 

I’m using my blog to tell potential concert goers more about the bands participating in my festival. I figure it’s a great way generate buzz and develop a conversation. This way I know if I’m on track, if I’m giving concert goers what they want. Hopefully, my readers will recognize the opportunity to let me know if they have any suggestions for the Rockin’ Country Festival as well.

Tip #3: Your fans want to hear about your shows, about what’s going on musically for you. Start a blog. Include posts about the inspiration for a song, how a show went or anything to make your fans feel as if they’re getting to know you personally.

In an article I read the other day, people look forward to traditional promotion. The article called “5 reasons PR pros still need traditional media” explains it all. I plan to have advertising in newspapers and tackle the old-guerrilla marketing technique of posting flyers everywhere.

Tip #4: Don’t rule out traditional promotional tactics; they help with credibility.

Although this creates more work for you, smaller events will generate buzz about your main event. It takes a lot to capture people’s attention. I joined forced with the Akron-Canton Regional Food Bank and their Harvest for Hunger campaign. Simple enough. Also, get ahead of the game by reading about 10 Event Trends for 2011.

Tip #5: Jump on board with already planned events. You’ll be helping them out as well as increasing awareness about your music or event.

As my energy for this festival wanes, I envision the success of the event to keep me going strong. I’m overcoming strategic planning process blues by fueling my mind with pictures of crowded venues. So don’t let me down. Join in with my promotional tools, give me some advice if you have any and, last but not least, make plans to come to the festival already!

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The Flaughers/Curtis Band just might be the band that defines the Rockin’ Country Festival. The band’s characters Steve Flaughers and Jay Curtis are ready to turn the Water Street Tavern into a true rodeo when they take the stage April 1 at 10:30 p.m.

Flaughers, originally from a middle-of-nowhere town in West Virginia (yes, we were thrilled when we figured out we were both wild and wonderful) called Chloe (check it out on the map), was born into country music. Although he was exposed to other genres, “country,” Flaughers said, “is real. It tells the story of real things, about real people; it’s honest.” Exactly what I said in my first post, right? Told you!

Flaughers sings lead vocals in the band and occasionally plays the guitar. But it turns out Curtis is the real wild one. Curtis, a Brunswick, Ohio, native, has been playing in these neck of the woods for some time now. From the old Screwy Louie’s to nearly every bar in Kent, Curtis has made an appearance. He’s also been known to bust out his harmonica and his guitar, playing them both at the same time. I can’t wait to see that move!

Steve Flaughers playing the guitar and singing.

Photo courtesy of Steve Flaughers

Although I’ve never seen the band play live, their resume  shows the two must have some talent up their sleeves. They’ve recently written a couple songs that were sent to national recording artists Clay Walker and Pat Green. But they also sing their songs as well. At their show at Water St. Tavern, you can expect to hear their originals, such as “Wish Upon You.” Notice the music video is posted on Country Music Television.

Wish Upon You video picture of Steve Flaughers

Photo courtesy of Steve Flaughers

You’ll also be able to sing along with some top hits the band plays to keep the fans entertained. Everyone loves the tunes of country’s top rocker Keith Urban. Check out the acoustic cover “Who Wouldn’t Wanna Be Me?” performed by Flaughers and Curtis.

Flaughers said fans just might hear Hank Williams Jr.’s “Family Tradition,” David Allan Coe’s “You Never Call Me By Name” and some George Strait on their playlist as well. In my opinion, it’s always fun to hear some of our classic favorites. Sometimes it’s the best part of the show! The covers definitely eliminate any chance for boredom to overcome the audience.

Music is really just an addiction for the two countrymen. They’re willing to play them all, and they are up for any challenge, especially the challenge of entertaining the audience. Their goal is to give every performance 110 percent so everyone has a great time and leaves loving their sound. What’s a band to do without the adornment of fans?

Despite the band’s already quite fulfilling history, Flaughers and Curtis definitely have a future. They’ve been spending quite a lot of time in the studio writing songs. Yes, the songs tell stories about their lives. They claim they do have some of their own life experiences worthy of songs. Guess we’ll find out.

Lastly, they’re putting together a Christmas album. Is it bad that I had to start a Christmas list already? Nah. It’s never too early for Christmas.

In the meantime, you can stay up to date on the plans of the Flaughers/Curtis Band on Facebook and MySpace. And be on the lookout for other upcoming performances as they finish up in the studio; they expect to be playing around Akron, feeding their music addiction, throughout 2011.

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I bet you’ve all been wondering…where’s the music? Well, I’m proud to introduce to you the first and official Small Town Songbird – Ms. Courtney Bergman.

Courtney Bergman and her band members Justin and Casey

Justin Schrock, Courtney Bergman and Casey Jones. Picture courtesy of Courtney Bergman

Courtney, a Kent native, grew up with country and bluegrass music flowing through her house. Her extended family was always singing and playing instruments and her grandpa was also in a band. One could say country music was just in her genes.

Needless to say, Courtney’s own singing journey started early, and it all began with her Little Tikes karaoke machine at the ripe age of four. It’s better to get over that stage fright a young age, right? Well, her mom’s gift worked! All her karaoke playtime made Courtney want a real audience.

Courtney began singing at talent shows and joined her school choir. She took advantage of every mic she could get her hands on…fearlessly. The girl was brave enough to belt out The National Anthem; she’s sang the song at her high school’s athletic events and for the Cleveland Barons, a youth hockey league. That’s a tough one to nail down. More power to her!

Now, as a junior Human Development and Family Studies major at Kent State University, Courtney is going stronger than ever. She recently put together an acoustic band, which is comprised of Justin Schrock, who plays the six-string guitar, and Casey Jones, who rocks out on a 12 string.

Performing at Suffield Music Festival

Courtney performs at the 2010 Suffield Music Festival with her band. Picture courtesy of Courtney Bergman.

Despite the fact that the band has been together for less than a year, they’ve managed to snag a few gigs, including the 2010 Suffield Music Festival. More importantly, you can find her singing her heart out at 157 Lounge at 7:30 p.m. on April 1 during Kent’s Rockin’ Country Festival.

At 157 Lounge, you’ll find Courtney singing all your favorite, familiar songs. She’ll be covering everything from old-school country to the modern, upbeat country that’s popular today. Superstar Carrie Underwood, Colbie Caillet and the new phenomenon The Band Perry are a few of her influences, so I’m sure you’ll hear their hits on her playlist.

Courtney has an upbeat attitude and passion for country that will for sure keep the show interesting. She’s in it to have a good time because she believes that’s what it’s all about. That’s how the entertainment business should be, right? She may be fresh in the music industry, but she knows what drives the success.

Courtney has come a long ways since her Little Tikes karaoke days, and she still has some work cut out for her. For the time, Courtney focuses on cover songs. Her next step, and what you can expect from her in the future, is originals. The band has been working hard to come up with its own material. Plus, they’re looking for a bass and drummer (hint, hint…talk to her at the show if you want in!).

Again, April 1 is your lucky day (or night), no joke. It’s your one and only chance (at the moment) to check Courtney out for yourself. They’re on the prowl for more shows as the band grows, but for now we look forward to seeing her at the Rockin’ Country Festival.

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One of the things that has been pounded into my head while studying at Kent State University is to never jump right into anything. Research is the first step before taking on an initiative. So when I first began my research for the Rockin’ Country Festival, I ran across a couple of theories I wanted to explore, especially as the event unfolds: social capital theory, expectations confirmation theory and social exchange theory.

Social Capital Theory

Robert Putnam defined social capital as “connections among individuals – social networks and the norms of reciprocity and trustworthiness that arise from them.”

Hands holding up globe

Image from todaysseniorsnetwork.com

I’ve slowly been reading Putnam’s book “Bowling Alone.” He claims society is disconnected, mainly because he looks at technology as individualizing. Although I can’t say I totally agree with him (this could be another whole blog post), I see social capital at work in Kent. Many community events take place, and they all seem to go off without a hitch…or so it seems from the outside looking in (hmm…future post? I think so!).

I’ve been planning the Rockin’ Country Festival event for downtown Kent, Ohio, for months now. As my plans have progressed, I recently began working with Main Street Kent. Main Street Kent works to revitalize the downtown area. One way it does this is by supporting the town’s various festivals throughout the year including the Black Squirrel Festival, the Folk Festival, scavenger hunts, outdoor movie nights and more. It’s definitely connected to the residents.

Not only is social capital at work in Kent but community building is also evident. Through its support, it indirectly recognizes it’s only a fraction of Kent’s culture and its responsibility is to making the town greater. And boy oh boy has Main Street Kent taken on that responsibility full force. I approached the organization, and it was thrilled about my festival. It was truly excited that I decided to take on the large endeavor of the Rockin’ Country Festival and offered to help me make it successful. It’s civic virtue at its finest.

Expectations Confirmation Theory

This theory explains that people’s behavior is determined by their positive or negative perceptions of the event. Basically, it’s all about attitude here.

As I re-evaluate what this theory is really all about, I realize this goes beyond the attendees’ perceptions of the Rockin’ Country Festival as it’s in moving forward. Expectations Confirmation Theory is evident in all the stages of event planning. To pull this festival off, I’m relying on so many other sources. Therefore, their attitude toward the festival is kind of the guiding force of the festival’s image. Their support and willingness to be involved gives light to the success of the event. With their positive attitudes, the likelihood of not only others participating increases but also the likelihood of people attending the event increases.

Human-shaped puzzle pieces

Image from amnation.com

This theory is also all about my attitude. To make the event successful, it’s all about how I approach it. I have to believe it’s a 100 percent great event that the community is going to love and want to be involved with in order for it to work. I have to show my positivity and my excitement in order to pass that attitude on to other’s involved. It’s a trickle-down effect that will hopefully influence others’ behavior – to attend!

Social Exchange Theory

Social Exchange Theory is said to help predict people’s reactions to social action. Philanthropic motives and familiarity are components that often help gain approval.

Stack of canned food items

Image from NBA.com

I found a way to incorporate some philanthropy. As the festival is taking place, the audience will be asked to bring a canned food item to donate to the Akron-Canton Regional Food Bank to help it with its Harvest for Hunger campaign. Its goal for the 2011 campaign is to raise $750,000, the equivalent to 2.25 million meals. It’s a way for the community to repay the favor of free entertainment – to give to those in need. Plus, everyone can feel good about it.

What’s in it – for you?

As aspiring musicians, I know you’re focused on increasing your fan base, drawing people to your shows, etc. But there’s more to it than that. In addition to the relationship building you need to reach stardom, try focusing on social capital to develop a stronger trust from your fans. Also, stay positive. I’m always telling people if you think you can’t do, you’re going to fail. Lastly, if you reach out to the community and find a way to serve society, to help, you’ll foster a stronger dedication from your fans than if you only focus on yourself. It must be working; think of all the musicians who give back – Garth Brooks, Josh Turner and the list goes on. But check out Jimmy Wayne’s recent endeavor called Meet Me Halfway.

Looking into Kent at The Pufferbelly

Photo by Jon Ridinger

Sure, I am putting this Rockin’ Country Festival together because I need to graduate. But I’m also counteracting the supposed decrease in social capital by creating another opportunity to bring the residents of Kent together – to benefit a well-known cause and to provide a couple of fun nights out.



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Trace Adkins perfectly described the stereotype of country music as twang and trains and hillbilly things in his hit “Songs About Me.” The key word – stereotype. It’s no longer only about the broken hearts and scars he portrayed. But it does remain true to its defining characteristic – country music is “songs about me.”  I have always enjoyed country music, twang and all, but it’s the lyrics that draw me to the genre. They’re songs about “loving and living” and “family and God.”

Add a little glamour to the mix and recognition can be achieved. And that’s exactly what happened to the genre. It turns out that I’m not the only one attracted to country music for its relatable lyrics, but the new-found glamour has helped it gain recognition across the country. The 2010 Country Music Association Awards is proof country music is alive and well…and growing. On November 10, an average of 16 million people tuned into the awards show, and I had the opportunity to be a part of it.

The crowd at LP Field during the 2010 CMA Music Festival

Image taken by Jodee Hammond

 It was this time a year ago that my love for country music was about to be taken to another level. A friend told me about the CMA’s Award of Merit program that provides students with the opportunity to receive real-world journalism experience by reporting at its annual CMA Music Festival. No brainer…I had to apply. I just never dreamed I would be accepted. It was probably as equally exciting to me as when Taylor Swift won the CMA Horizon Award and announced it was the highlight of her senior year. One small difference – this was the highlight of my LIFE! It was my first chance to be a part of the music.

I spent four days in the 100-degree weather roaming around downtown Nashville covering my assigned locations as well as scoping out additional interesting pieces fans would potentially want to hear about. I was thrilled to be there, but it was a lot to take in. I quickly realized how difficult it was to cover an event as large as the festival. It was overwhelming!

Miranda Lambert answers questions at CMA Awards' press conference

Image taken by Jodee Hammond

Now, all of this was a competition with the winner receiving the chance to report live on the red carpet at the CMA Awards. Turns out, I did a good job reporting at the festival and won the competition, leading me to the fancy, schmancy red carpet. Super cool, right? I wrote for the blog for the CMA Awards to give fans the inside scoop. You know, the information they wouldn’t see on camera.  Whoa, it was like Hollywood; all the glitz and glam but Nashville style. I even got a little feel of stardom. Bob Doerschuk presented me with my award on the stage at the press conference, the stage that was later graced by Brad Paisley, Sugarland, Loretta Lynn, Lady Antebellum, Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert.

Fast forward three months after my three-seconds of fame, and the new-found glamour of country music is about to come to Kent, Ohio. I’m currently planning a Rockin’ Country Music Festival to showcase the modernity of country music, to give people a feel of country’s true character, Nashville style. Country music is indeed songs about “loving and living” and “family and God,” but with a cool factor not everyone recognizes quite yet.

The Rockin’ Country Festival will hopefully enlighten a small portion of Northeast Ohio. And that’s where I come in. I’ll be right here to, again, tell you all the behind the scenes information, the cool stuff, as the festival’s plans are rolled out. Feel free to check out my blog posts from CMA in the meantime.

Rockin' Country Festival Logo

Designed by local musician Ryan Humbert

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