The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Jun 09, 2013

Music Ambassadors: Macon Preview Weekend demonstrates how the arts can build community

Posted by jdye

Sophia Bastian performs a lunch-time concert in Mercer Village.

A new program seeking to turn musicians into ambassadors for Macon, Georgia held its preview run over the weekend. NY-based singer-songwriter Sophia Bastian played a whirlwind series of concerts over three days. During her stay, she enjoyed First Friday in downtown, took a historic tour of the city, and made many, many new fans. Bastian performs a sound check on Saturday afternoon. Bastian at sound check on Saturday afternoon.

Bastian was introduced to Macon with a free lunch-time concert in Mercer Village, home of many local restaurants and Mercer's Center for Collaborative Journalism. Saturday, she performed a house concert in a historic home in Macon's College Hill Corridor. This preview concert was invitational, but future house concerts in the series will be ticketed events. The house concert is a crux of the MAM program, which showcases the beautiful and affordable homes in the corridor.

Bastian played to a packed house (literally) on Saturday. Bastian plays to a packed "house."

Some audience members enjoy the show from the the kitchen of the historic home where Bastian played. Audience members enjoy the show from the kitchen.

Posters by local artist and designer Jason Frost were on display. Frost is the sole proprietor of Modern Giant Design, a one-man screen print and graphic design studio that is quickly gaining recognition with local and touring musicians. Macon Arts Alliance will showcase a different local artist at each house concert in the series.

Frost designed the commemorative poster for the the weekend's festivities. Frost designed the commemorative poster for the the weekend's festivities.

Poster design by Modern Giant Design/Jason Frost. Poster design by Modern Giant Design/Jason Frost.

Bastian performed her final concert of the weekend as part of College Hill's ongoing Second Sunday concert series. Usually held in Washington Park, her performance was moved to Grant's Lounge due to inclement weather. A fitting location considering Grant's role in music history.

Funded by a Knight Neighborhood Challenge, MAM's mission is to turn national musicians into ambassadors of the city as a way of building on Macon's musical legacy. A secondary goal is to showcase downtown Macon and the College Hill Corridor as safe, affordable and creative places to live. The series is also a fundraiser for Historic Macon, Macon Arts Alliance (a Knight Arts grantee), and Georgia Public Broadcasting.

The positive response to this preview weekend was easily apparent. All three concerts were well attended even considering Sunday's weather. Social and traditional media were filled with photos of Bastian, short videos of her soulful voice were posted online, and articles were published here, here and here. The proof is in the pudding, so they say, and the success of the preview weekend bodes well for the budding program.

What's proven true time and again is that projects focused on the arts are successful at bringing people together. Examples include Second Sunday concerts in Washington Park, movies in Tattnall Square Park, the College Hill Bear Trail, and now Music Ambassadors: Macon. When hundreds gather together in the park for a concert, that is community. When a family stops to take a photo with a piece of public art, that is community. When local people host a concert, or a porch party, or even a soap box derby, that is community.

Macon Music: Ambassadors has the potential to revitalize the city through music, and everyone should help. According to MAM, everyone can help by:

-Buying passes: The six concerts in the series will kick off in September, and tickets will be limited. To be notified when tickets are available, sign up at

-Being a sponsor: There are several sponsorship options to help bring the best artists and provide great experiences for all. Contact Tim Regan-Porter for sponsorship information.

-Hosting a concert: If you live in Macon and have a historic home, contact Tim or Historic Macon. For the first season, all concerts will be held in the College Hill Corridor.

-Spreading the word: Follow Music Ambassadors on Twitter and like MAM on Facebook. Or simply tell a friend over coffee.

MAM is a volunteer-led non-profit initiative with initial funding via the Knight Neighborhood Challenge and administered by Historic Macon.

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