Cambridge-based concert organizer John Taylor recently formed a new organization, Heartland Connections, with Jason Bates, based on the idea that music can be a vehicle to “elevate our communities socially, culturally and economically, particularly through connections made as a result of people gathering to share an experience,” according to a release from Taylor.
The two men have worked on many music-related ventures over the past few years, including the Levitt AMP Galva Music Series, a free summer-concert series in Wiley Park in Galva.
“More often than not, these connections create win-win scenarios that not only benefit those within the connected sphere but also the fabric of our communities at large,” Bates said, “and because music is global and many of the artists we feature are from all over the globe who travel for a living, we believe there is the potential to have a positive impact well beyond the Midwest.”
Taylor and his wife, Stephanie, (who have three small children) in the past five years have hosted over 250 concerts at their home, featuring artists from all over the world, everything from up-and-coming artists to Grammy winners. In 2018, he launched the Levitt AMP Galva Music Series, a 10-week, free, family-friendly concert series at Wiley Park in Galva, which brought live music to over 7,000 people.
The 2019 series saw even more community involvement and many new partnerships, and Taylor — again with the help of the Galva Arts Council — is planning to have a third-year, grant-funded series in 2020. Also in 2018, he opened the Bishop Hill Creative Commons, located in historic Bishop Hill, an artist cooperative that is run by and features the art of 15-20 local artists at any given time and is also the site of concerts.
Taylor's goal is to bring people together for shared experiences to create lasting and meaningful relationships, increase acceptance and tolerance of diversity, and boost the local economy, he said.
Bates (who also is married with three kids) lives on a farm near Galva. As a historian and cultural geography instructor, “I recognize that you can learn a great deal about culture through its music and also food,” he said. “One of the things John has done at his Ca d'Zan House Concerts and Bishop Hill Creative Commons concerts, is combine these two cultural aspects in one setting with communal potlucks prior to the music.
“These events along with our efforts in the Levitt AMP Galva Music Series, led the two of us to the conclusion that there needed to be an umbrella entity that incorporated all the different mechanics that would benefit what we were seeing between artists, our local population, nonprofit entities, and local business,” Bates said of Heartland Connections.
“We want to bring everything together for people attending these events, and volunteering” Taylor said. “The idea behind Heartland Connections is to just have everything come together. There are so many different pieces to all this ... I think it makes it easier to spread the message if it's coming from one place. We have one consolidated place, a clearinghouse to make it easy for everyone.”
A number of live-music events are planned to officially launch this new venture — Friday, Nov. 8, featuring “The Deep Hollow” of Springfield, and Thursday, Nov. 14, featuring “Novalima” of Lima, Peru. Both will be held at Bishop Hill Creative Commons, 309 N. Bishop Hill St. Each will start at 6 p.m. with a potluck, followed at 7 p.m. by guest speakers from area groups, and live music from the featured performer. Performers will be paid by free-will donation.
For more information, visit heartlandconnections.com.
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