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Fountain Square Music Fest and Musical Non-Profits: A Double Q&A with Jon Rogers and Adam Pedersen
Posted June 26, 2015 by Taylor Peters
WRITTEN BY
Taylor Peters
ON
June 26, 2015

 

Starting next Wednesday, July 1, the Fountain Square Music Festival will take over a big chunk of Fountain Square. Stretching from venues like The White Rabbit, The Hi-Fi, and Radio Radio, to the open-air plaza on the square, more than 20 local, regional, and national acts (with more to be announced) will descend on the neighborhood in an assortment of shows and lineups, many of them totally free. Though it began three years ago as a single-day event, in speaking with Fountain Square Music Fest's Board Chair Adam Pedersen, it seems like the festival is set to keep on growing, adding more bands, more venues, and more support for the Fountain Square neighborhood.

 

Like Musical Family Tree, Fountain Square Music Fest is a nonprofit built around supporting the local musical community, and as a result it makes total sense that MFT is curating an event in the fest's lineup: on July 1 at the White Rabbit you can see MFT favorites Pravada, America Owns the Moon, and S.M. Wolf take the stage. And, because we've got such common ground, I thought it would be interesting to speak both with Pedersen and MFT's own Executive Director Jon Rogers about the points of contact in their passion for local support. Below you can read their twin responses to the questions I lobbed at them about local music, community support, and the role of nonprofits.

 

 

On what's exciting them about music from Fountain Square, music from Indianapolis, music from Indiana, etc.: 

 

Jon Rogers: I guess Indiana music excites me because the best stuff coming from here always seems just a bit weirder, almost a little "off," or lumpy, or like leaning to one side. But totally in a good way! For the most part, I barely keep up with more popular music these days, even the "independent" stuff, just because of how much local music I listen to. But I know enough about the world out there to know that Indiana's artists are on some crazy "through the looking glass" shit, severely warped due to isolation and the volatile season changes, and waiting to be discovered by the starving masses who have grown weary of mass-produced popular entertainment that only leaves them empty and wanting more. It's like all these artists were abandoned here to mutate and grow mold and stay self-contained and be directly influenced by one another, until a certain unique but elusive spirit has come to define nearly all the music being made here. It's totally across all genres that there's like this tangy tone running through the music, or at least most of it, and it's super cool! I just want more people to know about it, whether they live here and see these artists all the time or live halfway across the world and have never even heard of Indiana.

 

Adam Pedersen: At an early age I became passionate about music and just always had it as a part of my life. My favorite thing in the world is just to click through and discover new artists all time. A while back I came in to Fountain Square and started having neighbors around me that were invested in a music scene and played music as their passion and wanted to make it their life. I always liked discovering even national acts that haven’t been discovered yet and then they'd get a number one hit and I'm like, "Yeah!" But then, diving in to the Indianapolis scene, I felt like a complete idiot. There’s so much! It’s ridiculous the amount of passion that’s grown up and grown through, and my discovering of the music scene here in Fountain Square and in Indianapolis, I'm starting to follow more and more artists all around Indiana, and it's pretty incredible. You know, going to shows and venues here in Fountain Square, and that kind of intimate scene has really changed the shape of my whole approach to music. 

 

 

On the role of nonprofits--musical and otherwise--in serving the local community: 


Jon Rogers: My understanding is that nonprofit organizations exist to serve and support their community in a tangible way. We have a responsibility to do good in our community, and I think highlighting all the underrated and "under the radar" music happening in our state definitely serves that purpose. Music can have a huge impact in a person's life, and discovering the hidden talents that hide in plain sight right where you live can vastly improve your quality of life. I've seen it happen for all kinds of people throughout the years I've been living in this state and playing music here.

 

In Indianapolis and in many other cities in Indiana, there's a real need to bring more attention to the awesome music happening in bars, galleries, garages, record stores, house venues, bedrooms, etc. This is essentially what MFT does. And while MFT often directly helps the musical community, I also think it's a valuable resource for anyone who listens to music, even if they've never gotten into local bands before--even if they don't live in Indiana. There is incredible music happening here, and it's all around us, and at MFT we see it as a huge benefit to the entire community to shed light on that fact in as many ways as we can.

 

Adam Pedersen: This is our third year in to this, and I think we’re still discovering what that means. It's really interesting because we’re all volunteers, and the first couple years our board was made up of just neighbors in Fountain Square. There are a lot of people who are passionate about that community and who are pouring in to it in other ways, and so as this third year happened, my vision my hope was to really incorporate the larger music scene. Being a nonprofit as the Fountain Square Music Festival, it started as just, "We want to throw a cool party to get people down to the square for our businesses." 

 

So the first year was just a one day event to basically get people to come down to Fountain Square and invest in the community and see how it’s developing and changing it’s cultures. We had some great success in that I think. I think now it's starting to develop into something totally different, more of an understanding of the music and Indianapolis' placement within something larger than Indianapolis. So that’s kind of what I’ve taken on is trying to do for this third year as a nonprofit, not only to help out our community, but looking more at how we can help musical artists. Probably you would talk to an average music listener in Indiana, and they’re listening to the radio and top 40. That’s kind of what gets me passionate, and my passion ever since living here is looking at local musicians and thinking, “Wow, these guys are incredible!" We have really talented artists living in our city, why aren’t they gaining exposure to the average Joe? Festivals are great for that.

 

 

On potential challenges facing musical growth here in Indianapolis:

 

Jon Rogers: There seems to be a lack of support from the larger music-listening public in Indiana, but I don't think it has to be that way. And I don't really see it as a problem if people just aren't into the local stuff they encounter, but I do hope that more people who like badass music will spend more time at local shows and keep their minds open. There is so much excellent music in Indiana that you're bound to get into something happening here if you put some effort into going out, and to exploring local sounds (like browsing the MFT archive or reading the blog!), and to telling your friends who listen to cool music about the local bands you've discovered.

 

It's definitely worthwhile to invest in your local community, but I've found that it can be an uphill battle to convince folks of that for some reason. Maybe I personally just don't know enough people who aren't also local musicians or local music fans, I'm not sure. To a certain extent, I think this challenge has a lot to do with the ways people experience music online. It's too easy to keep a distance, to treat music like a disposable commodity and cycle through it at an insane rate, whether that's streaming or downloading or even buying physical releases. The industry wants us to consume music in this way, but there are tons of other, more worthwhile ways to experience music and art, to interact with it, and to re-discover it again and again. Too often, truly exploring and digesting a piece of music seems to have become a lost art.

 

Adam Pedersen: So, I don’t ever want to paint myself as a guy who thinks he knows it all. I've got to give credit for those people who have been doing it for so long versus someone like me. So, when I think of the Indianapolis music scene, I think of someone like Karl Hofstetter at Joyful Noise. I had an interview with him, and one of the most interesting things that I’ve heard about the Indianapolis scene is that we’re in a pretty interesting time right now. Musicians don’t have to move away. It feels like we're starting to build into the community more, so artists feel valued and their worth is here, and they go and tour from here. One of the things Karl said is that Indianapolis is such an interesting location because you can go and drive and be in a major city in three hours; it’s perfect hub for touring bands. 

 

If we can continue to build into the Indianapolis music scene, I think that artists will catch on to that idea that they don’t have to go anywhere. I know so many artists who are like, “I have these big dreams to go to Nashville or Chicago or LA or New York and be discovered,” and I think the term "discovery" is totally different these days when you can just go online. I think that pairs well with MFT; you guys are a hub for musicians here. Hopefully that continues to build, builds more momentum. Because I think there’s momentum now--there has to be. It's not just because of me living in Fountain Square. I think people are recognizing and noticing more that Indiana has a pretty cool scene.

 

On looking ahead to the future:

 

Jon Rogers: For me, the future can often be a complete unknown and a cyclical reiteration of the past at the same time. So I guess I hope that on MFT's horizon, we are continuing to do a lot of the same work we do now, but reaching a wider audience that still has discerning taste and fully participates in the local music world. I also think that as we continue to grow, we'll embrace new ideas and ways of working that we can't even imagine right now.

 

As far as what's on the horizon for Indiana music as a whole, I hope that it is an even richer, more diverse, and more boundary-defying mosaic of musical experimentation. I think there's a lot of authenticity and groundbreaking work happening in Indiana's music scene, and I only want to see that increase. I also want to see more artists get out on the road and spread their music to as many places as possible. I would love if MFT could help make that a reality for more Indiana musicians. And as always, I'm excited to see where the younger artists who are just getting started will take us next. At the same time, I believe that the rest of us should continue to improve the structures we have been working so hard to create for future generations of artists.

 

Adam Pedersen: The biggest piece of the specific vision that I can share with you that we’ve all talked about as a board is, what does it look like to move the festival from the July date? Where can we pick some time in the summer where we can really use Fountain Square for four days, or for a whole week, and to really bring Indianapolis in to us and get people excited about this event. How do we create something so it's where people see the name Fountain Square Music Festival and everyone is like "Alright, I'm definitely going." How do you keep growing?

 

I think the future of Fountain Square Music Festival is, how do we continue to build on a positive reputation and have people saying, “I want to go here and discover this music." And we’ve had great experiences with stuff like that, and I feel like Indianapolis ever since the Super Bowl has become a hub for events, we’ve been discovered maybe. We’ve always been a hub, but we were put on this crazy platform for the nation to see, and you know we killed it. My hope is for Indiana to embrace the festival and to make it larger than what it is. How do we become a staple here? And how does it continue to grow with the city behind us? That’s a larger scale dream, that’s not just about Fountain Square, it’s about Indianapolis as a community as a whole.

 

You can buy tickets to any of the FSMF dates right here.

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