Finding the right notes to grow
Corvallis has potential for big concerts, but lack of support, funding hinders growth
Published: Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, July 24, 2012 20:07
In a dramatic shift away from the norm of the past, the previous two months have welcomed musical performances from Tyga and Floater to the greater Corvallis community.
Many consider it a long time coming, and a much-needed answer to the cry for a more diverse music culture.
“The music scene here [in Corvallis] is definitely growing,” said Mark Dilson, recent Oregon State graduate and broadcast adviser at KBVR FM. “I know the Whiteside has already talked to booking agencies about big bands like The Decemberists, No Doubt, and other bands that have millions of fans. They are all interested in Corvallis as a pit stop in between Eugene and Portland.”
With the exception of the Tyga concert hosted at the Benton County Fairgrounds on April 9, the Majestic and Whiteside Theaters have been spearheading the movement to liven up and expand the depth of the Corvallis music scene.
Jamie Williams acts as a board member and event director for the Whiteside Theater Foundation. The theater’s seating capacity of over 850 makes it a potential host for large-scale concerts, something Corvallis currently lacks.
“The mission of the Whiteside Theater is to be a multi-purpose events and entertainment venue,” Williams said. “We are striving to enhance the economic vitality of downtown Corvallis, while making sure we are able to cater to the community as a whole.”
But the Whiteside Theater has been in the midst of a rehabilitation effort for over a decade. It was originally closed down in 2002 because of damaged sewer lines and only within the past year has it reopened its doors to the public. Since its closure, attempts to recreate the former allure of the building have come in the form of small sponsorships from local businesses and entrepreneurs.
Williams and her team, along with substantial funding from Oakshire Brewing Company and 2 Towns Ciderhouse, were responsible for bringing the Grammy nominated and Portland-based musical act Floater to the Whiteside on May 4.
“In a nutshell, I feel like the Floater show, in and of itself, put the Whiteside Theater and Corvallis on the music-scene map,” Williams said. “Every dollar we earn right now goes back into the building itself. And as far as raising money, that show was a huge success.”
And every dollar counts. Williams maintains that the foremost obstacle standing in the way of big-time performers coming to the Whiteside, and Corvallis in general, is not equipment or lack of interest, but rather the inability to afford booking fees for artists.
“One way for this relationship to be a win-win for the theater and the community is to find sponsors who are willing to pay the booking fees of these acts when they come in,” Williams said. “We can’t approve thousands and thousands of dollars at this point. So right now, we are really dependent on active sponsors.”
On a smaller scale, another local theater is getting people out of their seats and into the arts.
“I’m very passionate about music, and I understand how valuable it can be to a community,” said Corey Pearlstein, executive director of the Majestic Theater. “What we are trying to build here is an ecosystem that has the spinal integrity to let some really big things happen.”
Pearlstein, who is in his first year as director of the Majestic Theater has had a wealth of experience in the music and theater arts community. He feels that Corvallis has a lot to offer in terms of both economics and aesthetics when it comes to a burgeoning music scene. However, the process will not be easy, and it will certainly not be immediate.
“When I came to the Majestic, the Corvallis Community Theater had been here and they had 40 percent of the footprint of this space,” Pearlstein said. “It is hard to do music programming in a venue like this until you can create the rhythms and habits for the consumer to identify with it as a space where they can see live bands.”
The Majestic operates in conjunction with the Corvallis Community Theater and various sponsors in an attempt to offer not only high-class artistic and community-oriented productions, but also a way for musicians to gain exposure.
Recently, the Majestic worked with OSU’s student-run radio station, KBVR FM, to put on the Dam Good Music Festival last Friday. Student-organized concerts such as Dam Good Fest are integral for the success of an emerging musical landscape.
“To me, this is like a love letter to the college saying ‘Dude, we can really be here for you,’” said Pearlstein. “The more energy that is invested by university students into this venue, the better.”
KBVR station Manager Elizabeth Elder was primarily responsible for last Friday’s show at the Majestic, which played host to the Portland-based bands AU, Nurses and Wampire while still catering to energetic local talent such as The Fjords and Old Age.
“We were trying to organize something that is a college radio station’s dream,” Elder said. “This is the mission of college radio; to get these bands off the ground and support them and get them air time.”