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Music: "A Crucial Pulse" in Charlottesville -- But How Diverse?

Sefe Emokpae

Since the Dave Matthews Band and before, music is part of the beating heart of Charlottesville.WMRA’s Sefe Emokpae explored some of the city’s venues and has this report, part of an ongoing series on the arts in Charlottesville.

[Sound of crowd at Jefferson Theater]

It’s early Saturday night on the downtown mall in Charlottesville… although there are still a couple of hours to go before bars on the popular strip really get going… many people are already out. A large group of people in particular is gathering at the Jefferson Theater for a show. The Jefferson is one of several venues in the city that showcase a variety of entertainment genres that serve to satisfy the diverse tastes of the Charlottesville community.

Theater, performance, and perhaps above all… music…. are at the heart of the city’s cultural hub.  Kisha Jarrett is the marketing and communications manager at Live Arts Theater. She says the non-profit theater is a place members of the community can come to not just to watch a show, but to become part of one as well.

JARRETT: We’re the home for the island of lost toys, people can come in and you can learn skills, help build sets, you meet people, there’s people that act on stage that have never done that before. It’s all about people finding what their niche is and we find their place for them.

With so much apparent variety, finding your niche in the Charlottesville music scene is something that at face value wouldn’t seem too hard to do.  Musical acts from all different genres pass through the city… fans of Americana or rock acts are just as likely to find a performance as indie or opera fans. But still, some in the music community say, the options are not as diverse as they could be.  Ty Cooper is an entertainment manager in the area.

COOPER: If Charlottesville has nothing, it has music… it’s big. It’s just that I just think it should be more diverse. For me I think it’s really the Urban music that’s not thriving the way it should be and I think we should have a helping hand in that situation.

Although urban music may not be thriving, Cooper says that’s not to take away form the talent the raw talent and potential that is here.

COOPER: The level of talent here is so superb, Charlottesville is definitely a music town. The rock bands and the Americana bands they’re out of this world because they have the Dave Matthews Band as their example of success and you can’t get much more successful than Dave Matthews.

Dave Matthews. Most Charlottesville residents know of the star’s beginnings at Millers on the locally famous downtown mall. The bar is one of several in Charlottesville that provides a steady venue for local artists to perform live. Along with Millers… places like RaptureThe Whiskey Jar…. Main Street Annex and Bon Café are all located in the downtown mall area. Matthew Simon is programming manager of the paramount theater… one of the mall’s most eye-catching  and recognizable sites.  Simon says location plays a huge role in the theater’s appeal.

SIMON: Well, Downtown seems to be one of two destinations in Charlottesville… its either grounds or you’re coming downtown. It’s part of the experience of downtown. You can walk downtown and get a bite to eat at any restaurant anywhere surrounding here and then go out afterwards as well. I mean it’s a crucial pulse to the downtown mall, the Paramount Theater.

Cooper sometimes coordinates shows at the Paramount… He explains it’s just one of the several places that makes Charlottesville a destination for many traveling artists as well.

COOPER: Charlottesville is definitely on the map as a routing location. Everyone knows about it…. All major booking agents so it’s definitely a place to be. You know you have the venue, you know you have the Pavilion, you have the Paramount Theater you have the Jefferson and you have the Ampitheater.

Each of the venues features a variety of performing arts acts. But Simon from the Paramount thinks there’s one concentration in particular that calls out to the people of Charlottesville.

SIMON: Music is like what everybody loves, every one comes out for music.  When we sell out a show its usually music because people in Charlottesville love a wide variety of music.

Sefe Emokpae was a freelance journalist for WMRA from 2014 - 2017.
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