Nelsonville Music Festival Gets Ready For Its 15th Anniversary
Written by Chris Ramos on May 26, 2019
The community-driven Nelsonville Music Festival turns 15 this year, as the four-day musical showcase is scheduled to commence on June 6th and concludes on the 9th.
The historic Stuart’s Opera House is the spearhead behind the festival, as the non-profit organization is responsible for producing numerous events throughout the year. All proceeds of NMF will go to Stuart’s Arts Education Program which was started in 2007. The program is not only an extension of Stuart’s commitment to stimulate an artistic scene in Nelsonville but it also emphasizes the mission to embed the arts within the youth.
Artists that are set to perform over the weekend include Death Cab for Cutie, Mavis Staples, Tyler Childers, The Breeders, Mandolin Orange, Oh Sees, The Wood Brothers, Todd Snider, Allah-Las, Bully, The War and Treaty, Darlingside, Julia Jacklin, Molly Burch & Town Mountain. The full schedule and lineup can be found here.
Brian Koscho, 36, serves as the Marketing Director for Stuart’s Opera House. Originally from Lorain, he graduated from Ohio University and found himself staying in Southeast Ohio. He was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to talk about this year’s event.
1.) I see that you are a graduate of Ohio University. What made you gravitate towards joining the staff of Stuart’s Opera House after OU?
Yup! I came to Stuart’s Opera House first as an AmeriCorps VISTA and served two years, then was hired as the Marketing Director after that, as their staff was able to expand a bit. My degree was in Social Studies Education, but I am a musician and have always booked shows, put things on, promoted events, and all that, so I took a chance on applying for the job. And fell into my career.
2.) As marketing director, what does the process of executing the marketing plan for NMF look like in regards to the preparations leading up to the festival? How many press outlets are reaching out and how do you go about approving their requests?
Honestly, the press and media request thing is part of it, but it is such a small percentage. I have an AmeriCorps member (our first one since me back in 2007!) working with me but, we are the Marketing team for NMF. So I am responsible for directing all marketing, promotions, and everything from press releases to poster distribution to stories to anything else. If you hear about the festival it originated with myself or Chloe Musick (our AmeriCorps Member).
And then we run the website, all social media, graphics, ads, everything. And are still doing Stuart’s stuff at the same time. Press/Media approval is one thing on a list of many, many NMF things. It’s not too exciting of a specific one (laughs), people apply and we have a number of media spots available and it goes from there. The marketing plan as a whole is substantial and fluid, it is an ever-changing thing, and it is very focused on grassroots as well. All funds raised come back to Stuart’s and benefit the Opera House and our Arts Education Program.
So, you want to do things with keeping that all in mind. With Stuart’s though and 15 years of doing the festival, we have a fairly solid plan and a lot of great people in our network and around the region who help spread the word.
3.) What is the average number of attendees at the festival and how much has NMF grown since you started working?
We get between 5,000 and 7,500 people a day roughly and that includes the Free Boxcar Stage area which anyone can attend. It has grown considerably over the years, but I think it still maintains that feel of being personal and comfortable.
My first day of work was the 3rd annual Nelsonville Music Festival which was the last one-day NMF. The first three [festivals] were all one-day events with 750-1200 people, and in 2008 it was expanded to 3 days and again about 1200-1500 people. From 2009 on, it has been steady growth.
4.) Not to sound like a cliche reporter although I might have already committed that act, what makes NMF special? What separates it from other festivals?
The music is central to what we do at NMF, and the experience of the attendee coming in is right there with it. We are always keeping those things in mind when planning the festival and thinking about how it all looks. We try to keep the person coming always at the forefront. I think good music from lots of amazing artists of all genres and geography helps make it stand out. But ultimately, I think what sets us apart is that this is a festival put on by Stuart’s Opera House, by a non-profit organization that is right here in our community and doing good work.
Your support of coming to NMF, buying a ticket, buying beer, buying food, camping, and everything else is also supporting something SO MUCH larger than just coming to the festival for four days.
All the proceeds raised at the Nelsonville Music Festival go right back to Stuart’s Opera House and our Arts Education Program. Our Arts Education Program works with over 6500 K-12 students a year through our Afterschool Music Program (AMP) who play at NMF every year, our Drama Club at Nelsonville-York High School, Summer Arts Camps, Poetry Out Loud, Appalachian Music Week, and countless other programs and partnerships. By coming to NMF you are supporting the arts in Southeast Ohio and some amazing work that is being done. Thanks for calling us Ohio’s Best Music Festival!
5.) With it being the 15th Anniversary, was there an attitude/approach to make it a bit more grandiose? Are there additions this year which prior years haven’t seen?
Not so much in regard to big new things, in previous years we have added a whole new stage and area (our free boxcar stage) and the Skate Ramp last year which will also return. Our focus this year is to continue to improve the experience for the attendee and the layout and the ground themselves. Just like the 14 before, we are focusing on the music and the festival experience.
6.) To you, what is the most rewarding aspect of seeing the festival run its course?
It’s a big wonderful party with a great cause and it really is the best four days of the year. I have had the unique position of being able to be heavily involved with NMF since 2007, this is my 13th one, and it never gets old. There are a few moments for me that are special, once the gates open and it is happening that is when it really feels like it has run the course a bit for the year. It’s happening. And all the work is (mostly) done and it is ready. Seeing something that so many people work so hard to create being enjoyed by so many people is a pretty incredible thing.
7.) The proceeds going back to Stuart’s Arts Education Program, what has been the result of that? What kind of reception has the education program been seeing and how has it fared in reaching the youth and sparking their interest towards the arts?
Our Arts Education Program has been in existence since 2007, so we have been at this at Stuart’s for a while and this work has a huge impact. This is in one of the poorest regions in our state.
Our Education Director worked with Nelsonville-York School District directly in helping to address the areas they wanted (we re-started their Drama Club and school play/musical along with hiring a Middle School Art Teacher to work in the school directly, in fact, they came up with the design for the NMF letters this year). It has a huge impact in a place where it is needed. And you can see some of the results first hand when Stuart’s Afterschool Bands play the Boxcar Stage at 11:00 a.m on Saturday!