Preview | Birmingham benefit concert to support music education

Maddy Reda, Contributing Writer

The Firehouse Community Arts Center, a nonprofit organization that offers music education to students in Birmingham, Ala., has partnered with Secret Stages, Birmingham Mountain Radio and MusicBham to host a benefit concert on Sunday, June 6.

The free concert at the Avondale Brewing Company will showcase local talent to raise money for the community center that specializes in accessible music education and opportunities for artists of all ages.

What: A benefit concert for the Firehouse Community Arts Center. Entry is free, but donations are encouraged. 

Who: Torcon VII (The Firehouse Band), Will Stewart, Dujour, Kaydee Mulvehill, People Years, Taylor Hollingsworth and DJ Audiovore will be performing. 

When: Sunday, June 6 at 2 p.m. CT

Where: Avondale Brewing Company 

Why: Music education is one of the most important facets of a student’s life.

According to Scientific American, studies have shown that diligent instrument training from an early age can help the brain process sounds better, making it easier to stay focused when absorbing other subjects. 

Music education is one of the most underfunded programs nationwide and the first amongst various performing arts programs to be cut from middle school and high school budgets — if it’s even included at all. 

The mission of the Firehouse Community Arts Center is to give musicians of all ages a place to explore and exercise their talents.

Located in the South Avondale neighborhood of Birmingham, the Firehouse Community Arts Center prides itself on providing jobs, scholarships and sustainable employment for homegrown, working musicians around the Birmingham area.

Jeff Clanton, the general manager at Birmingham Mountain Radio, said this sense of community was a crucial reason why Birmingham Mountain Radio partnered with Secret Stages to bring this event to life. 

“We’re a community-based radio station …  We like to highlight people in our community who are doing great things,” Clanton said. “We have always supported what [the Firehouse] was doing …  We are excited to support any time at any community events, and this is one that we jumped headfirst into.”

Like many musicians and music lovers in the area, Clanton takes great pride in Birmingham’s music scene.

“Secret Stages is what I feel is Birmingham’s festival and has been for many, many years,” Clanton said. “It highlights a certain area of the community.”

Secret Stages and the Firehouse are crucial places in which new and budding artists get exposure to an enthusiastic audience.

“Because the musicians are local, you’ll have a lot of people there supporting their friends on stage,” Clanton said. “In these kinds of shows, there’s more energy than normal because these artists are playing to their friends and family. The energy is typically at a different level.”

Clanton encouraged everyone to come out and see the show on Sunday, even if they aren’t familiar with the artists.

“Birmingham has an amazing, rich music scene going on right now despite the pandemic,” Clanton said, “Go knowing that it’s going to be a great time.”

The desire to provide as many opportunities as possible for music students in the Birmingham area drove local bands like People Years to perform at the benefit this weekend. 

“Most public school or institutional funding for music programs has been severely cut over the past decades. More often than not, these programs are just nonexistent for kids,” said Chris Rowell, guitarist and vocalist of People Years. “We need mentors to teach that process … Organizations like the Firehouse can help to bring this idea full circle.”

Rowell emphasized the importance of going out to see live music around local communities as much as possible.

“The very act of just going out to hear live music supports the community effort by helping musicians, who are often the mentors, to continue their efforts and keep venues open,” Rowell said.

Taylor Hollingsworth, another musician set to perform at the benefit concert, is also signing on to teach guitar lessons at the Firehouse.

“I believe supporting local music is supporting local business. The quality of local musicians is equal to non-locals … It’s not like big cities have better bloodlines of musicians. They just have an industry that supports them and props them up,” Hollingsworth said. “I think if we all valued local art and music more, we would develop and recognize local culture more, which is what our country was built on.”

When asked to describe the upcoming festival, Clanton’s response was brief: “unique, Birmingham, community.”