by Emily J. Weitz
Last September, The Sag Harbor American Music Festival turned the village into one giant musical performance, with 22 groups playing in 17 different venues over the course of two days. This year, Kelly Connaughton, co-artistic director of the festival, hopes to ride on the previous successes and to infuse new energy to make it even bigger. At the kick-off party at John and Lindsay Landes’ Sag Harbor home Tuesday night, the musical community turned out to show its robust support.
“This time last year, we were just explaining what the Sag Harbor American Music Festival is,” said Connaughton at the event. “Nobody knew what to expect, and to be honest, we didn’t know what to expect. We had a vision. We had an idea that Sag Harbor is a beautiful place and we wanted to share it with the world.”
The festival was a success, said Connaughton, so much so that they came out in the black and, combined with proceeds from HarborFrost in the winter, had some extra to give back to the community. Connaughton explained that, from the beginning, the plan had been to give back.
“One thing we wanted to do was start a scholarship fund,” she said.
While that fund is still a hope for the future, this year they were able to donate $500 towards a new digital piano for the Sag Harbor Schools. Dr. John Gratto, Superintendent, was there to express his gratitude.
“This digital piano will benefit all our music students,” said Gratto as he accepted the check from Connaughton. “Many students will touch this, and be practicing on this great piano. We at the school are very appreciative, and look forward to collaborating over the years. This is the start of a great partnership.”
The 2012 Sag Harbor American Music Festival will take place on September 28 and 29. This year, the mainstage will be in the Old Whaler’s Church.
“Pastor Mark Phillips is donating the space,” said Connaughton, “so all the money we are raising goes to more grants and more musicians.”
The mainstage artist, already signed on, will be legendary blues musician John Hammond. Inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2011, Hammond has won many awards and accolades over the years. He also has a connection to the East End.
“He used to play regularly at the Talkhouse,” explained Connaughton, “and this is a homecoming. Ticket price will be limited to $20, until we sell out.”
Though no specific names or venues were revealed for Saturday’s musical offerings, the after-party will be held at Bay Street Theatre. Connaughton explained they will book musicians and promote shows as sponsors sign on. Sponsorship varies from supporting a solo artist, duo, trio, or quartet to sponsoring at a Founders’ level. Advertising and promotion is offered in exchange. Email Kelly@sagharbormusic.org for details.