Long Winter Short Film Festival

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Brian Wheeler Remembers

  • Brian & Earl Meyers 77 Festival Photo off Vehicle Window
  • 110630_NF_22_w400
  • Flash Mob 2
  • Me Playing Street Festival 1990 small

Our challenge is to bring
performers that will
entertain folks from
ages nine to ninety!

In 1974, at the age of 16, Brian Wheeler performed at Crocker Park during the Festival of Arts. The following year, he started working with the Sound and Lights crew. He says, “The crew, really, was a just bunch of great friends who just loved the gig! “Sound and Lights was one committee—Performing Arts, another. Performing Arts booked the shows; Sound and Lights put the shows on from the ground up.” Over the many years, Brian became an important member of the S&L crew along with S&L Leader Robb Macomber, and he says that in 1999, “I had an opportunity to expand my role and become Co-Chair of Performing Art. I’m a musician, so my vision booking for Performing Arts is done from both the musical and Sound and Lights perspective.”

As Performing Arts Chair, Brian books all the entertainment; it takes all year to research, listen and then decide what gets staged at Crocker Park and for events like the Champagne Festival. Brian muses “I read lot and search the web, plus we get many suggestions and solicitations; We try to have a 360 degrees vision in terms of the thought process. Every year we try to find acts that are top quality performers.” He also mentions that although it would be easy to have the same great musicians coming back each year, “it’s important to bring different acts to the stage.” He says, “We owe it to the community, and we owe it to the musicians to bring diversity to our stage.”

Brian mentions there is a deeply rooted and varied community in Marblehead and with that comes the need to communicate MCeffectively. He says, “Performing Arts along with the Sound & Light crew, have multiple relationships to juggle all at once—audience, town (Selectmen, Festival Board of Directors, Park and Recreation Department, Marblehead Electric, Police, Fire), along with the neighborhood and with each other—it’s so important we respect each of these groups individually and collectively to communicate with them throughout the entire process.”

In addition to the small core crew and leader Robb Macomber, the people who make up Sound & Lights have changed over the years. Fifteen years ago, Brian realized, “There weren’t enough kids like us who wanted to hang out and be a stage crew, so, I started thinking:  How can we get a crew of people who like to do this year after year to help build and run the shows? After searching around, I found the New England Institute of Art in Brookline, MA and we created an internship program. When I first called, the professor at the time said to me, ‘Dude, where have you been? We’ve been waiting for someone like you to call’ Now, with our wonderful and supportive NEIA connection, John Krivit, we have a large number of great kids who show up every summer and make it their own. “It’s been an incredible experience to grow this program and it’s really fun; they come to Marblehead for the first time and camp out in the park from load-in to load out. This program has far out grown my dream and has become an entity unto itself!”

When asked about who has played at Crocker Park, Brian responds, “It’s less about the names of the bands, we do anywhere from 14 to 19 acts during each Festival. My experience is that dollars don’t always equal talent. There are incredibly talented musicians everywhere. For us, it’s more about finding the talent that fits our venue and within our budget, brings diverse music styles to the community.”  He adds, “The performers love to play Crocker Park. It’s such a unique venue, one of
most beautiful in the world! We nurture these artists and treat them with respect through the process to make the connection a great one for them which translates into great performances for our audience. Our main focus is to bring performers that will entertain folks of all ages! Our audience is multigenerational, and every year we start with a blank canvas to entertain them. It’s an amazing experience!”

Though Brian is completely smitten with his role within the Festival, he realizes there are still larger Festival challenges at hand and forward thinking is imperative. He was on the Festival Board of Directors for two years and says, “The challenge of the Festival is that volunteers come and go each year. Our biggest need is to grow the trunk of the tree and not just plant the branches.” Reflecting on the Sound & Lights crew he says, “We’re really lucky to have people who come back to work with us and are dedicated to what we do.” Over the all these years, people in the Festival an in the community trust us because we come to do this work humbly as stewards of the festival and hope to simply entertain our loyal audience that supports us with dollars and their attendance. In the end, we hope pass along a positive experience and leave great memories along the way.”

“I have been involved with the festival now most of my life from a teenager. As we hit our 50th year, it will be my 40th!” Brian’s eyes light up and he laughs….that’s pretty cool, eh?”