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Brian Nelson Palmer of DC Music Rocks
Josh Stoltzfus, Director of Culteral Development in Arlington, VA
Brian: And now it’s time for the special guests for the show which I’ve been so excited about. Have you ever been to an absolutely incredible festival or show which was put on in the community by the community and you wondered who sets up these events, how do they find these acts? Who are the incredible people whose life and career it is to provide the community these amazing gifts and listeners I am excited and beyond honored to have special guest Josh Stoltzfus, the director of cultural development for Arlington County on the show with me today. Say Hi to everybody Josh.
Josh: Hey, thanks for having me on
Brian: Absolutely it an honor to have you here and let’s find out more about you.
Josh: Let’s jump right in.
Brian: Tell us more, tell us who Josh is and tell us about cultural director for Arlington county.
Josh: Yeah right. I guess so I mean maybe phase three of my career at this point I started out as a musician and that’s why I grew up playing and I went to music school as guitar player, playing music for years and I was always playing in bands and working in music. So I was working for like Rounded records when I got out of school I had spent some time with booking and management companies. Well it was always like a split thing so I was playing music and then I was trying to make a living in the music business during the day which isn’t an easy thing.
Brian: No (Laughs)
Josh: Neither of those things really so at some point I went back to school and then I transitioned into my career’s presenter and representing working for different festivals, nonprofit organizations and then Arlington County.
Brian: Wow! Very cool and so now in Arlington county tell us, tell us what it means to do what you do.
Josh: Yeah. So Cultural Affairs Division is which is where I work is we provide material support to artists through grants and space and services, we have theaters that they can use and production support. We have a really strong public art program, we have humanities based work, we have just wrapped an incredible project about Vietnamese immigration here in Arlington with a publication that was cast down for the oral histories that have been collected over the years. We have strong visual arts representation which has just got approval to have our art truck which is going to roll out next year and be basically a mobile artist-in-residence space. So will have different artists that’ll go out of the truck and bring our projects directly to the community, kind of a unique program for next year we’ll start doing that and we do a fair amount of presenting too. So we have summer concert series we do out of love running up the theater which is outside of Boston and involved a couple of festivals Rosslyn Jazz festival which we just wrapped about two weeks ago, happens every year in September and that we work on Columbia Pike Blues festival as well and we have a global music series which is contemporary international music.
Brian: So it sounds like it’s a lot of music and what would you say how much of it is, how much of what you do is about the music and how much is about arts or visual arts or is it a good spread, how’s it?
Josh: It’s a really good mix and you know I would say in terms of the stuff that I am most directly nvolved in programming, it is a lot of music but the team that I work with as I said it’s got their hands and all this other stuff visual arts, humanities work. I work next door the public art program. So see all the stuff that these guys are into and our worlds crossover on things too. So it’s a good mix but yeah you’re right there’s a fair amount of music and I think it plays to like all the stuff that we do place the strength of the people that are working there happens to be what I do and so you know we do.
Brian: And how if folks are listening and they want to be involved with Arlington county with some of the music whether they want to get their musician and they want to potentially perform on love or honor if their fans or music fans that want to come check out some of the events, where did they go for that stuff how does that work?
Josh: Yeah sure so like as a musician if you’re interested in doing a show working with something just reach out to me directly. I’m on the county website, go to Arlingtonarts.org and find my information there.
Brian: Ok. I’ll post the link to that stuff on the show. Yeah, to the folks that are listening.
Josh: Just email me and hardly anyone does this anymore but yes please don’t send hard copies (Laughs)
Brian: Ok no CDs, emails.
Josh: I have actively tried to get rid of all my old CDs and so electronic stuff. Please I try to listen to everything so that means as far as like you know going to shows are participating in programs and although the stuff we’re in Arlingtonarts.org, we’re on Facebook of course. That Facebook is probably best way to stay up-to-date with things as they’re rolling out.
Brian: Got it.
Josh: So definitely like us there, follow us there. We have an e-newsletter signup, check it out and we’re fairly active. I would say is probably on any given week we’ve got at least one thing going on, sometimes in the busier seasons we’ve got two three different programs that we are having a week.
Brian: It is so there are seasons like summer season then I take it.
Josh: Yeah it’s busy in the summer and the fall is a little slower and spring you know when we take off kind of on academic calendar but with a summer session
Brian: Got it. Ok
Josh: But December- January definitely slows down for us.
Brian: Got it.
Josh: From holidays to that
Brian: Makes sense.
Josh: And it’s a little cold outside so all the stuff has to be indoors anyway.
Brian: It makes sense.
Josh: It picks up during the summer with the seasons.
Brian: So now over the years you’ve been at this music thing for a while. Tell us your connection to music before you got into it from the booking and the cultural development side, what you played instruments tell us about that.
Josh: Yeah. So I’m guitar player by training that’s what I you know grew up playing in, you know, garage bands and high school junior high actually you know playing it 12-13 years old plan clubs and stuff, it’s 16 sneaking and all that.
Josh: Alright, did that all throughout college and afterwards as well played a lot of, you know, roots American Music interested in, really into the blues, you know, rock music which I grew up on and you know pretty wide interest jazz, international stuff, honky-tonk, you know, there’s not too much I don’t like.
Brian: Got it.
Josh: And playing the stuff first.
Brian: And then you transition, how long do you still play guitar now? On the side with the kids or …
Josh: Yeah, yeah. It’s like so it’s kind of the audience now tends to be more the dog in and my toddlers at home.
Brian: (Laughs) The best audience.
Josh: Yeah you cannot do anything wrong with them. I still play a little bit there was a time where I was more transitioning and I was playing still more regularly but now it’s pretty rare but I get out there may be two or three times a year and do stuff.
Brian: Gotcha. And so now in the history of all of this cultural development in this stuff that lets say with Arlington county what’s your proudest or coolest moment that comes to mind when you think back on what you’ve been doing with the county?
Josh: Hmm.. That’s I mean every show and every program is kind of you know unique in some way that has its own satisfaction and for me it’s about that moment when find all the work that goes into the advanced you know from discovering something to planning to all the logistical details and then you finally get to it and see you know when people come to it and like you’re like oh you know this is you’re not doing this in a vacuum. There’s this whole audience that finds the shows and programs and see the that reaction you know. So I really sit in the audience, I tend to sit in the back because I want to watch the audience reaction to what’s going on stage and to me that’s what’s the payoff. I value a unique opportunity to meet a lot of really amazing people over the years and you know almost none of them has disappointed, you know, you don’t meet your heroes but I’ve never had that really bad experience (Laughs)
Brian: And that’s great news
Josh: I love it and I got to say in the in the DC area there’s definitely some amazing people that are involved in this music scene and even from outside. Just really genuinely awesome people that I’ve met, it’s kind of cool to see to meet them and see them for real.
Josh: Well, that’s the thing to let me think a little more about your question like being proud of us with stuff is that you know when you are able to grow with an artist and so maybe you’re working at a new festival or a new venue and you take on working with someone who’s also just getting started you are able to grow together and that what they do helps you and your program and you know vice versa. You’re helping them as well. So that kind of mutual support and community is the unique thing.
Brian: Yeah, and so I want to jump forward here to what’s about the biggest lessons you’ve learned with what you do is that is there something that stands out as far as a lesson learned.
Josh: Yeah, a couple things you know. I would say one is and it’s not a unique ceremony is that to trust your gut and like usually your first reaction is a good one if you have to think on it too long if you have too many questions about an artist or a program at some point you just got to go now we’re going to move on this point. That’s why you’re trying to talk to yourself and you see the issues in front of you and you’re really just trying to talk yourself into it for whatever reason and I actually find that’s a good point to say we’ll pick this up another time and maybe do it all the time.
Brian: Trust your gut. Ok. I can definitely I’m and that advice seems to just keep coming back all through life at the trust your gut thing. I guess I’m really curious now about doing what you do is it does all the music come to you how do you find your music. I mean obviously for work. You said people email it to you but how else do you find your music?
Josh: You know it’s changed over the years obviously it’s a lot easier you know being able to use the internet to find new music.
Josh: But it’s also harder too because there are so many resources you have to find that filtering which otherwise you just get totally lost in it. So there are certain benchmarks stuff that I always fall back on. I was just like everybody I was listening to the all songs considered podcast earlier day and you know I try to check that our so the other NPR stuff like all that email as well you know that mutual or rather than that conglomeration of network of friends and colleagues and to select I try to ask everyone I know I make a point when we’re talking whether it’s an artist or another promoter or somebody just what you listen to what’s new that you’re digging on and that’s often some of the best leads for stuff you know because you can’t hear everything and no I’m like why so try and lean on each other and find stuff I think musicians are often really good resources for that because they’re on the ground they’re hearing so much stuff and I find that like another musician has something positive thing about another band that’s a really good endorsement.
Brian: Absolutely. And with the radio to like I’m a local musician and I hear it here and obviously with the radio show that I connected with a lot of music and it really musicians are a great one if you don’t have a really fun conversation talk to a local musician about great music in the area because they always have great stories and songs to share which is I mean that’s part of how this radio show exists that very reason and one of the last questions that I would love to ask on these interviews is if you had one piece of advice you would offer to DC area musicians and one piece of advice to DC music fans what would that be?
Josh: Just one? (Laughs)
Brian: Yeah. Let’s go with the Highland and give me one and I mean you’re allowed to if you just die and yeah let’s stick to what’s the one that comes to mind.
Josh: I think the one you know and I’ll say this as musician myself as someone who came up playing in bands and like it was the hustle and you know what you go through to get gigs, try to keep it just moving forward is for musicians just make sure that as much time you’re spending on your art spend the same amount of time on your business and specifically the marketing aspect of your business, so pay attention to all those things and that it doesn’t mean like you know the old days where are you going to add your headshot this and that things just be super conscious about how you’re presenting yourself to your audience, to other clubs or whatever district people you’re trying to connect with and pick work on that as much less as important as the music and I know that’s maybe not the most part friendly sentiment and what is the reality because you can’t get in the door if you can’t distinguish yourself in some way it’s not going to matter that you’ve got the great spring.
Brian: Right. So and that’s a great one spend as much time marketing as you do on the music and then you get the more well-balanced thing and what about to the DC music fans?
Josh: Support local music
Brian: Yeah that’s it. Favorite way that you think what would you say if you’re supporting local music what does that mean to you?
Josh: Well. I mean and so we’re talking about DC music specifically, right?
Brian: Yes, DC.
Josh: This is universal force and that’s I mean now with the changing economy it means going to shows because you know there’s still haven’t figured out the new way so that everyone’s getting paid for the reported music industry that will become a viable revenue stream again for folks but in the meantime shows and by the merge but that’s really all you want help.
Brian: So how could you help with the handout.
Josh: Have one less beverage at the show and put that money into a t-shirt or something and that can really support musicians.
Brian: And I can honestly say it is an awesome feeling when you walk out of the area and you found out that that three people walked out with shirts, 10 people walked out with shirts and CDs that feeling that they enjoyed it and they make music with you. DC music fans if you pick up some memories that’s definitely awesome good stuff. So that with every guess that comes on the show I always challenged them to bring me awesome music and Josh delivered tenfold on that request so I am so excited to share the music that he brought with him so let’s start, you said Harry Bells. What’s this first track you’ve got for us?
Josh: You have to remind me what I brought.
Brian: Was it Matilda?
Josh: Matilda, yes.
Brian: Alright. So we got here is the Harry Bells with Matilda. Bye guys. You’re awesome.
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Brian Nelson Palmer is host of DC Music Rocks, a weekly radio show airing every Tuesday from 5:00pm til 6:00pm EST on WERA 96.7 Arlington Independent Media.