The second annual Dade City (DC) Country Jam promises to be bigger and better than last year’s.
The shindig, set for Oct. 8 from noon to midnight at the Pasco County Fairgrounds, will feature a bevy of musical performances, including the likes of Nashville-based country singer Dawn Beyer; Johnny Shelton, of America’s Got Talent fame; and country-duo Jesse & Noah Bellamy.
In all, there will be 14 bands in a quest aimed to help future musicians.
The concert, organized by Pasco Middle School band director Kenny Mathis, seeks to raise funds for the school’s fine arts programs, plus other school organizations in need.
Last year’s musical bash was an instant success. About 1,000 people attended and $14,000 was raised.
“It has really taken off,” said Mathis, who’s been Pasco Middle’s band director since 2007. “We’ve got a great group of musicians coming down that are ready to help my kids.”
The goal for this year, Mathis said, is to raise at least $25,000.
The funds, he said, will go toward purchasing new band instruments and refurbishing older ones for both the middle school and Pasco High School.
“I’ve got instruments from the ‘50s and ‘60s that are still floating around in there,” the band director explained. “I’ve tried to go back and repair a lot of the instruments that needed repair, and I bought new mouthpieces. …We used some of the money last year…to try to get them up to par.”
With about 110 middle school band students, Mathis estimates he loans out upwards of 80 instruments.
Considering a new tuba may cost $5,000, and a new euphonium runs about $3,000, the costs add up rapidly.
“I’ve done many, many fundraisers— cheesecakes, magazines, candy — and you can’t get enough in one chunk in those types of sales to buy what you need,” explained Mathis.
“You can’t make enough from a cheesecake fundraiser to even buy a tuba,” he said.
Mathis noted the school district is sometimes able to provide enough funding for two or three instruments per school year.
But, that isn’t enough.
“If you’re only getting two or three instruments a year, but you’re gaining sometimes 10 to 15 students every year — you’re behind,” Mathis said.
The dearth of instruments, he said, has forced the middle school to share instruments with Pasco High School.
“We are constantly shifting instruments back and forth between the middle school and the high school,” said Mathis. “If (PHS band teacher Steve Herring) needs a tuba or a euphonium, he’ll come borrow from me. And, if I need a saxophone or a clarinet, I’ll borrow from him.”
Mathis said the concert will not only benefit the middle and high school bands, but several other school programs, too.
For instance, various Pasco High sports teams — girls soccer team, girls weightlifting, and Pasco Middle student organizations—FFA (Future Farmers of America), angler club—receive 50 percent of the revenue off every ticket they sell.
“We don’t charge them for booths, and they can sell their items and try to make money for their organizations,” said Mathis. “We didn’t want to feel narrow-minded just raising money for one organization.”
He added: “We have a lot of clubs and organizations that need money.”
Next year, Mathis hopes to turn the concert into a “full-fledged outdoor festival” that draws somewhere between 3,000 to 5,000 attendees.
“This thing’s definitely here to stay,” Mathis said. “Our goal next year is to have one major headliner, and then keep all the bands before it local.”
Published September 28, 2016