By May 1, 2016 Read More →

UnpluggedView – Intimacy, Originality, Reciprocity

Unplugged View
By Aaron Rowan

Intimacy, Originality, Reciprocity – the tripartite motto of Modesto Unplugged. We have just wrapped our finest festival yet, and don’t have much happening in May, so I shall devote this column to talking about the stellar MUMF team members I work with, and our mission.

Modesto Unplugged was formed to present the widest spectrum of live acoustic music, with a focus on intimate and listening-friendly settings. Whenever possible, we prefer small theater spaces, art galleries, etc. – any space free from the distractions of a restaurant/bar setting. We’re less fancy than the larger arts centers of the region, but with no less incredible talent, having featured Grammy winners, national champions of various instruments, and a number of standing ovation earners. When selecting our programming, original music is an important factor we look at. Unless we’re featuring bluegrass/old-time or world music (both of which we love, and which naturally involve a plethora of traditional songs), we avoid cover acts in favor of quality original songwriters.

The third cardinal virtue of Modesto Unplugged, reciprocity, is the most important, and it’s the main quality we look for when inviting a new team member to join us. It is crucial for local songwriters and presenters alike to attend and support each other’s events, rather than just their own. This is something I’d like to see much more widely practiced in our local scene. As jazz player Lennie Tristano said, “Sometimes the hippest thing you can do is not play at all. Just listen.”

For us, it is all about the pure love of music. I’ve been very proud to know and work with these people over the past few years. Our current local team includes: Tina Driskill, curator of the superior Sunday Afternoons At CBS concert series; Sam Regalado, performing songwriter and our West Coast touring ambassador; Patty Castillo Davis, a MAMA Award-winning songwriter and senior cantor who once sang for the Pope himself; Marcos Alvira, area activities vice president of the California Bluegrass Association; Rhonda Hicks and Donna Phillips, board members of the Modesto Community Concert Association; Evan & Marie Maxfield, multi-talented orchestra performers and conductors; Lisette Sims, staff member of Townsend Opera and an amazing singer-songwriter; Rachel Roseman, our ambassador to family/school programs; and our current tech staff – sound runner extraordinaire Mark Oesau, and photographer Patricia Sears, who has won many a ribbon for her sweet shots, and who boasts a phenomenal collection of signed artist photos she takes different music festivals, most notably Hardly Strictly Bluegrass. These are some of the busiest musical movers of our area, and yet have always impressed me by being among the most likely to show up and support. And I’ve spent many a night in the audience enjoying the lovely music which they have to offer. They have all helped to shape the Modesto Unplugged programming, and lead it down new sonic pathways.

Our one event this month worth mentioning is the latest in our ‘Music At The GMC’ concert series at the Gottschalk Music Center. Saturday May 7, we feature world-music harp master Amelia Romano along with the sitar and banjo looping sounds of Strange Bird this month. Come by for an ethereal evening of inspired sounds from around the globe in the cozy Gottschalk Music Center recital hall (entrance at 1502 E St.) Doors at 7:00, music at 7:30. $15 general or free for kids 12 and younger. Visit for more info.



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