By January 19, 2018 Read More →

Looking to the future of music with Mr. Mumfest: Aaron Rowan

Looking to the future of music with Mr. Mumfest Aaron Rowan


By Monica Barber


(Photo credit Philip Johnson Photography)

”We could look back and say, ‘Oh, my it’s come that far in that short a time?” Yet in the last 6 years since the start of MUMfest and the frenzy of change it’s hard to argue that Aaron Rowan has definitely had a great run in a short time. Between planning events for Modesto Unplugged Music Festival/MUMfest, organizing the New Algonquin Round Table, sharing his perspective on music in AcousticView for the ModestoView, developing the Moon & Sixpence Music & Art House or presenting a great music acts from outside of the area, Aaron Rowan is a advocate for music and arts in the Modesto area.

Amid the chaos, cold weather and excitement of the Christmas season, the rare opportunity to chat with Mr. Mumfest himself, Aaron Rowan, presented itself. Admittedly one of the Modesto areas most notable music promoters and enthusiast for keeping the Music scene alive, the MAMA Award–winning promoter opened up about change, the start of MUMfest and where he hopes the scene heading.

(Photo credit Philip Johnson Photography)

Rowan is already seated at Cheroot this early evening about a month after the MAMAs, wearing his
trademark hat; he greets me with a nod and continues sipping his whiskey straight up. His presence embodies a sense of casual and the setting suits him quite well; whether seated on a couch or behind the scenes in the Moon & Sixpence Music and Art House his music venue, he strikes the postures of relaxation — putting his feet up, leaning back with his hands crossed. This speaks more of his character than anything. He is more earnest than his reputation of being publicly introspective. Rowan leans back in a chair, and then suddenly sits forward. “Is this ok? Reclining?” I tell him its fine. As he talks, I can’t help wondering so I ask how he’s changed over the years. Well, he says, when he started out, he had a little sense of purpose but knew he wanted to bring music together to listen. And now the faucet seems to keep pouring out great artists, “I always want to make sure others are enjoying the music as much as I am. To always have something from it; it can’t just be the same thing time and again, if you know what I mean?”

The idea for Mumfest came to Rowan after attending several acoustic festivals and realizing that Modesto had nothing like that in its midst. Always intending to keep his format small, Aaron has hosted hundreds of performers since organizing shows in 2011. Mumfest catapulted him into the stratosphere where Modesto began to take notice as well as the musical acts. Each year the event has grown in number and instead of walking through an endless series of regular performers, Rowan has continued going after more diverse and interesting musical acts in addition to inviting back fan favorites. Anyone doubting the seriousness of Rowan’s intent has clearly had those doubts dispelled by his career as a promoter. He made his reputation by hosting some of the most talented acts in the world and won a MAMA award for his festival MUMfest in 2017.

(Photo credit Philip Johnson Photography)

Instead of instantly capitalizing on that success and expanding his repertoire, Rowan has spent the better part of the last few months continuing to host acts at Moon & Sixpence Music and Art House,
share the space with Center Stage Conservatory during their reconstruction and travel about with a few musician friends that have stopped through his venue time and again. When he established the Moon & Sixpence it was to a listening space for music and hoped it would encourage the development of more listening spaces in the Modesto Area, as he says “to make a home for other organizations” and at the same time he has other plans to expand upon but can’t say too much right now. On this occasion he’s more introspective as he tells me “there is more going on than I am willing, or able, to reveal.”

As our conversation straddles between on the record and off the record the ambiance of the room gets more lively and he manages to dig up a project that he lent his writing talent to recently, the anthology Touchstones: Life and Times of Modesto by Ken White and when learning of my passion for the project, he surprises me with a copy of the book. He mentions that he enjoys being a part of other projects aside from his regular routine and runs off into a story best suited for a memoir that explains how he is often an acting quartermaster to several of his touring musician friends. And while on the road he finds great adventures and uses the opportunity of his travels to actively scout new acts.

While scouting new acts is a lot of fun, one of Aaron’s ultimate passions would to collaborate with a local group, the Townsend Opera Players on an event or a new performance piece. It would be something unique and likely well received from the fans of TOP and Moon & Sixpence “It is something I have been thinking about but the timing would have to be right,” he says, “it would be great to work with such talented people.”

(Photo credit Philip Johnson Photography)

Supporting the music and art community is definitely Aaron Rowan’s passions and there’s no doubt that he has worked hard to continue to preserve what the local music scene should be about, camaraderie and growth. “What I’d most like to see for the future of the Modesto Music scene is creative growth and for more people to create their own listening spaces, like the New Orleans renaissance so everyone can get out to see performances.”


It’s hard to imagine the music scene without the contribution of Aaron Rowan and the talented folk musicians that MUMfest brings in each year. Mr. Rowan wears only one hat, but carries the role of a man with many hats through his promoting & directing the Moon & Sixpence Music and Art House, running Mumfest, touring as Quartermaster and freelance writing. Aaron Rowan has cultivated an exceptional niche in the Modesto music community that is amazing with its ability to unite others through music, art and culture.


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