Uptown Music Collective holds 8th annual Blues-A-Thon fundraiser

The Uptown Music Collective, 848 W. Fourth St., presented its eighth annual Blues-A-Thon fundraiser on June 3 and 4, which raised more than $3,250 for the non-profit school of music.

The event is a unique fundraiser that has been held annually since 2009, and is intended to raise money to support the Uptown Music Collective, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit school of music.

“The idea is similar to relay for life, however instead of walking, participants pledge to play the blues for a certain portion of the 24 hour event,” said Dave Brumbaugh, executive director, said.

Over the years a key ingredient to the Blues-A-Thon has become the guest artist to open and close the event. This year the Collective welcomed guest artist Kelly Richey. Richey is one of the industry’s hardest working independent musicians, with an impressive 30-year professional career.

“We were extremely grateful and excited to have had Kelly as this year’s guest artist, and thankful to the Billtown Blues Association for making the connection happen,” Jared Mondell, marketing director, said.

After Richey’s visit to Williamsport and the Uptown Music Collective she posted a blog on her website reflecting on her experiences.

Her first pseudo experience with the Collective, however, actually happened a few years ago.

“A few summers ago, I was invited out to Williamsport by the Billtown Blues Association to play their annual Billtown Blues Festival. But bad luck and the blues go hand in hand, and my van broke down on the way to the festival,” she wrote. “I had to call one of the BBA organizers, Bonnie Tallman, and tell her I wouldn’t be able to make it because I was stuck on the side of the road somewhere in Ohio. The opportunity to fill my slot in the festival lineup fell to the students of the Uptown Music Collective, supported in large part by the Billtown Blues Association. Imagine being a young music student still mastering your instrument and getting asked to play a big festival.”

“The next summer, I actually did make it to Williamsport, where I was approached by then UMC student, Levi Stover, a bassist who got that chance to play on stage due to my absence,” Ritchey continued. ” ‘You have no idea what an opportunity that was for me,’ he told me.”

“I saw Levi again this year on June 3 and 4 when I was invited as a guest artist for the Uptown Music Collective’s Eighth annual Blues-a-Thon,” Richey said. “He, along with 12-year UMC student AJ Robbins, backed me up on bass and drums as I helped the Collective kick off this fundraising event at Williamsport’s First Friday celebration. For every hour that the UMC students kept the blues going, from 7 p.m. Friday to 7 p.m. Saturday, they raised money from the community to support their school. Plus, AJ and Levi got a little taste of what it’s like to play with a professional touring musician.”

Not only did Richey perform during the 24-hour event, she also got to do a little teaching as well.

“On Saturday, I taught two guitar workshops at UMC: a beginner blues class of about 20 students, followed by a master class of four. In the beginner class, we refreshed some guitar basics. For the master class, I wound up having an in-depth conversation with these young men about how much you have to hustle, and how to act professional, if you’re going to have a career as a musician.”

“I wish there were an Uptown Music Collective in every city in America,” Richey said as she closed out her blog post. “Music can make such a difference in kids’ lives, keeping them out of trouble and giving them a way to express themselves creatively in a safe environment. Music isn’t just an extracurricular activity or a hobby – many of these kids want to go on to become professional musicians and support themselves through their art.”

For more information about the Uptown Music Collective, visit www.uptownmusic.org.