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Effort underway to pay Summer Concert Series musicians
Concerts will go on in 2017, with 2 fewer Friday nights

Taya Jones of Prescott sings “Georgia on My Mind” by Ray Charles during the first performance of the 5th annual Prescott Idol at the courthouse  plaza in downtown Prescott.
Photo by Matt Hinshaw.

Taya Jones of Prescott sings “Georgia on My Mind” by Ray Charles during the first performance of the 5th annual Prescott Idol at the courthouse plaza in downtown Prescott.

An added incentive could be in store for the musicians who take to the Yavapai County Courthouse Plaza this summer for the Prescott Summer Concert Series.

For the past five years or so, the bands that have performed on summer evenings have done so free of charge. But that could change this year with a push to restore a formal payment program.

“What we’re trying to do is pay something to the artists,” said Kendall Jaspers, director of the Prescott Downtown Partnership (PDP), the organizer of the popular event.

He pointed out that an effort is underway to acquire a grant through the Arizona Community Foundation, which would allow for a payment to bands.

That would restore a practice that was in place by the City of Prescott prior to the economic downturn.

In 2012, as the City of Prescott continued to scale back its special-event expenses during the recession, the Summer Concert Series suspended its previous practice of paying a $40 to $60 stipend to the band members who played on the plaza.

Since then, the bands have relied on tips or donations from the audience to cover their performances.

Last year, when the city eliminated its special events manager position altogether, the Summer Concert Series was transferred to the Recreation Services Department, and ultimately was contracted out to the PDP.

Jaspers noted that the PDP continued the practice of not paying the performers. That, in turn, has sometimes made it difficult to book bands interested in performing for free, he said.

Gary Worob, one of the founders of the Greater Prescott Outdoor Fund and a long-time attendee and supporter of the Summer Concert Series, said he was approached by performers who said they were “tired of playing for free.”

That led Worob, who has a professional background in grant writing, to apply for an Arizona Community Foundation grant (through the Greater Prescott Outdoor Fund) to pay the artists.

Although the grant has yet to be finalized, Worob said he is optimistic about the success of the application. Meanwhile, he said, contributions from local residents also have been promised toward the effort.

The musicians “should get paid for their work,” Worob said. “I’m hoping to pay them what they would get for a professional gig.”

The details have yet to be determined, but he suggests paying about $75 per musician per night.

Prescott Recreation Services Director Joe Baynes says that while “There never has really been a lack of musicians,” he agrees that the payment program would be good for the musicians.

Depending on how the program is structured, he said it likely would comply with the terms of the city’s contract with PDP for organization of the Summer Concert Series.

Concert nights

The payment plan is not the only change expected in the concert series this summer.

Jaspers and Baynes point out that the number of concert nights will be decreased this year because of new restrictions by Yavapai County for use of the courthouse plaza.

The county announced in late 2016 that it would be cutting back on the number of plaza events in an effort to save the courthouse grass.

Jaspers says the number of Friday night concerts will drop to four this year from last year’s total of six.

The concert series, which will run from June 1 through Aug. 31, will continue to offer jazz nights on Tuesdays (possibly mixed with a rock band on the third Tuesday night of the month), and Prescott Idol karaoke competitions on Thursdays, alternating on the third Thursdays of the month with the Central Arizona Concert Band.

Despite the reduction by two nights, Baynes said, “We’ll be fine. We’ve got to respect the county on that.”

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