On Saturday, January 25th, for the first time in its fourteen-year history of presenting student performances in the 2200 seat theater, the Uptown Music Collective sold out the Community Arts Center. The show was Captain Fantastic and The Piano Man: The Music of Elton John and Billy Joel.
“We had seen the ticket sales rising, and when it passed our goal of 1500 we celebrated,” said Uptown Music Collective executive director, Dave Brumbaugh. “When it hit 1,700 we were stunned. As it closed in on capacity we were all in disbelief, expecting the sales to stall, never expecting it to keep going all the way up to a sellout.”
In 2003, Brumbaugh had asked if it would be possible for his small school of music to put on a concert based on the music from the Pink Floyd album, Dark Side of the Moon on the Community Arts Center stage. Suspecting that the theater was too big for what he had in mind, he was not surprised when the director at the time said that the rental wouldn’t be worth the young Uptown Music Collective’s while. Leading to the school’s first show taking place in a function room at the Quality Inn, which was in South Williamsport at the time.
The Collective would go on to hold another performance, Woodstock: 3 Hours of Peace and Music, there as well before moving around to various venues, including the Loyalsock Middle School Auditorium for their show Tommy: The Music of The Who, and the Howard Theater in the Masonic Temple for The Prog Rock Karnevil.
It was during this last performance that Dave Brumbaugh met Rob Steele, who at the time was the new executive director for the Community Arts Center. Steele told Brumbaugh that he really liked the Uptown Music Collective was doing and wanted to get involved, suggesting that the school bring their next production into the CAC. And the rest is history, as they say.
For the UMC’s first concert at the Arts Center, the school chose a theatrical presentation of the Pink Floyd epic The Wall, directed by then student, and current UMC marketing director, Jared Mondell. “Looking back, our first major production at the Community Arts Center was a massive undertaking,” said Mondell. “Especially for how ‘young’ our organization was.”
For that performance, they built a 30-foot-long, 9-foot-high wall out of white cardboard boxes on the stage, and then demolished it at the end of both shows. “Once the CAC crew realized how totally crazy we were, they were all in, and a great relationship was born that has lasted for 14 years, and 40 different performances”, said Brumbaugh.
From the beginning, Collective shows were well attended considering the school’s attendance goals at the time. “Two hundred people attending a show was a lot from our perspective at the time,” said Brumbaugh. “The simple fact that we were selling tickets to people in the community that did not have any direct relationship with any of our students, was unexpected and encouraging.”
Moving to the big stage at the Community Arts Center gave the school and its students a greater amount of exposure and prestige. “At first we felt like the stray dog invited into a rich family’s home,” Brumbaugh continued. “However, over the first series of shows, the crew and staff made us feel truly welcome and encouraged us to see the CAC as our home. An honor we have never taken for granted.”
“The fact that an educational organization can sell out the CAC for a benefit concert is a testament not only to the strength of their program but also the community’s interest in it,” said Chuck Still, executive director of the Community Arts Center. “I’ve never seen anything like it. I’m just afraid every other show is going to be a letdown now. Uptown sets a high standard.”
In the last 10 years, the audience has grown steadily. In 2012 Killer Queen, a tribute to the band Queen brought in 1000 on the second night of its run, forcing the theater to open the balcony for the first time. Subsequent shows hit new high marks for audiences over two days. In 2017, King of Pop: HIStory hit a new high of over 1200 in one night, which was matched the following year with Southbound: A Tribute to Southern Rock. And then in 2018, More Than A Feeling: 70’s Arena Rock played to over 1900 people during its two night run at the CAC. Over the years, the Uptown Music Collective’s audience has become an important part of the school’s musical family. “The loyalty to our program, our students, and the performances, is unique, and humbling,” said Mondell.
Their audience includes all ages, with many coming from quite a distance to attend the performances. “Most say they first came to a performance not knowing what to expect, and then they were hooked. Many know the student’s names, and have their favorites that they look forward to seeing,” said Mondell. “It creates a truly amazing atmosphere for our students to perform in. We greatly appreciate the support that our audience shows for our students and our programs. Our success is their success and we are grateful,” said Brumbaugh
Next up for the Uptown Music Collective is Time In A Bottle: Singer/Songwriters of the ’60s & ’70s taking place at the Community Theatre League in Williamsport on February 27th, 28th, and 29th. The performance will take place four times over the 3-day stand and at the time of this release tickets for all four of these performances are almost sold out. Tickets are available at ctlshows.com
After that, the Collective will wrap up its 2019-2020 season with its 20th Anniversary Celebration happening at the Community Arts Center on April 24th and 25th. Doing something the school has never done before, it will tribute four legendary bands over two nights, with each night being a different show. On Friday, April 24th, the first set of the evening will feature Fleetwood Mac’s classic album Rumors performed in its entirety. The second set of the night will feature the legendary album, Led Zeppelin II. On Saturday, April 25th, the night will kick off with Pink Floyd’s masterpiece Dark Side of the Moon followed up with a second set filled to the brim with the greatest hits of Queen. This blow out two-night celebration will also feature over 100 Uptown Music Collective Alumni returning to the CAC stage. Tickets for this event are on sale now at caclive.com and uptownmusic.org.