"Bringing community through music"
The annual Snow, Lights and Sounds is set for Friday Dec. 30. Traditionally held the last weekday of the year, the gathering of friends, family and familiar faces blended with a love for music creates the harmonious hometown atmosphere that 26-year-old founder Sam Brown said he was looking for.
Tying in a personal passion for music with an influx of friends coming home for winter break, Brown six years ago crafted the idea of a new homegrown Holiday tradition.
"Building community through music is what I'm about," Red Wing native Brown said. "Having people come back year after year from high school to college and on, and to keep seeing those familiar faces, is a really cool way to have support from your hometown."
Set against a backdrop of artistically hung Christmas lights in the cozy loft of Hobgoblin Stoney End Music, the show continues to grow as a local ritual.
From his orchestra days in fifth grade to learning guitar at 16, Brown's interest in music blossomed. His expanding repertoire sparked an idea during his Red Wing High School days for his first musical gathering -- an event that had nothing to do with Christmas. As a member of the student council, he was able to do something about it.
"I always liked the talent shows," he said, "but felt there was something missing for all of us rockers that wanted to play more music for people."
Loud and Local
With support from students, staff and citizens, Brown masterminded Loud and Local, a concert packed with developing high school talent, showcasing acts from duets to garage bands.
The overwhelming success of the show led to a school tradition and that eventually joined the River City Days line-up where it currently thrives.
"I think everyone has musical potential," Brown said. "There are way too many people that cut themselves short of what they can do."
Taking his positively pitched philosophy to heart, Brown took his ability to craft community-based concerts into his college years at Williamette University. That led to his latest project - the annual Mid West Music Fest, which will be April 19-21, 2012, in Winona, Minn.
Significant growth from the festival's first year in 2010 -- with 77 bands, 1,100 attendees and raising $7,000 for non-profits to the last year's event bringing in 110 bands and 1,600 people -- proved Brown's continual success of blending community and music.
Banked on "lots of arm-twisting" and a "really great group of passionate friends who like to help," Brown said his abilities to produce festivals are a product of his passion and personality.
"I pretty much start yapping about it and don't stop until it's over," Brown said about getting people onboard to help. "I don't know how I do it, but I try to bring out the best in people and they see it and are willing to work with me."
Nominated by a peer, Brown was awarded the 2011 Osgood Do-Good Award for Transformational Artist Leadership. The award by Springboard for the Arts of St. Paul recognizes an artist who shows significant leadership in supporting other artists -- in their personal lives, careers and communities. The contest is open throughout the Upper Midwest.
"Clearly he has passion for music," fellow artist Dustin Dorsey said of Brown. "He is really great at getting people involved with his shows and encouraging them to care - Sam has given structure to young musicians in the area."
Dorsey, a 2004 Red Wing High School graduate, has performed in Brown's productions since the beginning, from Loud and Local to MWMF and will play again, his fifth-time, in this year's Snow, Lights and Sounds.
Describing his melodic journey with Brown as a great way to gage his musicianship and grow, Dorsey believes Brown's influences will continue to leave a lasting impression. "Sam is a man of his word - he is hero to the local music scene."
Not cutting himself short of any music opportunity, Brown has continuously performed locally - wherever he calls home, playing under the name of Bo.Monro.
"Playing guitar has been such a passion of mine for so many years," he said. "Whether or not people have showed up to listen, I still play because I love it and it's an amazing and powerful thing."
Bo.Monro also will take the stage Dec. 30, performing his signature "looping-style" of music.
"I really like to create everything I do on stage, with my loop petals," he said. "Quirky riffs build up a series that create something very beautiful."
His technique allows him to put repeating beats down with his guitar using no vocals.
"It's been a real funny journey and to call myself a looping artist," Brown said with a laugh. "I'm a looper."
Currently living in Winona, Brown is taking classes at Winona State and the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities while working on organizing MWMF.