Musical Residency Taking Root

By the Spring Green Musician Residency Committee

How can we make a great community even better? This is the question Spring Green’s Springboard, a grassroots idea incubator, has been asking since its inception in 2016.

Spring Green is a great place for music, whether it’s locals on the patio at The Wisconsin Riverside or during The Shed’s weekly Local Nights, a national act at The Sh*tty Barn, regional acts sponsored by the Rural Musicians Forum, or summer’s bookend festivals at the Spring Green General Store.

“The Sh*tty Barn, BobFest, and BeatleFest have really kept us on the music map,” says Kim Nolet, Springboard member. “But beyond supporting those events, I felt like we could do more than drop a few dollars in a tip jar or buy a CD when someone was playing a local show. Going to shows is one of the best things people can do to support music, but as I talked to musicians about the business, I learned how hard it is to be a full-time musician. Finding shows that pay well in Wisconsin can be hard and promoting yourself can be a full-time job.” Nolet felt like there was more that could be done as a community so supportive of the arts. “How can we help musicians create original music, in a financially beneficial, impactful way?”

Springboard gave Nolet a forum to share her idea for a Musician in Residence program, receiving input and mapping a way forward. A snowy winter meeting between Nolet and Allen DeSchepper of the Sh*tty Barn filled in all the pieces. “The Sh*tty Barn had been throwing around the idea of a residency and had all the right connections,” Nolet says, “but it wasn’t high on the priority list, given their limited time. I had the time and knew of some financial resources that could kick-start the project, so the wheels were set in motion.” Terry Kerr of the Spring Green Area Arts Coalition had presented at a Springboard meeting, describing grant funds available to arts projects in the community. Springboard applied for funds to support the residency and received the grant this spring.

Zach Pietrini, an Americana musician from the Milwaukee area, was selected as the 2018 Spring Green musician in residence Oct. 7-20. Pietrini was named 2017’s “Best Live Act in Milwaukee” by Milwaukee Magazine, has won the Wisconsin Singer Songwriter Series, and is consistently nominated for various Wisconsin music awards. The residency review panel described Pietrini as having a sincere, relatable sound, and being poised to benefit from his time in Spring Green. “We know Zach is going to put on great shows, make the most of his time in the area, and add a spark to our community,” says Nolet.

The residency’s goal is also to support local talent. Three collaboration sessions with local musicians will provide a space for Pietrini to help others with songwriting and arrangements, as well as to get feedback on some of his work. Don Greenwood, a local Spring Green musician, has been leading the collaboration effort and the response from local talent has been positive. As Pietrini said in his residency application, helping each other out is important in this business. “It’s taking a profession that can feel incredibly isolated and bring a sense of ‘we are all in this together.’”

The Spring Green Musician in Residence features several free and one ticketed event throughout the two weeks. “Weaving this project into the fabric of the community is what’s most important to me personally,” says Nolet. “I don’t want this to be a one-time niche project. We hope businesses will see Zach at their stores and have a conversation. We hope he’ll hang out at the bars and restaurants of Spring Green and be welcomed. I want to see connections. His music speaks to a broad audience and he’s a really nice guy. I want Spring Green to be looking forward to this year after year, and I want Zach to go back and tell the people of Milwaukee and beyond about Spring Green’s beauty, hospitality and support.”