It often takes a leader filled with vision, passion and dedication to make something big happen and this is why Mountain Town Music (MTM) is shining such a bright light over the entire Park City Community. The man behind this wonderful story is Brian Richards, MTM’s Executive Director, who prefers to be called “Community Conductor of Musical Affairs.” I recently caught up with him to understand how music rocks all of us, from Deer Valley Resort to the most remote corners of Summit County.
JF: How was Mountain Town Music started?
Brian Richards: It was originally started by Randy Barton, around the 2002 Olympics, under the “Mountain Town Stages” name. At first, the organization literally built stages that fitted perfectly with their surroundings. Most of them were set on Main Street, near bars and restaurants, working as self sustaining outdoor music patios. Eventually, theses stages spread to surrounding rural communities.
JF: What caused you to get involved?
Brian Richards: I owned Orion Music Shop, a record store and was also involved with the Park City Film Series as one of the original founders and board members. I saw a great, untapped potential for Mountain Town Stages. I became interested and after a few years, and felt that I should get involved so I stepped in and took the lead.
JF: When was this?
Brian Richards: I think around 2009. When I realized how low my first paycheck was, I became motivated to grow the little nonprofit organization so it could reach out beyond Park City, deep into Summit County. Mountain Town Stages was a grassroots organization from the start. People loved it because they felt it was something that they owned. In 2011 we decided to change the name from Mountain Town Stages to Mountain Town Music. We were no longer just building stages, but focused on providing the community with live music.
JF: How much has MTM grown since then?
Brian Richards: This year we have programmed 197 community musical performances. Each one of these events is not a big concert like the ones we have every Wednesday night at Deer Valley Resort. Some of them are smaller, like the one in Peoa, or when solo performers are involved on Main Street. About 80% to 90% of our performances take place between June 10 and September 30. We’ll have a few more events scattered during the fall and the winter season at various venues.
JF: My favorite venue is the Snow Park Outdoor Amphitheater at Deer Valley Resort, on Wednesdays. How is that free concert series working out for you?
Brian Richards: That venue is absolutely fantastic! The popular Wednesday night concert series was moved in 2008 from City Park to Deer Valley’s Snow Park Outdoor Amphitheater. This natural amphitheater is awesome; you see everybody there. Whether you come on your own, as a couple holding hands, a family or a 70 person group, it’s Park City’s gathering place! You see people dancing, hula-hooping; it embodies everything Mountain Town Music is all about. The hill lends itself perfectly for music and creates that beautiful vibe. This beautiful setting epitomizes everything we want to accomplish. We want to program live music that is happy, fun and makes you feel like you want to dance and get personally into the act. In fact, it’s all the energy from the people around that fuels me, keeps me happy and rolling all summer.
JF: Whenever possible, I attend this show and am amazed at its growing popularity. How many people generally attend a typical Wednesday night concert at Snow Park?
Brian Richards: It can range anywhere from a crowd of 1,000 when the weather is threatening, to 4,000 when the sun is shinning. I think we had 4,500 people for the “Changing Lanes Experience” concert, earlier this summer. Crowds can be huge!
JF: Does it get to you when the audience is socializing more than listening to the music?
Brian Richards: It’s not just about the music. Some people get discouraged because there’s so much talking and distractions but at the end of the day, we’re here to put on a show for everyone. It’s the community’s local gathering, the music is the bonus. The concert is the place where people can meet and chat with their friends. This an opportunity to decompress, play with your kids and enjoy a glass of wine. I see it as a social gathering that just happens to feature some music. The music will eventually get to you, set you free, pull you in and you’ll end up dancing!
JF: What has changed in your concerts this year?
Brian Richards: This is actually the first year that we’ve tried to feature some artists that aren’t necessarily locals. For the past 15 years, it’s always been all local artists but now we’re sprinkling a few non-local bands to broaden the quality of the experience. We’ve debated a lot about this. The town has grown so much that there’s room for more musical diversity and for some extra growth by staying true to our roots.
JF: With so many free concerts, how can you sustain your organization?
Brian Richards: Again, we’re a true community organization. It takes a village to do what we do. We’re sustained by grants, like the Summit County Recreation Arts and Parks tax, the Restaurant tax, the Park City Foundation, Promontory Foundation and Rotary Club to name just a few. We’re also supported by other entities, like the Park Silly Market or the Arts Festival that pay us to promote our free concerts. We have sponsors and of course we have the public donations that support us. When I say we’re a community organization, we truly are supported by everybody, which is very cool!
JF: Are there other ski towns that come close to what you do?
Brian Richards: I have seen nothing in the Rocky Mountain region, or in the country, that does as much as we do on the scale of what we accomplish per capita. Until someone proves me wrong, we’re unique!
JF: With the end of summer rapidly approaching, do you have some advice for our readers?
Brian Richards: Go out and enjoy all of what Mountain Town Music has to offer. Beginning with the Wednesday concerts at Deer Valley Resort, go on a Thursday to Newpark and enjoy that venue, on Fridays you can go out to Peoa, UT and listen to some country music and on Saturdays stroll to the Miner’s Park and discover a solo singer-song writer.
On Sundays you can join us at the Park Silly Market on Main Street. Mondays go to City Park to hear some world-class chamber musicians. What’s really cool with our offering is that everything is different and all of the venues are amazing, each one with something special to offer!