Center City Partners wants to make Charlotte a destination for live music
The group most associated with uptown business development believes more live music can be an engine for economic growth.
When outsiders think of Charlotte, some no doubt recall the city’s rich tradition in banking, or perhaps NASCAR or professional sports teams, or maybe even our nascent technology industry. Few, however, are likely to gloat about Charlotte as a hotbed for live music.
Behind the scenes, a lot of smart people are working to change that perception. And none is working harder than the suit-and-tie crowd at Charlotte Center City Partners, a group more commonly associated with business, not pleasure.
Earlier this year, Center City Partners hired a local drummer named Tim Scott Jr. to serve as its artist in residence. His mission: to work with Charlotte’s business establishment to increase the availability of live music in uptown.
No one is predicting a quick fix, but Steve Cole, the group’s director of communications, said Scott already has succeeded in increasing the “cool factor” at Center City Partners.
“Not only is he a guy who can help us understand the music scene here in Charlotte, because he’s an active, professional musician, he’s also going to help us with music components for all of our upcoming events,” Cole said.
To be totally fair, Charlotte’s music scene has come a mighty long way. With the additions of the Romare Bearden and First Ward parks, our summer evenings are decidedly more musical, not to mention the Summer Pops series performed by Charlotte Symphony for five straight Sundays at Symphony Park near SouthPark Mall. And indoors, the Jazz Arts Initiative and Jazz at the Bechtler offer live music year-round.
Behind this mission to add more music lies a simple truth: Music attracts happy consumers, and happy consumers are good for business.
As proof of this theory, Cole points to Austin, Texas, where, he said, a culture of live music has resulted in economic development with a financial impact on par with the NCAA Final Four basketball tournament.
“They’ve fostered music,” Cole said of Austin leaders. “They have a great music tradition, but they work on it, too. They develop it.”
On its web site, Center City Partners said its “Music Everywhere” initiative wants to make music “the indisputable heart of Charlotte…”
The partnership is one of several sponsors of this weekend’s Queen City Jazz Fest. And to whet the public’s appetite for jazz, the group sponsored a series of free mini-concerts in various uptown locations, including a lunchtime session one Thursday at Polk Park at Trade and Tryon streets.
That’s where I caught up with Scott, who was working it out on the drums with a four-man band called Marcus Jones and MNT. We talked about Charlotte’s music scene and his role as artist in residence at Center City Partners.
Q. How long have you lived in Charlotte?
My family moved down here to Charlotte (from Buffalo, N.Y.) around 2000. That’s when I started studying at Northwest School of the Arts. I moved to Durham in 2006 for college, then I moved to Boston for a little bit in 2009 and ended up back here.
Q. How did you get into music?
I was born into music. My father was a musician. My father played with pretty much all the major gospel artists that were out between 1985 and 1992. So I was just raised in a musical household. My father toured and traveled and recorded with a lot of people, and I just kind of grew up in the middle of it, and drums were kind of what caught my eye the most.
Q How has Charlotte’s music scene changed since you’ve been a part of it?
There is a lot more community among musicians themselves now. There used to be a lot of cliques, a lot of separate circles. And there is still some of that, but it’s progressed significantly as far as everyone staring to understand that the community moves if we all move together.
Q. What’s your workday like at Center City Partners?
I usually come into the office, usually check my emails. Now that I’ve been there for a while, I’m staring to have a pretty steady flow of contacts I’ve been able to build up within the city. Check emails, make phone calls, looking deeper into some of the things, project-wise, that we are working on at Charlotte Center City Partners and figuring out ways I can bring people from the community on board to be a part of what’s happening and figuring out ways that we can move the live music culture in Charlotte further than just occasionally. Right now it’s not as prominent as it could be. There are a lot of musician here who have toured all around the world and played with some of the biggest names in music, period, but find it hard to make a living in Charlotte. So that’s the goal.
Q. As a musician, a desk job doesn’t cramp your style?
Oh, no. No, sir. When I went to college I studied business anyway. The goal for me was always to get into the business side of music. I never wanted to be a performer for the rest of my life. I would like to keep the joy in performing. There are musicians I knew growing up who were some of the most skilled musicians I ever heard and have no desire to touch their instruments anymore. I never wanted that to happen, so I’ve always studied and strived to be a part of the business side of music and helping move the community forward so that I can keep the joy. And when I want to play, I can still play.
Q. Since you’ve been artist in residence, what have you accomplished that you are most pleased with?
It’s not something I accomplished, but The biggest thing that I’m pleased with is to see the desire for Charlotte to want to be known as a live music hub. A lot of people don’t know this…but at one point, Charlotte was more well-known as a recording city than Nashville, and Nashville is one of the recording capitals of the country now. But at one point, Charlotte’s recording scene was bigger even than Nashville’s. So it’s not farfetched and it’s not out of reach to think of Charlotte as a live music city again, especially considering all of the phenomenal talent coming out of Charlotte.
Q. How close are we to making that happen?
It’s not going to be a short-term thing. But it’s going to be an effort and it’s going to take some time. Just as the music community had to notice and recognize that we as a community weren’t going to get anywhere until we reunited, now it’s about uniting the city and the musicians in the city, so that we can sit down and have some serious conversations and discuss what we can do to make life easier for the musicians here in Charlotte.