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Ethan Bartman of Guru Babies. (provided via Scott Winland)

Benefest to celebrate music and nonprofits in Athens

Since 2011, Hocking College’s music program has sought to give its students practical learning experience — but also to give back.

Benefest is that chance. Hosted by WLCI Hocking College Radio, Benefest is a three-night multi-venue musical event. It started out of a need to give Hocking College students tangible skills with booking gigs, organizing events and managing music.

“Benefest was created to offer students of our music program at Hocking College a hands-on learning experience organizing and managing a three-night live music event that benefits the community,” Scott Winland, program manager in the Hocking College School of Music at Hocking College, said in an email.

Benefest is designed to prepare music students at Hocking College for real-life experience in the music industry.

“It truly is a great showcase of local and regional talent that also shines a spotlight on the creative, hardworking students in our program,” Winland said in an email. “These folks have done an amazing job organizing the event this year, putting together a diverse line-up of performers playing for some great local organizations that do so much for our area.”  

But Benefest isn’t solely about students or music. It is about celebrating and supporting the work that local nonprofits do in Athens County. 

“Aside from the specific technical and managerial aspects of hosting a live music event or festival, Benefest offers a service learning component that integrates meaningful community service and civic responsibility into the project,” Winland said in an email.

One of the organizations that will receive proceeds made this year is Stuart’s Opera House Afterschool Music Program (AMP).

Stuart’s Opera House AMP focuses on music education and arts enrichment for students in Nelsonville and Athens County, Brian Koscho, marketing director of Stuart’s Opera House, said. 

AMP is a music program for students ages 12 to 21 in Athens County, with a focus on Nelsonville specifically. It encourages students to explore music, whether it be original composition or instrumental practice, Koscho said.

“It gives an out-of-school option for musical enrichment, and we give students a lot of opportunities,” Koscho said.

AMP does not require students to have any prior musical experience. There is no entry fee required, and instruments are provided by Stuart’s Opera House.

“As someone that is a musician myself, the program is a pretty amazing thing,” Koscho said. “It gives students and teens a chance to do amazing things. If it were a program that I could have had in middle school or high school, I would’ve been all over it.”

Koscho will be playing with his group, Unmonumental, Thursday night at Casa Nueva Restaurant and Cantina.

The other organization benefiting from Benefest is The Gathering Place. The Gathering Place is a non-profit support center for individuals who have experiences with mental illness. 

“We’ve been a drop-in center for 42 years,” Ginger Schmalenberg, resource and development director of The Gathering Place, said. “We are a community for individuals who have experienced mental health disorders.”

The Gathering Place serves a very important role in Athens when it comes to recovery. It has a very special relationship with Appalachian Behavioral Healthcare (ABH), Schmalenberg said. A lot of out-patients come to The Gathering Place to talk about their experiences.

“Peer centers are a really important part of having a healthy life. It’s helpful to talk to other people who’ve had the same experiences,” she said. “Similar to cancer support groups and things such as that. The experience just doesn’t end. They’re medical conditions. We provide a pathway to mental health recovery.”

Benefest also gives members of The Gathering Place an opportunity to perform, Schmalenberg said. 

“We have a band,” Schmalenberg said. “We’ve been able to develop a great music culture here at The Gathering Place. We have people who’ve developed a band, called The Gatherers.”

The Gatherers will play at Casa Nueva on Thursday night.

The weekend will feature in total 14 acts. 

Starting on Thursday at 9 p.m. in Casa Nueva’s cantina, LUNG, Spare Change, Raw Canvas, Unmonumental and The Gatherers will perform.

“It’ll be a really fun time,” Noah Gruenberg, a sophomore studying music composition and the front-man of Raw Canvas, said. “Our sound can be heavy at times, then light. We like to focus on odd time signatures and vocal harmonies. We try to have a curated sound. But we also like to jam.” 

Friday night’s shows will be at The Union. It will feature Awful Kind, Guru Babies, Sex Tide and Coal Cave Hollow. 

Benefest will conclude on Saturday at The Union. It will feature Caution Step, Smizmar, The Slicks, Slut Castle and Velvet Green.


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