The Nelsonville Music Festival, or NMF, is a staple event every year in Southeast Ohio, previously bringing in artists like Death Cab for Cutie, The Flaming Lips and Mac DeMarco. However, when NMF was canceled this summer due to the coronavirus pandemic, the staff of Stuart’s Opera House knew something had to be done. 

Instead of depriving fans of the festival entirely, Stuart’s collaborated with the Ohio University School of Media Arts and Studies to create the Virtual Nelsonville Music Festival, or VNMF, combining the joy of the music and a fundraising opportunity for Stuart’s.

VNMF will take place Aug. 21 and 22, with music on both nights starting at 8 p.m. EDT on Stuart’s YouTube channel. Both nights will have the featured artists playing one to five songs each. Then all of the mini-sets are edited together and compiled into a video. 


What: Virtual Nelsonville Music Festival

Where: Stuart’s Opera House YouTube Channel

When: Friday, Aug. 21, and Saturday, Aug. 22, at 8 p.m. EDT 

Admission: Free (donations encouraged)

The festival is a fundraiser for Stuart’s. Though anyone can watch online for free, donations are strongly encouraged. People can donate through the link pinned to the YouTube video for easy access or visit the Stuart’s website.

Chloe Musick, marketing and public relations director for Stuart’s, said the staff reached out to see if any previous NMF or Stuart’s performers would be willing to play VNMF. Fortunately, a lot were. 

It wasn’t difficult to find artists who were willing to participate in the virtual festival. Many artists are only able to perform in a virtual setting due to the ongoing pandemic. 

“We are so grateful because the artists playing VNMF have donated their time and music to the festival,” Musick said in an email. 

Josh Antonuccio and the OU School of Media Arts and Studies worked with WOUB to help locally film the VNMF sets. Antonuccio found a production team made up of recent OU graduates and other current students who had lost jobs or opportunities due to COVID-19. The team worked with Tim Peacock of Stuart’s to create the production and recruit the artists. The team has been shooting for the last six weeks. 

“ ... And because of the nature of what we’re all going through ... it just takes three times as long to do something that would normally take much less time and effort in a more ‘normal’ era, or at least the pre-COVID era,” Antonuccio said. 

Lauren McCain, a junior studying journalism at OU, is an intern on the publicity and promotion team for VNMF. She has been working with her team to gather content for the VNMF social media as well as interviewing the bands that perform for the festival and writing short features on them to be published through WOUB. 

McCain, more than anything, is excited to see the finished product after weeks of hard work from all of the teams. Antonuccio, too, looks forward to their work paying off. 

“I think just seeing the fruit of all that labor, on behalf of all the people that have put in, all the money that we’ve raised to staff our team, just to see it and present it to people and give everyone in the community and beyond something that will really lift their spirits and give them an awesome experience,” Antonuccio said.

McCain feels NMF is a hidden gem of Southeastern Ohio.

“I’ve been a huge fan of NMF and I’m not at all surprised that they have been able to pull something this incredible off – the love and passion that both fans and performers feel for this festival is incredible and there has been no lack of community support through this process,” McCain said in an email. 

Musick hopes the support will continue and the dedication to make the virtual festival happen from all of those involved will encourage fans and locals to donate to Stuart’s. 

“All proceeds from the Nelsonville Music Festival support not only NMF but supports the arts year-round at Stuart’s Opera House,” Musick said in an email. “We plan to remind people throughout the event that we are accepting donations and tell them what exactly their donations support.”

Whether people donate or not, Musick, Antonuccio and McCain are over the moon that NMF was able to continue this year, even if the format is different than most fans are familiar with. They know people will not be disappointed with the final product.

“It is such an intimate festival that is loved by all surrounding communities and gives a stage to local beloved acts, as well as bringing incredible national and regional acts to the beautiful rolling hills of Appalachia,” McCain said in an email. “Many people in Appalachia lead hard lives – but NMF is a reflection of the passion and love that is apparent in these communities. I am forever thankful that I’ve had the chance to be a part of NMF and experience the beauty of Appalachia during my time here at OU.”