Jill Rohrbach, travel writer
Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism
Photos available below.
Hear the story behind songs you know and love, and learn the industry side of the music business at The Power of Music Festival set for April 26-29 in Bentonville. Get tickets to the music portion or the conference side of the event, or attend both.
In its second year, the festival encompasses great music, singer/songwriter shows, and conference workshops.
As the saying goes, “Without songwriters, there is no music.”
The songwriters attending the festival have big credits to their names. Keith Sykes co-wrote the song “Volcano” with Jimmy Buffet. Jonathan Wolff created the music for 75 primetime network series and is best known for his iconic Seinfeld music. Jerry Salley has had more than 500 of his songs recorded over the last three decades. Writing and singing in Nashville since 1982, his songs have been cut by country artists like Chris Stapleton and Reba McEntire.
Steve Poltz’ live performances have become bona fide events. As relentless as he is in concert, he is also the guy who famously co-wrote the timeless ballad “You Were Meant For Me” with platinum-selling songwriter Jewel.
The Festival’s Hall of Fame concert consists of Richard Leigh, Roger Cook, and Dennis Morgan. Leigh has had hits spanning four decades and nine No. 1 records. He kicked off the 21st century with a top 10 hit, "Cold Day In July,” recorded by the Dixie Chicks. Early in his career, Leigh took home the Country Music Association 1978 Song Of The Year award for "Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue.”
Cook is best known for his collaborations with Roger Greenaway. Cook's co-compositions have included "You've Got Your Troubles,” and the transatlantic million selling songs, "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing" and "Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress.”
Dennis Morgan is the writer of over 4,000 songs with 100-plus charted hits around the world. Songs include "Sleeping Single In A Double Bed,” "I Was Country When Country Wasn't Cool,” "Only A Lonely Heart Knows,” and "He Set My Life To Music" for Barbara Mandrell;” Smokey Mountain Rain,” "I Wouldn't Have Missed It For The World" and "She Keeps The Home Fires Burning" for Ronnie Milsap; "Let Me Let Go" for Faith Hill and Vince Gill;” All Roads Lead To You" and "Kansas City Lights" for Steve Wariner; "Sensible Shoes" for David Lee Roth;” and “She Takes My Breath Away" for Eddie Money. Other artists that have recorded Dennis' songs include Ray Charles, Delbert McClinton, Jonny Lang, Michael McDonald, Joe Cocker, Fleetwood Mac, David Alan Coe, Brad Paisley, Kenny Chesney, Alabama and more.
“We just want to celebrate the songwriting. It’s kind of like getting to look behind the curtain like in the Wizard of Oz,” Betsy Brumley, event director, says. “This is really like the backstage portion. The cool thing from last year is the people that came said they enjoyed shows and then saw the guys walking around town and they were approachable and could talk to them.”
The songwriters will perform throughout the weekend at various venues. Additionally, several bands and artists will perform. Nearly every genre of music is covered.
“On Thursday night we have a VIP party kick-off night at 225 Event Center and will have singer/songwriters there from everywhere,” Brumley says. “At the Meteor [Guitar Gallery] we have one of the up-and-coming bands in folk rock called The Accidentals. They are just amazing. They just came from SXSW and absolutely set the world on fire. They are one of the bands to watch. They came last year and have grown so much. We also have a songwriter-in-the-round that night at Meteor.”
“Friday night we go into mega music at Meteor Gallery and Haxton Studio, 225 Event Center, and Bike Rack Brewery.” says Brumley. “There’s music all over.”
“Bentonville will not roll their sidewalks up at 10 o’clock,” she adds. “Last year our midnight shows were some of the most attended. It wasn’t all millennials.”
In addition to late night music, there will be a plaza concert at the Bentonville Farmers Market on the square with a performance by the Arkansas Philharmonic Youth Orchestra on Saturday. Also included is a family music portion for the kids.
In addition to music is the opportunity to meet Steve Dorff, a Songwriting Hall of Fame member. He will sign copies of his book, “I Wrote That One, Too…A Life in Songwriting From Willie to Whitney,” at noon Saturday in front of the Walmart Museum on the Bentonville square. “His son, Stephen Dorff, is actually in Fayetteville filming True Detective so they get to connect while he is here.”
The Ozark Regional Songwriters Association Showcase Finals are at 2 p.m. that same afternoon at Meteor Guitar Gallery. The six winners from a monthly songwriters showcase and two wildcard entries will perform for the overall prize.
“On Sunday we have our gospel lunch and that is our nod to the gala,” Brumley adds.
“One of the things I don’t think people realize is the music festival is a fundraiser for the I’ll Fly Away Foundation,” Brumley explains. “Most [nonprofits] have a gala and we wanted to do something different. For that same money as a gala, we have four days of music.”
Proceeds from the festival will benefit the foundation’s You Can Fly Songwriting Program, which allows area students of varying developmental levels to use songwriting to connect to their own creativity. As part of this program, established songwriters come into schools to personally craft songs with students.
Brumley’s grandfather, Albert E. Brumley, was a songwriter and is famous for writing the song, “I’ll Fly Away.” She is head of the I’ll Fly Away Foundation.
Music Industry Topics
In addition to music, the festival will feature panels about key topics in the music industry. Attending will be a representative from Austin to discuss how to build a music city and music supervisors from Los Angeles to talk about song placements in movies and television.
“We have some folks coming in from Nashville to talk about music publishing,” Brumley says. “Al Bell started Stax Records over in Memphis. ‘I’ll Take You There.’ He wrote that. He’s a pretty amazing guy.”
Sessions will include: Music Publishing and Copyrights with Al Bell & Linda Lorence-Critelli; Songwriting 101: The Creative Side and Business Side of Writing Music with a critique session by Grammy-winning songwriter Jerry Salley; Performing Rights Organizations with Dennis Lord and Linda Lorence-Critelli; TV & Movies - Music Supervisors with Sherry Orson & Lisa Vega; Importance of Publicity with Kate Richardson, Craig Shelburne & Jim Bessman; and Social Media and Branding for Bands with Amber Buist.
Tickets can be purchased for day passes, weekend passes, or VIP passes. Purchase online at www.illflyawayfoundation.org/pomfest.
The Power of Music Festival is created by the I’ll Fly Away Foundation with Coca-Cola as the 2018 presenting sponsor.
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