ASCAP Music Cafe celebrates 20 years with Sundance
January 18, 2018
The ASCAP Music Cafe will hit a milestone during the 2018 Sundance Film Festival.
"I can't believe it will be 20 years," said Loretta Muñoz, ASCAP assistant vice president and Sundance ASCAP Music Café producer. "It has just zoomed by."
The concert series is run by The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), a nonprofit organization that works on licensing and promotion rights of its 640,000 songwriters, composers and music publishers, will run from Friday, Jan. 19, to Friday, Jan. 26, at the Rich Haines Gallery, 751 Main St.
The concerts are free to Sundance Film Festival credential holders and the public as space allows.
Hosting performances in the gallery is much different than the cafe's early days at the Elks Lodge, Muñoz said.
"Our lavish stage was a carpet, but we had a Starbucks Cafe there," she said. "They would brew coffees, cappuccinos and espressos between the sets while battling power outages and floods. It was a new frontier and it was fantastic."
The ASCAP Music Cafe moved to the Star Bar, which is now the location of O.P. Rockwell, for a spell, before setting up in a tent in the middle of Main Street, and finally settling in at the gallery.
"We pulled it off year after year," Muñoz said. "It's been a giant adventure working with Sundance."
The goal for the concert series is to introduce musicians and their music to filmmakers.
"We want to share ASCAP's repertory, whether that means our new emerging artists, artists who are now at their peak or our Legacy artists, who have been with us for decades," Muñoz said. "We also tap into the composers who usually are only heard on the big screen but don't have opportunities to perform live in front of intimate audiences."
Partnering with the Sundance Institute and the Sundance Film Festival seemed like the perfect way to do that.
"We share our goals in supporting artists and creativity while making new opportunities for filmmakers, composers and musicians," Muñoz said.
While Sundance creates new opportunities in their music and film labs, ASCAP creates new opportunities for members by sharing their artistry with filmmakers, she said.
"We were able to convince the Sundance Institute that music was such an integral part of the filmmaking process, and to give us a go," Muñoz said. "It's become one of Sundance's cornerstone events. It's the festival's official music venue, and we're so happy to continue to collaboration with them."
This year's lineup includes newer artists such as Samora Pinderhughes, Striking Matches, Ethan Gruska and Shawn James, as well as more established artists such as Ben Dickey, Charlie Sexton – known for his work with Bob Dylan – and Michael Franti.
Muñoz remembers a discussion she had with John Nein, Sundance Film Festival's senior programmer, a few years ago while programming the concerts.
"John once asked me, and I'm paraphrasing, 'What artist is playing at the ASCAP Music Festival who I don't know but will fall in love with?'" Muñoz said. "That has always been a mantra I recite when we do this."
To make sure no stone is left unturned, Muñoz works with members of ASCAP's pop and rock, film and television, urban music, Latin music and country music representatives to find artists.
"We put our heads together and try to bring the best series we can," she said. "Then we also try to top each year as well."
A few years ago, ASCAP Music Cafe developed a relationship with the Country Music Association (CMA) and the Bluebird Cafe for a country songwriting series.
"We brought CMA in for a while and then brought in the Bluebird Cafe for a few years," Muñoz said. "CMA is returning this year with some great CMA songwriters."
The songwriters' roster includes Tenille Townes, Jillian Jacqueline, Jordan Davis and Steven Lee Olsen.
"When we had our debut of the CMA series years ago, we had Brandy Clark, Chris Stapleton and Lee Ann Womack and Brett James," Muñoz said. "Many people didn't know who Brandy or Chris were, although they were revered in the country music songwriting realm. So this year's lineup is carrying on in that tradition."
Other artists who will perform at the ASCAP Music Cafe include Crys Matthews, Madison Cunningham, Darren Criss and Siedah Garrett.
"Crys Matthews is an interesting artist," Muñoz said. "She is the winner of the 2017 NewSong Competition at the Lincoln Center (in New York City), and we have worked with NewSong for the past few years."
Muñoz first heard Cunningham during Prairie Home Companion at the Pasadena Civic Center last year.
"I had a meeting with Mike Viola, who is the vice president and [artist and repertoire] man for Universal Music," Muñoz said. "He has scored many Sundance Film Festival films, and he told me he was working with Madison, and I said, 'This was meant to be.'"
Capping off the series will be two concerts by renowned singer, songwriter, poet and spoke-word artist Michael Franti,
"Last year he was only able to perform once," Muñoz said. "And we wanted to see if he could come back."
Muñoz met up with Franti later at the Hollywood Bowl during the premiere of Brett Morgen's Jane Goodall documentary, "Jane."
"At that point we talked with his management team, and we were united in the great and uplifting performance he had at Sundance," Muñoz said. "Any second we can get a chance to up lift in these times, ASCAP is right there, so we were so happy to have him come back. Michael is an amazing spirit with is music and generosity."
Muñoz looks forward to the ASCAP Music Cafe to spend another 20 years at the Sundance Film Festival.
"This is one of our highlights," she said. "We continue to love our relationship with Sundance and hold the organization in high regards in our support of the creative community."
The ASCAP Music Cafe will run from Friday, Jan. 19, to Friday, Jan. 28, at the Rich Haines Gallery, 751 Main St. For information, visit http://www.sundance.org/festivals.
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