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Inaugural Park City Song Summit strikes chord after two years of setbacks

Artist mental health and the power of music are the running themes

For information about the Park City Song Summit, visit parkcitysongsummit.com.
Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter Jason Isbell performs during the Park City Song Summit opening gala Wednesday at the Lodge at Blue Sky. The four day event, which wraps up Saturday, features live music performances, songwriters in the round sessions and lab discussions centered around topics such as the power of song and artist mental health.
Photo by Erika Goldring

Parkite Ben Anderson stood by his wife, Paige, in front of a group of supporters on Wednesday night at the Lodge at Blue Sky and said, “We would like to welcome you, finally, to the inaugural Park City Song Summit.”
With those words, Anderson, CEO and founder of the three-day conference that runs through Saturday, Sept. 10, capped the two-year journey to bring the celebration of music to life.

“It’s been like the seven plagues — frogs and fires, riots, floods, earthquakes — everything the planet has been through the past two years,” Anderson said, referring to setbacks that included the pandemic and other challenges that continuously pushed the song summit back. “But we never gave up. And through vision, hard work and resilience, we’re here tonight. So thank you all for your support.”

The idea for the Park City Song Summit, which will feature lab panel discussions, songwriters in the round sessions and live music performances in venues at the Lodges at Deer Valley and on Main Street, not only celebrates the art of song and songwriting, but celebrates the artists themselves, Anderson said.



The first inkling of the summit came from Anderson’s wife during a discussion about Park City.

“Paige turned to me and said, ‘this is such a great town, and so many people love music here,  so why isn’t there a multi-day music event?’” Anderson said. 



She urged Anderson to think about establishing the event that would also have an impact on how music-lovers could support these artists, and create a legacy.

“She always comes up with the best idea, and I said ‘that sounds good,’” Anderson said.

Park City Song Summit founder and CEO Ben Anderson, right, and his wife Paige, speaks to supporters during the event’s opening gala on Wednesday night at the Lodge at Blue Sky.
Photo by Erika Goldring

But it wasn’t until a couple of other people, namely Scott Thomson, founder of the Rockwell Listening Room, and singer-songwriter Anders Osborne, who approached Anderson with the idea before he decided to go for it.

Thomson said he would like to do something about the power of song in Park City that put the artist first, and Osborne’s idea was to create an event that centered on the power of song, the things that inspired songwriters and addressed the issues of trauma, healing, addiction recovery and mental health, according to Anderson.

“That was three times I heard it. It sounds like a good idea, because we’re losing too many of our artists to mental health and trauma,” he said.

This event, which Anderson hopes will become an annual gathering, features lab discussions with Osborne, Warren Haynes, Celisse, Devon Gilfillian and Mavis Staples, along with Adia Victoria, Darryl “DMC” McDaniels and Wyatt Pike, to name a few.

“This vision turned into something that cares more for the artist, the whole artist, and not just uses them as entertainers,” Anderson said. “(This is not) just to have them come through our town, play for 75 minutes and move on to the next town, because on either side of those 75 minutes, they have lives. They have trauma. They have addiction. They have families that have these traumas. They also have a touchstone, which is their home that they are always away from.”

Anderson emphasized the importance of artists’ mental health as he talked about what is expected of them by the music industry.

“They have to write songs, record songs, tour on those songs and constantly be ‘on’ in front of an audience,” he said. “We overlay that with trauma, mental health and addiction, and that’s a recipe for an artist to not be the whole (person) that they need to be.”

Anderson said he hopes more people around the U.S. would start thinking more of who artists are as people.

“(That way) we can keep them above ground instead of below ground,” he said. “And when they are above ground, they can live better lives.”

Other presenters of the evening included Barbara Phillips, who co-owns the Lodge at Blue Sky Ranch with her husband Michael, Colette Weintraub, the general manager of Stand Together Music, a philanthropic community organized in 2003 whose mission is to tackle the root causes of America’s serious problems, and recovering addict Don Fertman, the chairman of the board of the Phoenix, a nonprofit with a mission to build a sober active community that fuels resilience and harnesses the transformational power of connection.

Singer-songwriter Adia Victoria performs selections from her album “Southern Gothic” during the Park City Song Summit opening gala at the Lodge at Blue Sky.
Photo by Erika Goldring

The night also featured an intimate and mostly acoustic performance by singer-songwriter Adia Victoria and her fiance and songwriting collaborator Mason Hickman and capped off with an acoustic set by Grammy Award-winning songwriter Jason Isbell. 

For information about the Park City Song Summit, visit parkcitysongsummit.com.


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