NILES — The free Niles Summer Concert Series has been entertaining music fans and contributing to the community since 2018, but the roots of the events goes back much further.
Caryn Adler, who organizes the concerts, along with the Niles Music and More nonprofit organization, reflected back to the 1960s and memories of attending concerts as a child with her family in Eastside Park. She recalled fondly taking blankets, chairs, and a thermos of lemonade, sitting in the park and enjoying live music. She also noted her time working at Brentwood at Niles Senior Living, driving around residents who saw the Riverfront Park amphitheater, expressing how they missed the music that once took place there.
“The concerts were what we did for entertainment and community,” Adler said. “We have a great venue on the river. Beautiful weather in the summer. Part of me wanted to recapture that.”
Caryn, who also operates The 49120: Niles Happenings events Facebook group, described the first year of putting together the series. Without the nonprofit, which formed the following year, she relied on the assistance of Niles DDA Main Street Director, Lisa Croteau.
“She held my hand,” Adler said.
Armed with a list of bands and musicians who previously played at the amphitheater, Caryn set out to book music and find the funds to pay them. The first year saw reasonable fundraising and more than a dozen concerts, but she knew she would have to increase their income in order to feature more bands and genres and to bring in higher profile acts.
Niles Music and More formed as a nonprofit in 2019, opening access to grants and more. In 2023, the Niles Summer Concert Series relies mostly on sponsors to pay for musicians and the occasional sound technician. They have also taken over the sale of Niles Historic Ornaments, previously offered by the Niles Service League, keeping that tradition alive and raising more funds to go toward the music.
Caryn’s goal is to provide a variety of music, with 12 to 15 different genres featured this year. While working with the most affordable bands initially, she has expanded the lineup to set the Niles series apart from those in other communities, featuring bigger bands, while also providing a venue for local musicians. Her goal is to bring in at least five new acts each summer, with the top five attended performers from the previous year invited to return.
In addition to granting local artists exposure and bringing entertainment to Niles Riverfront Park, she also decided to make each concert a fundraiser. Recognizing the needs of the community from her time working at the Niles District Library, she built a list of other active nonprofits in the 49120 zip code. Each musician that is booked receives the list, choosing a nonprofit with which to partner. The nonprofit and the musicians get equal billing, all helping to market each other and the event. Adler described the fundraising aspect as a success, with musicians eager to help the community and some even donating their own performance fees to the cause. The organizations get exposure to hundreds of people, with an information table, collecting funds from the audience, and the opportunity to speak to the crowd during the intermission.
“It never fails, after each concert, someone comes up and says ‘I never knew we had this organization in Niles’,” she said. “That’s how we want to make a difference in the community.”
The efforts continue to expand, with the organization taking over the Free Friday Movies in the Park in 2022 and helping to provide live music for the Niles Burn Run.
Those interested in upcoming events can join the Niles Music and More Facebook group for the complete schedule and updates.
Justin Flagel is the founder of Red Chuck Productions, where he writes, tells stories, and creates new media. Follow his work at redchuckproductions.com. Feedback can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published: https://www.leaderpub.com/2023/08/08/883466/