Live Greenbrier: The Winter Music Festival Heats up Lewisburg! – Interview with Jim Snyder

In 2013, the West Virginia Winter Musical Festival began as a way to raise money for a local musician and his family that lost their home to a fire.  After hearing the news, area musicians and bands acted quickly and came together to host an unprecedented event in Lewisburg.  Downtown venues would host a number of performances on a Saturday night where attendees could buy bands and venture back and forth between them as they pleased.  The first event was such a success, it has since become an annual event.  One of the founders and organizers of the event is Jim Snyder.  We sat down with him to learn more about him, the music festival and how both overcame being “the new kid in town.”

 

LG:  So, let’s start with the basics – Where are you from and what do you do?

JS:  First, I’m a Dad.  A single dad with majority custody of my, now 17 year old, son.  I’ve committed the past 17 years to raising him with a sense of integrity, responsibility, a boldness to become who he wants to be, to find his dream, to pursue music (among other interests), to be kind to people, and to honor both his father’s and mother’s family. I am a native but not originally from here.  This area and I both chose each other.  I’ve been visiting since the 70s.  It took until 1999 to set up a home here. As related to the Festival, I am a co-founder, Lead Coordinator, and President of the Board of West Virginia Winter Music Festival Inc, a 501c3 non profit organization.

LG:  Tell us about a little bit about the Winter Music Festival and its mission:

JS:   Our website, www.wvmusicfestival.org is a great resource for that information.

**In 2013, Lewisburg and Greenbrier Valley, West Virginia area musicians organized a fundraiser to benefit a fellow musician who had experienced a house fire resulting in total loss of his family’s home and possessions. The collaborative event was so successful in drawing upon the community’s support, that the desire to bring the community together to assist with such unfortunate situations grew into an annual event. The event became known as the Greenbrier Valley Winter Music Festival. The musicians that organized the first event went on to established the West Virginia Winter Music Festival Inc., in the Fall of 2015, as a way to perpetuate this fellowship between the music community and the community at large.

Since then, West Virginia Winter Music Festival Inc.  has provided emergency assistance to area musicians and other educational and music oriented projects. West Virginia Winter Music Festival Inc. seeks to fund its mission through annual fundraisers, donations, silent auctions and sponsorships.

Mission
The mission of the West Virginia Winter Music Festival Inc. is to lend a helping hand to musicians in need with a vision to further develop the music industry through education. This will be accomplished in several ways:

First, through raising money with an annual winter festival that can be used to aid a musician in financial need due to emergency situations. Monies will be distributed to those in need based on decisions made by the administrative officers and/or the advisory board.

Secondly, by aiding in the promotion of performances as often as possible. This will be accomplished by involving persons from all aspects of the music community.

Finally, we will work with public and private schools and other various organizations to offer assistance for those in physical need, and assist with educational opportunities and needs of aspiring musicians.

Services of the West Virginia Winter Music Festival Inc. is not a replacement for an insurance policy but an opportunity to meet the needs of a musician and his/her family in time of need or crisis.

(**taken from www.wvmusicfestival.org)

LG:  What inspires/motivates you as an artist?

JS:  Good music, good players, and opportunities for worthwhile service.

LG:  What do you love about the Greenbrier Valley?

JS:  I was attracted to this area as a teen.  When I turned 16 and got a car, I started coming to Lewisburg every year for the State Fair.  I would spend several days to a week or so camping at Greenbrier State Forest and attending the Fair every evening.  When I got married and we planned to have a child, Lewisburg is where I wanted to raise him.

LG: What’s unique about your event?

JS:  We are a very rare phenomenon in this area.  We are truly a grass roots organization made up of all volunteers who come together in the spirit of community.  We are a benefit by musicians and for musicians. We treat everyone equally with no judging or elitist attitude toward any musician – young, old, pro or aspiring.  Our annual event builds an emergency fund for musicians caught in unexpected financial stress.  We also support music education programs n the area.

LG:  What do you attribute to the music festival’s success?

JS:   Coming together as a family of musicians along with the community support of live music fans in Lewisburg.  A winning combination! 

 

LG: What training/education did you have that prepared you for your event?

JS:  Music major, voice and guitar.  Professional musician.  Many years of marketing and event planning in the corporate world and independently. 

 

LG:   What is, or would be, your motto for life/work, etc?

JS:  Be kind and do good.

 

LG:  What do you enjoy doing in the area when you’re not working?

JS:  I’m always working!  I can’t help it!  I’m a musician.  Music is my life.  I do like playing in the river.  I like leisurely drives exploring the area.

 

LG:  What is the most important thing for people to know about you/your event? 

JS:  It’s unique to this area in that it presents about fifty acts in all of the music venues downtown simultaneously in two nights.  We give back to the community.  In our five years, we’ve raised close to $60,000 We’ve given away around $56,000.  Not bad for a bunch of rag tagged volunteer musicians in a small town. Our giving includes several thousand to music programs at GEHS and EGMS. We’ve donated to ALS Research at Duke University in honor of one of our own.  We’ve partnered with other groups to have additional events to raise awareness for different causes including flood relief and rebuilding.

LG:  What advice would you give someone who is starting out in the music industry?

JS:  Learn your craft.  Learn your business.  Surround yourself with people who can be mentors.  Associate yourself with people in the business who are honest and revere integrity.  Learn to let rejection and jealousy roll off your shoulders. 

LG:  How has the area changed since you’ve been here?

JS:  A few years ago I was becoming concerned with the music scene in Lewisburg.   Some of the active working players were moving away, having children, getting “real jobs,” moving into other areas of life that precluded their involvement in regular performing.  I didn’t feel the same vitality as I had seen, say, 15 or 20 years ago.  But, in the last year, due to the persistence of some of the local artists and venues, I feel it’s picking up again.  I think the Festival has motivated many to keep their chops up. I feel Festival has certainly helped change the town.  We’ve been fortunate to be in a town that is cool enough to support the event. To many it brings a welcome relief of entertainment.  To venues, I’ve heard it brings a needed mid Winter boost in business and activity. When I first put out the idea, some were hesitant and resisted the “new kid in town.”  Me, and the Festival.  Some even said I was crazy.  The music community, and the festival’s attendees, quickly changed the attitude of those few.  We’ve gained respect and have helped bring people downtown during a time when downtown would normally be quiet.  We’ve also developed an outlet to get some of our creative juices flowing again.

LG:  What is your favorite area event/restaurant/meal/store, etc. and why?

JS:  The Winter Festival, of course! Because of what it is, who we are, what we stand for, and who we serve. I do like a Carnegie’s Ivy Terrace Series. I like their variety, the lawn and the admission price. I like the Pay What You Will nights at GVT.

I strongly believe that organizations and community theatres and venues like Carnegie and GVT who survive largely by support of the community owe the community, and should always be finding ways to give back. Ivy Terrace is a great example of giving back. I’d like to see more. That’s why I feel the Festival is so important. Our mission is all about giving.

Restaurants/meals? Tough choices, indeed. I don’t go in much for the higher dollar, fine dining rooms. I’ve worked around the Greenbrier and the Sporting Club and have enjoyed their excellent food. I do occasionally enjoy a splurge at The a General Lewis. I like their food and the atmosphere.  But in every day life, I have a teenager to support!  In no particular order off the top of my head –  Patrick O’Flaherty’s  Potato Soup. (Irish Pub), Hill and Holler’s pizza, Rudy’s Corner Grill – I love small town diners. Down home atmosphere, the smell of the kitchen, the sound of the bell on the front door, the 3 day old newspapers in the booth next to you, the waitress knowing what you drink, the clientele, the conversations. …unpretentious, authentic.  Breakfast special at Rudy’s can’t be beat, Carlito’s for it’s Mexican fare, Alfredo’s Greek and Italian – love a good Gyro.

I’ve lived and worked in metro areas of several million people. Even though, those areas have some opportunities and events that small towns don’t have, I love the charm of a cool small town. Not every small town is as cool as Lewisburg.  Another draw that brought me here is the beautiful Greenbrier River. I was born by the Monongahela, grew up beside the Kanawha, lived beside the Ohio, and on the southeast coast. Shot a music video on the sand of Huntington Beach, CA. I lived in Lexington, KY for a few years. It was a very beautiful, small city.  But, I always felt like something wasn’t quite right in my spirit. Lexington had no river!  Before I moved back to WV, I would “commute,” if you will, between and through Knoxville, Asheville, Louisville, Charleston, Charlotte, Pawley’s Island (and places in between.) for several years I had a permanent tent set up on the bank of the New River near Thurmond that I would use as my halfway sleep over and get away point. Something in me needs to be near water.

Thinking about the Festival again…I was on the Board of Directors of the Louisville based Musicians Emergency Relief Fund in the late 90s.  Of course, in that market, we held events year round and handled a greater amount of money. I always wanted to bring that concept back home. When that certain unfortunate event that sparked the first year, I felt it was time. We started by focusing on one family. The next year we became the Greenbrier Valley Winter Music Festival. With my desire, and the need, really, to keep up with it’s potential, I changed the name to West Virginia Winter Music Festival.  I had a vision of seeing it reach coast to coast – that is, from the eastern coast of WV to the west coast of WV. Last year, that vision was realized.

On the schedule last year, we had musicians from Cabell, Putnam, Kanawha, Fayette, Raleigh, Mercer, Monroe, Pocahontas, Greenbrier and Alleghany, VA counties contribute their talents. (Huntington to Covington.) My next move was to take it to 2 nights. We’re experimenting with that this year.

In the future I hope to develop a jazz venue and draw some of the jazz players.  There’s a healthy jazz community up around Clarksburg. I also would like to draw more bluegrass bands, more singer song writers. More players from out of state. I’d like to bring in more recognizable regional and national names to play along with our home grown talent. I’d really love to inspire and offer an opportunity for aspiring musicians of all ages to practice their craft at the Festival. 

This year’s Winter Music Festival will take place in downtown Lewisburg at multiple venues on Friday, January 26 and Saturday, January, 27.  For more information, please visit www.wvmusicfestival.org.  Thanks to Jim Snyder for his time and a big shoutout to Jaime Wykle Photography for her stellar pictures from last year’s festival!

The Instigatorz

Public Disturbance

Richard Hefner

Long Point String Band

Absolute Love Affair

The Bryant Roberts Project

The Fifth Demensia

Black King Coal

2018 Schedule of Events

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