I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Jill Carletti, the Managing Director of Harmony Presents, for a candid interview. When Eric and I made our first visit to Harmony Presents last year, we left with such a great overall feeling about the venue and Jill that we we’ve been looking forward to interviewing her ever since. Harmony Presents really is a special place, so we hope our readers get a chance to get a peek inside at all they have to offer, and visit themselves if they haven’t already.
Harmony Presents is a beautiful venue tucked away in the Northern Pocono Mountains in Hawley, PA just past Lake Wallenpaupack. It’s an area full of history, art and culture and Harmony Presents is such a melting pot of all those things. Harmony Presents offers both music and comedy in a unique and refreshing way, and I’m confident once you visit you’ll be thinking about when you can make a return visit. The majority of their concerts are on the ground level of the historic Hawley Silk Mill, in the Boiler Room, which is where we sat down to do this interview after the Tall Heights show last month.
Jill, thanks for taking the time to do this interview, so to start with, can you tell us a little bit about Harmony Presents and about where it’s located here?
Jill: We are a state of the art intimate performance based location located right next to a waterfall in the underground of the Hawley Silk Mill. We put on shows every weekend, ranging from Folk, Jazz, Bluegrass, Jam Bands, Rock and anything and everything in between. Really a wide range of genres every weekend, and one of our objectives in is making sure we have quality entertainment in Hawley, PA every weekend, regardless of the in season. We definitely offer more shows in the summer, but I think it’s important to bring culture to a town regularly – as it really helps it.
And you guys do a lot with the local community, you partner with and support the community as a whole.
Jill: Well we have partnered with the Downtown Hawley partnership for example, especially with putting the Hawley Harvest Hoedown Bluegrass and Folk concert together last year. We’re doing it again together on October 3rd. This triple bill concert is held at the Ritz theater and serves as a fundraiser for the DHP, allowing them to continue doing good work in town. The DHP helps organize projects and festivals that benefit the town – new planter boxes, banners, Winterfest, Earth Fest, Lake Wally Fest, The Hawley Hoedown – things that help beautify and show how much we care about where we live.
You definitely get that feeling coming into town and being here, and I think the acts that come here really see and feel that as well. A lot of artists seem to come back time and again, and there’s obviously a reason for that. I would think that’s in large part to the whole package, the town, the venue itself and especially everything you guys do here.
Jill: I think we do really have something special here and from what the bands tell me, there really isn’t a venue like this anywhere for a long while. Some pretty bigger cities don’t have an intimate venue that showcases music like this – not in a way that puts focus on the music. I think that musicians really appreciate that. We also really genuinely care about everybody having an optimal time and a happy experience.
You can really tell that, you are so personable and likeable and I think that really helps everyone that comes here feel more at ease which then makes the experience that much more enjoyable for them.
Jill: Well I’m glad to hear that comes across. There is a lot of relationship building in this business. The amount of talent out there is sometimes overwhelming. So when you consider what a band needs to do to really make it, it’s quite humbling. There is a really special formula. Not only do they need to be incredibly talented, but they have to be very driven, easy to work with, persistent…I know plenty of bands and musicians that have to find special living conditions, like house-sitting and living in big vans, to do what they do. It’s not easy. You have to be your own booking agent, PR, tour manager…they have to wear all the hats for a while until they gain significant momentum. They also need to keep their business sense about them and really think about their art in terms of supply and demand, otherwise they just won’t be able to make a living doing what they love. So, it’s hard not to care. Every person that comes to our venue is supporting American arts and entertainment. So, of course we love our audiences. Small venues that feature incredible emerging artists are like heart valves to the music culture in America. We’re all play an important part in this system. So, it’s good to be kind to each other.
You offer volunteer opportunities so if people want to get involved in the whole experience, if they’re interested in music or interested in being in this field that they can help out here as well.
Jill: Yeah, and some people are so much more than a volunteer, like Bob standing over there – he’s just above and beyond. But yes, I could definitely use a couple hands in the promo, particularly flyering and social media marketing.
So maybe someone that could lend a hand with social media and spreading the word even more would probably help not only you guys, but the artists as well. We see these YouTube artists pop up everywhere, so being able to really utilize modern platforms to get the word out really helps I’m sure.
Jill: Yes, social media is huge and definitely a tremendous way to spread the word.
So in addition to music you guys also offer open mic nights.
Jill: Yes, we started open mic nights but then they really took on a life of their own in a lot of ways. The Downtown Hawley Partnership also helps make them happen, and it’s really a phenomenal tight knit local musician’s community here that loves the open mic night. These Open Mics are important to local musicians. Initially, I was hosting the Open Mics and it was a little tough since I don’t play that well. Fortunately, now it’s pretty easy. Jason Merrill, who is my husband took the bull by the horns to find musicians to host the open mic nights and to keep the ball rolling, and Harmony Presents and DHP(Downtown Hawley Partnership) help to promote them – and they happen at the cocoon.
And you also do comedy nights as well at Cocoon.
Jill: Comedy nights are at Cocoon and they are once a month or twice a month in the summer. And that’s really fun, it’s really a totally different bag then music. They’re both interactive experiences, but when you think about comedians vs musicians, it’s such a different job that they have. They’re really fun, we had a really good night last night, a bunch of really funny comedians. We’ve had Jordan Rock who’s Chris Rock’s younger brother come through. He’s hilarious but we have had plenty of other comedians that are just as hilarious. It’s a great girls night out – it’s a perfect girls night out. I love it when I get five ladies who come in because I know that they’re going to have a great time. It’s great for husbands and wives too, it’s just fun to go with your friends.
So the comedy portion is newer, how long has this been the music venue?
Jill: The space, we’ve been doing this for 2 years, in Feb 2013, Feb 10th, 2013 is when we had our first show in here. It’s really easy for me to remember that because my birthday is Feb 10th! Our first show was with the Nat Osborn Band who I love. They’re phenomenal. Right now they’re doing really great things in the Czech Republic, and they’re getting a little more well-known in Europe. I don’t totally 100% understand, or claim to understand how it all works, but it’s interesting that sometimes in other countries bands can break through easier than they can here. I think its accessibility, people buy more music there, and they go to shows more often, I think it’s more a cultural thing.
You have a summer series coming up, and had also mentioned earlier about Darlingside
Jill: We’re bringing back artists for a lot of shows, and we would have for the Fourth of July for Darlingside as well, but being the fourth we figured we’d stick to just one show. For our two shows in one night shows we typically bring back our heaviest hitters from the past couple years. When everybody walks out joyously saying “Thank you, please bring them back, I had a great time” – that’s when you know they’re true “2 Shows in one night” material. We also have a couple bands for the two shows in one night that we haven’t had before, but I have so just much confidence in how good they are and in their own promotional pull.
So is there anything else you want to let people know about Harmony Presents?
Jill: Well it’s very important for people to just go on the website and listen and watch the videos. They’re embedded right there. It’s different every single weekend, there are certainly descriptions for each. Also, I just encourage anyone who is interested to just come give us a try this summer. You just really don’t know until you try it!
We invite you to follow Harmony Presents on social media and visit their website to learn more about them, view upcoming shows & purchase tickets, fill out a volunteer form or inquire about getting booked.