GOSHEN — There are plenty of budding musicians in Goshen and the surrounding area, but the question is, where can they play?
Gina Leichty, president of Downtown Goshen Inc. said local artists are "clamoring" for a venue in Goshen to perform at. Finding one, however, isn't always so easy.
The number of places for local musicians to play in the city has decreased in the last year, which is troublesome when downtown Goshen is striving to become a destination of sorts for local artists.
In order to build a foundation for musical development, DGI and a local business owner came together to develop "Live and Local," the newest First Fridays offering which will be held March 7.
Steve Martin, owner of Ignition Music on Washington Street, wanted to see the city's music scene grow and had an idea of where to start.
"The impetus for the idea came the first year I was open," he said.
When he first opened, Martin wrote a vision paper detailing how Goshen could brand downtown as a music scene friendly to artists performing their own work.
The problem, according to Martin, is that larger venues tend to bring in "legacy acts," or more well-known, established performers. Bars have tended to gravitate towards cover bands.
The local musician, he said, hasn't had a significant chance to play or gain exposure in Goshen.
That small window for exposure took some hits in the past year, though, which made it even harder to find a venue.
The Electric Brew, which often hosted local talent in their previous location on Main Street, lost that stage when it moved this past summer.
And with the temporary closing of the Goshen Theater, that's just one fewer place local performers have to showcase their talents.
The theater would often play host to local artists, particularly during First Fridays events.
Losing the theater as an option caused a bit of a conundrum among DGI officials regarding how to showcase local musical talent, Leichty said.
Losing both the Electric Brew and the theater as venues for local original musicians has left what Martin called an "open niche" in the area's music scene.
Recognizing the need for a platform to feature area musicians, DGI and Martin responded with a new First Fridays event with a unique format.
"Necessity is the mother of invention," Leichty said. "We didn't have a performance space so we created one."
"Live and Local" will pair area and regional musicians with downtown merchants and turn local businesses into concert venues.
Businesses wishing to participate in the event will make arrangements with musicians to use their building space as a place to perform on the first Friday in March.
If business owners want to host a performer but aren't aware of who could be available, Martin has volunteered to work as a consultant to pair musicians with merchants.
Ignition itself will host three performers that evening, but Martin also wanted to help the event reach as many performers and merchants as possible.
"We really need to help musicians, particularly those that have aspirations to make this work," Martin said of those interested in developing the scene.
Building a reputation for the local original music scene won't occur easily or quickly, but Martin believes it's a goal that's gaining some support.
"It's not something that's going to happen overnight," he said, but added the success of the shows at his store seem to be bringing other downtown merchants around to the idea of developing in this way.
Martin and DGI hope "Live and Local" can provide the sturdy starting point that makes Goshen not only a place for original artists to perform, but also an area where they can base themselves.
"We're trying to build this network where people see Goshen is actually an ideal place to be," Martin said.
"The most important ingredient, if people want this to happen, is that they have to go to shows."
Together, "Live and Local" partners will at least be able to address that need. To build a strong music scene with a solid base, however, will take time.
"The challenge is, artists need places to play, they need people to pay and they need to sell their music," Martin said.
"It's going to take years, but there's a lot of good things going on."