By Robert Gillis
Published in the Foxboro Reporter 7/2015
Before I begin, I want to be very clear – this is MY opinion and I am not speaking for the Foxboro Jaycees organization. I AM speaking as Bob (who also happens to be a very proud member of the group). But since this is a VERY Jaycee specific column I did check with our chapter president and told her what I wanted to write and she said go for it.
That said, way back in 1993, the Foxboro Jaycees resurrected an annual event that had lain dormant for some time – the summer concerts on the common. I remember it vividly, because that was the summer I joined the Jaycees.
The common was mobbed with people enjoying the shows.
Since that summer, without a single year off, the Jaycees have presented a series of free concerts on the common – and these days, we usually present about 10 to 12 shows, always beginning with the Foxboro High School Jazz Ensemble, we have several shows, we always skip Independence Day week (because everyone is away and has plans) and then the shows resume into mid-August.
Now, the reason for this column is to try to get an answer to a question being asked for several years – why is attendance dwindling at the concerts? Back in the 90s, every Thursday night’s concert looked like national night out: kids playing Frisbee, chairs and blankets everywhere, it was like Foxboro common became our own little esplanade each Thursday for an evening of friendship, play, good weather, and great music.
The concerts on the common have always been free. The Jaycees have a small stand with water and soda and candy, but make no mistake, this is not a Ways and Means event for the Jaycees – this is one of our most important community development projects each year – it costs a lot of money to bring these bands to the common – and our other fundraisers, such as the vendor fair, and Founders Day sales, make free events like this possible.
We are very grateful to Turf-Pro, Mayfair Realty, Foxboro Federal Savings and Rodman Ford for their sponsoring several of this season’s shows.
So for the last 22 years, the Jaycees have presented this free concert series. And each year, we try to put in a good mix of various genres of music – literally, something for everyone: rock ‘n roll, classic, cover bands, brass instrument bands, acoustic sets, dueling pianos, local talent, well-established artists, and up and comers. We run the gamut from a banjo band, to top 40, to rock ‘n roll, to classical, Celtic, Irish, big band, brass horns, and everything in between – we deliberately make the mix eclectic each season – and we also endeavor to bring back returning favorites but also to showcase folks you may not of heard of.
I have the privilege of being one of the volunteers for Foxboro Cable Access (FCA) – and each summer, you will find me in my Jaycee T-shirt working one of the cameras. It’s awesome that I get to, as I call it, play with the tech toys.
On that note, the Jaycees continue to be profoundly grateful to FCA for setting up at 3 PM each Thursday, wiring all the cameras, rigging for sound, and then live editing, and live broadcasting the concert not only on cable but also on Web. In addition, FCA rebroadcasts the show throughout the summer. We can never thank them enough.
Now, many of you may be watching the shows from home and that’s great. But I’m writing today to ask you to start coming back to the shows. There is NOTHING like live music with a good size audience. Watching the dynamic between the performer and the audience – especially when the musical group gets the kids involved to dance by the bandstand – or gets the audience to sing along to a great tune – well, that’s a fantastic way to spend a couple of hours on a lazy Thursday evening.
But in the last few years, we have noticed a marked drop in attendance – and I wonder why. It can certainly be argued that some events just run their course. For 19 years the Foxboro Jaycees ran the largest not-for-profit haunted house in New England – but interest waned, attendance dropped, and it became difficult to find 50 or 60 people each night to run a haunted house as attendance when down and down. We don’t do Santa on the common in December anymore, because every mall has a Santa Claus on duty starting the day after Thanksgiving until Christmas Eve. The novelty of meeting Santa Claus on Foxboro common with 300 or so children waiting is a thing of the past.
Again, when people stop showing up, you stop doing the event. And the list goes on. Some events and projects simply run their course.
But the Jaycees are better than ever, and last year alone ran 84 – yes 84 – community development, individual development, membership, and Ways and Means events – again, literally something for everyone. We are still going strong – as projects come to their conclusion, we come up with new projects.
And of course, we are still decorating the common in December, putting up the Nativity set, working Founders Day with everyone else, running national family night out against drugs (first Tuesday in August – Mark your calendars!) – We are busier than ever. More active than ever.
But concerts on the common? It’s one of our absolute favorite seasons. We love the music. We love the camaraderie. Many people still come out, with their chairs and blankets, bringing their dinner from any of the many local shops, and sitting back with their family and friends to enjoy a night of free music and fun.
But again, for years now, attendance is down. And I ask you sincerely, why is that?
The event is FREE. It’s outdoors, and nearby your house – if you are reading this in the NEWSPAPER, you live within 5 miles of Foxboro common. So I don’t think it’s the commute.
I don’t think it’s the weather either. Sure, sometimes rain is threatening, but we will always announce a cancellation on the Jaycee website and on Facebook by 4 PM that day. We have had very hot evenings, cool evenings, you get the idea – it’s not the weather.
Attendance can’t be down because of the bands and acts the Jaycees offer – as I said, each season there are at least a few bands that have never performed on the common, and we also tried to get returning favorites. With a musical style for any taste, the “type” of music being played also can’t be a factor.
So what is it? Is it because this event has been around for over 20 years that it has lost its novelty? Is it because there are so many other things to do? I can certainly understand parents coming home after a long day’s work, exhausted, when even making dinner seems like an effort – I have felt that way many times myself after work where the last thing I want to do is go back out.
But I have also found that every time I go to one of the shows, tired or not, my kind of music or not, I always see a friend or three, always have some great conversations, and always enjoy the show.
Again, I want to be very clear – this is MY opinion and I am not speaking for the Foxboro Jaycees organization. But many of us ARE worried about attendance, and over the years, we find ourselves feeling bad for the musical act that’s playing their heart out for 25 people on the common.
I would honestly hate to see concerts on the common go the way of the haunted house, or Santa on the Common, due to lack of interest/attendance.
Many towns offer some sort of outside concert series during this time of the year– I think that is a wonderful thing. And especially this year, officially the snowiest and one of the worst winters on the record books– well, the summer months are going to fly by fast. Before you know it, the back-to-school sales will be starting. And then, God help us all, by September, the commercials and ads for Christmas.
This is a precious time for all of us – actual GOOD weather. Why not spend an evening or two – just two hours – with your neighbors and friends on Foxboro common taking in a free concert?
You’ve already missed the Foxboro Jazz Band, returning favorite Joe Sorrentino of Twenty Past Two, and newcomers “Planetoid” who may or may not be space aliens. (Never seen the kids dancing so much and definitely a very INTERESTING show. Yes – we even feature bands from OTHER WORLDS!)
Back to the point: The remaining concert schedule for the summer is as follows and each one is Thursday night at 7pm on the Common Bandstand:
• July 9: Mieka Pauley – A powerful singer who has been described, “…makes Alanis Morissette look shy.”
• July 16: Black and White – Returning favorites playing blues and rock and roll
• July 23: Andrea Gillis Band (No relation to the author; Andrea hails from South Boston, Andrea promises to be an acoustic, lovely show)
• July 30: Gobshites – Another returning favorite who also played on the Jaycee Founders Day float in 2014. Rousing Irish music!
• August 6: Afterfab – New to our series, AfterFab is America’s only tribute band playing exclusively the SOLO years of all four Beatles, 1969 to present.
• August 13: Infractions – The final show of the season features another returning favorite who play amazing adult contemporary and top 40 music.
As I said before, new acts, returning favorites, something for everyone.
More information is at our web site, http://www.foxborojaycees.org and also on the Foxboro Jaycees Facebook page.
The Foxboro Jaycees are the last Jaycee chapter in Massachusetts – and we are absolutely determined to continue our mission of community service, community development, individual development, and grooming leaders. And we also have so much fun doing all of that.
If you appreciate any of the things that the Jaycees do for the town, one way to say thank you is just to come to one of the concerts – remember, it’s FREE!
I guarantee you will enjoy yourself. And you know what? If the particular act you see is not your cup of tea, come back next week for something completely different.
This year’s Founders Day theme was, “Music is in the air. “ MUSIC is an exceptionally important part of Foxboro culture – more specifically, in the school system. Foxboro is very well known for its musical talents, prodigies, and legends.
The Jaycees have been contributing their own music to the air for well over 20 years. Come on down to Foxboro common on a Thursday night and be part of that.
End of speech, and I hope to see YOU on the common soon!