Picking up the baton

MARQUETTE – During its meeting Monday, the Marquette City Commission agreed to increase city control over a seasonal concert series.

The commission voted unanimously to adopt the summer Music in the Park series – which takes place in the bandshell on Presque Isle – as a city-run program for the 2013 season. Under the plan, the program will be managed by Tiina Harris, the director of the city’s arts and culture center. Music in the Park will be covered by the city’s insurance and copyright licenses and will receive marketing support from the city.

Going against the recommendation of a city advisory committee, the city commission decided to offer no compensation to musicians under the program, which has received some support through the city’s promotional fund during the last three years.

During the group’s June 5 meeting, the city’s arts and culture advisory committee agreed 4-1 to recommend the city commission agree to support the program for 2013. The committee recommendation also suggested musicians be paid a “nominal fee” for performances.

Michael Beauchamp, who has managed the program for the past three years, told the commission he had gotten the impression that the arts and culture committee felt strongly about the issue.

“The general feeling, I think … was that the Marquette city should compensate musicians for their services, and that it would not be fair to ask them to perform for free,” Beauchamp said.

Beauchamp requested estimates from both venues and artists and came to the conclusion that $25 per hour was a fair rate for artists. For the 2013 season, that would equate to more than $2,100.

“Of course, you all have to look at those figures to see what you think is fair, if you even consider reimbursing them,” he told the commission. “If you don’t, it’s my feeling the program will end at this point.”

Commissioner Fred Stonehouse told Beauchamp he recalled taking part in the commission discussions when the program began a few years ago. The original pitch, he said, was to use the bandshell to provide a stage for young local talent with no other performance outlet.

“There was never any mention of payment. There was never any mention of anything other than providing the space for young artists,” said Stonehouse, who noted a shift toward a lineup of professional, paid musicians. “I’m confused as to where the program – how we got here, and why we ever left where we started.”

Beauchamp responded by telling Stonehouse the program had “evolved” over the years.

Commissioner Sara Cambensy said she felt strongly that performers should be paid, but wasn’t sure “where the commission can draw the line” if the city begins paying some artists.

Commissioner Don Ryan, who made the motion to increase city control over the program – without providing for musician pay – said he doesn’t think the city can get involved with compensating artists.

“I certainly am not against musicians being paid,” said Ryan, who added that he viewed the program as a city effort to provide a “bandstand” for young talent. “I think they should be (paid). But not through this program. Not if the city is going to be the sponsor of this program.”

According to the program’s website, the first concert of the season is scheduled for June 21, featuring 3 Left Standing and the Last Chance Band.

Kyle Whitney can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.