Stay at Home Festival Brings Relief to Fans and Artists

By 
Bryan Parys
March 30, 2020

Cofounded by alumnus and fiddler/composer Galen Fraser, the livestreamed event series helps keep artists off the road and in business.

Galen Fraser playing the fiddle in a field
Galen Fraser B.M. '13, cofounder of the Stay at Home Festival
Image courtesy of the artist

Up until very recently, the idea of a concert festival brought to mind a fairly specific picture: huge outdoor stages with walls of speakers, dozens of artists to choose from, and throngs of revelers in sunglasses huddled together in celebration of their favorite music. In the last month, that picture has shifted dramatically, with major festivals like Coachella and South by Southwest (SXSW) postponing or canceling outright due to global concerns over containing the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

We’ve already seen many artists take to video (including our own students) and streaming from their homes as a way to keep spirits up while so many people are quarantined for a still indefinite amount of time. And while sustaining morale is important, many musicians are even more worried about sustaining their careers in general. That certainly was the case for fiddle player, composer, producer, and engineer Galen Fraser B.M. ’13, who is currently in lockdown in Valladolid, Spain. Soon after the lockdown began on March 13, Fraser was quick to rethink just what a concert festival could mean during a crisis. Along with fellow musicians in lockdown, María and Diego San Miguel, he began planning the Stay at Home Festival.

"If we can bring different people closer together through music and community, it will help everyone feel less isolated and alone.”

—Galen Fraser B.M. '13, cofounder of the Stay at Home Festival

“For the last couple weeks, we have watched our livelihood slip out from underneath us as the pandemic spread of COVID-19 forces events to be canceled, and music venues to close,” Fraser said. “We watched as the same happened to all our musical peers and thousands more across the globe.” A week after the lockdown began, the trio had put together a full roster of artists willing to perform from their homes, worked out all the logistical kinks, and held live-streamed concerts from March 20 to 23, raising more than $30,000 in donations—all of which went directly to the artists.

“Once we got the idea in our heads to make an online international music festival, we basically gave up sleeping for a week to push the project out,” Fraser explained. They worked tirelessly to enhance their extra-musical skill sets, from graphic design to event planning to working out how to broadcast the concerts, continually driven by the desire to, as Fraser put it, “set an example and keep people from getting totally discouraged by the current pandemic. If we can bring different people closer together through music and community, it will help everyone feel less isolated and alone.”

Galen Fraser, María San Miguel, and Diego San MiguelMany of the performers had Berklee connections as well, including faculty members Natalie Haas and Mike Block, former program director for Valencia Casey Driessen, and Berklee alumni Hanneke Cassel B.M. '00, Rushad Eggleston '03, Laura Cortese B.M. '02, Louise Bichan '19, Ethan Setiawan B.M. '19, Duncan Wickel '11, Frankie DeRosa '14, Jenna Moynihan B.M. '13, and Alex Hargreaves '13.

The event was so successful, in fact, that Fraser and crew are already gearing up to host the second festival, which will occur from April 3 to 5, and will feature an entirely new slate of performers. And with so much in the world feeling unpredictable, it’s hard to know how long festivals will need to be held remotely, but Fraser said that he, María, and Diego “are committed to bringing joy and light to the people for as long as we are in this situation. We want to show the world how important it is to shine in difficult circumstances like this and how necessary arts and music are for people's souls.”

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