SN&R puts a spotlight on local music and art

Jeff vonKaenel

On Thursday, June 15, the Sacramento News & Review will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Sacramento Area Music Awards. Ten Sacramento bands will perform in a celebration of the Capital City’s music scene. The doors will open 6 p.m. at Ace of Spades, and the music will start at 7.

When the SN&R first rolled off the presses in April 1989, our city had many great musicians but few places to play. The road to music was Interstate 80 west to the Bay Area. The conventional wisdom was that Sacramento would never be able to develop a music scene being so close to San Francisco.

The SN&R envisioned the SAMMIES as a way to put the spotlight on musicians. It worked. Our first show at the Crest was a sellout and a wonderful celebration of all kinds of music, from country to classical. After the success of that show, we created the Summer SAMMIES Concerts in the park in front of City Hall, where SAMMIES nominees and winners played before large audiences on Friday nights through the summer. Many people warned me that I could never get a crowd to come downtown after 5 p.m. But we did. The concerts were great.

At that time The Sacramento Bee was focused on the Bay Area music scene. The staff at the SN&R wanted to build up the local scene. So we wrote about local musicians. We provided a music calendar and pages for bars to advertise. More people went out to the local shows. More bars added music. Our calendar expanded. And Sacramento’s music scene grew and grew.

A similar thing happened with the visual arts scene when we brought local art gallery owners together and encouraged them to have concurrent openings on the Second Saturday of each month. We published a monthly art guide and a Second Saturday map. This combination of art and media created Second Saturday.

Media can shine a spotlight on artists. Once in the spotlight, excitement and energy grow. People come out to the shows. And this helps create a revenue stream for the artists. Money for rent, for food, for child care so they can continue to practice their art. The media spotlight helps to support the art scene.

Recently, The Sacramento Bee laid off nearly all of their talented arts reporters, including food and beer writer Blair Anthony Robertson, theater critic Marcus Crowder, music critic Chris Macias, and food and travel writer Allen Pierleoni. This is a huge blow to the Sacramento arts scene. The Bee’s decision to drop so much of its arts coverage will create a vacuum. In the past, The Bee put a focus on certain types of coverage and our smaller publication filled in the gaps. But now things have changed.

We at the News & Review need to adjust our arts coverage to reflect the new reality. Our reborn calendar section is the first step toward that goal. How to expand our arts coverage and continue to make ends meet is something we will have to figure out. But I believe we can. Just as I believed 25 years ago that we could help grow the Sacramento music scene.

Enjoy the SAMMIES show, and support local musicians and artists.

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About the Author

Jeff vonKaenel
Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno.