There are few things more enjoyable and relaxing than listening to live music in a quiet environment. Fortunately, Alcoa’s Songs By the Brook series has been offering this opportunity to local residents since 2014, with the exception of last year when it had to be canceled due to COVID-19.
The music returns to the same quiet place in Alcoa from Thursday August 19th. This year’s series focuses on local talent, with Jay Clark and the Tennessee Tree Beavers and the Driftboat Cowboys co-hosting the first show, with Nicholas Edward Williams, the Alex Leach Band and Wild Blue Yonder premiering on Thursday. September 2, and Grizzly Ghost and the Guy Marshall Band completed the free outdoor offerings on Thursday September 16.
The series was designed by Phil Eakins, a 45-year employee of Maryville / Alcoa / Blount Parks and Recreation Department and currently Director of the Springbrook Recreation Center. “I started as a part-time employee in 1976,” he recalls. “In the years that followed, I saw so many children who enjoyed our facilities. It is clear that the center has marked their lives. Many are now in their fifties and we still keep in touch. “
The recreation center offers a variety of family activities, including children’s summer camps, sports activities for adults and youth, and private rental facilities.
These days, however, it’s the concert series that makes Eakins most proud.
“I wanted to do something special that would bring exceptional music to our local residents,” Eakins explained. “I thought it was important to give something more back to the community, while also showcasing this beautiful park, the lake, the trails, the natural spring, the stream and the beautiful area in general.”
Nonetheless, starting a program of this size from scratch and continuing to maintain and oversee it was a challenge that Eakins continued to face.
“There was no money in the budget to do it, but I thought it was worth continuing the initiative,” he said. “It’s still a lot of work, even now. Missey Wright, who works at the main office, helps me coordinate the different things that need to be done. She can do things in five minutes that it would take me an hour to do.
Eakins himself personally contacts the artists, works with Murlins Music on sound, oversees logistics, and serves as a liaison for sellers operating on site.
Eakins said planning for the series usually starts in February, and in addition to audience enjoyment, he also wants to make sure it’s a good experience for the artists as well.
“The artists we hire do this for a living, so we always try to meet their needs,” he said. “They like the fact that it’s free. I always want the artists to have a good time too. Those who have played Songs by the Brook always tell me that they really appreciate it.
Musicians who have appeared in the past include artists of local and national renown, among them Sam Lewis, RB Morris, Greg Horne, Robinella, Ian Thomas and the Band of Drifters, Pistol Creek Catch of the Day, Jonathan Byrd and the Pick-Up Cowboy and the Dirty Dougs.
To pay the musicians and cover the other costs involved, Eakins solicits individual and corporate sponsorships. The amount of money he is able to generate from these gifts defines the budget for each offering.
Eakins said the series typically draws between 250 and 300 people each night. He was disappointed that last year’s series had been canceled due to the pandemic, but was happy that they could resume this year, even as they reduced the number of concerts from four to three.
There is also a possibility of rain. If bad weather becomes a problem, the shows are moved inside the recreation center.
Either way, Eakins remains confident that attendees will continue to be satisfied.
“Fans know the quality of the entertainment we provide,” he said. “They never ask who we have, only the dates of the performances. This is because they know that they will get quality and hence the credibility is already assured.