Promoting Musical Patronage: Nonprofit launches pilot NWA concert series

Promoting Musical Patronage: Nonprofit launches pilot NWA concert series

A pilot program that seeks to support local musicians recently launched in Northwest Arkansas. Through a partnership with The House of Songs in Bentonville, and the support of the Walton Family Foundation, Black Fret will host a series of concerts that pairs local musicians with national touring acts. The aim is to not only help local performers boost their signal on a national stage, but to put this area on the map for national music.

“Black Fret is based on the principle that popular local music, just like the symphony and the opera, is art and should be available to be supported by the public,” explains Black Fret’s founder and CEO Colin Kendrick. Based on the historic “symphony patronage model,” which allowed composers to earn a salary while writing music, the nonprofit aims to do something similar for local musicians.

“We founded an organization in Austin in 2013 that has now run nine successful seasons in Austin that has resulted in $2.5 million being paid to local artists through grants and performance fees,” Kendrick says.

Pat Byrne, an Irish singer songwriter who now lives in Austin, Texas, will play May 7 with Beat Root Revival with the support of local group Meadow Makers at Heartbreak House, 229 N. Block Ave. in Fayetteville. The show is part of the NWA Sessions by Black Fret in partnership with The House of Songs. (Courtesy Photo)

Black Fret is currently opening a chapter in Denver and also has a chapter in Seattle. The member-based organization hosts both private and public local events and will launch a pilot series of concerts in Northwest Arkansas that will feature local musicians such as Auralai, Rachel Ammons, BAANG, Jasper Logan and Willi Carlisle who will support acts out of Austin, Seattle and beyond. The Black Fret lineup includes artists like Graham Wilkinson, Sydney Wright, Kalu James, Shaina Shepherd, Tony Kamel, Blk Odyssy, Pat Byrne, Beat Root Revival, Western Youth and more.

“I’ve spent a lot of time in [Northwest Arkansas] in the last three years and know the musical history of the area,” says Kendrick, who sits on the board for The House of Songs. “I think you have exceptional musicians in the region that are not gaining access to the national music industry as much as they could. And also, I think there’s an opportunity to to create tour routes from Austin, through Northwest Arkansas, through Colorado on up to Seattle, and a way to sort of bring exceptional music into the area. And also give your musicians the ability to export out.”

“My band [Western Youth] was a Black Fret recipient in 2019, so I knew it from the artist’s standpoint, as well as the nonprofit organizational standpoint,” says Graham Weber, program director for The House of Songs. He explains that his organization shares in Black Fret’s mission to help artists who are working hard and trying to “help themselves” to create a sustainable career. “My big thing is trying to get artists paid and create new networking opportunities for them and new opportunities for them to showcase and perform their art for new audiences.”

For the current series of concerts, Kendrick explains, “we’re doing six weekends, 12 concerts. And during that period of time, we’ll be talking to attendants and local residents about their interest in establishing a Black Fret chapter in the region. If we can get 100 individuals to say that sounds like a hell of a good idea, we will work on launching a chapter up there — a full chapter up there would be able to provide grants to local artists, as well as plug them into a national advisory board and national touring musicians that could really be a game-changer.”

Black Fret is actively seeking interest from Northwest Arkansas residents in pledging to join a local chapter. Details are available at Anyone interested in assisting with Black Fret’s efforts to create a chapter here or continue national expansion can email Kendrick at


Western Youth will play a show with Rachel Ammons and Arkansauce on May 14 at the Railyard in Rogers as part of the NWA Sessions by Black Fret and The House of Songs. Black Fret, a nonprofit that supports musicians based on the symphony patronage model, is a member-based service that is launching a pilot to see if community members are interested in investing in local music through the organization. (Courtesy Photo)


NWA Sessions

The “NWA Sessions” free public shows by Black Fret and the House of Songs will be the first and second weekends from March to May. RSVP for tickets and get more information at

March 12 — Shaina Shepherd with supporting act BAANG at Interform Fashion Week After Party in 21C Ballroom, Bentonville.

April 1 — Tony Kamel with supporting act Willi Carlisle at George’s Majestic Lounge in Fayetteville.

April 8 — Blk Odyssy with supporting acts BAANG and Jasper Logan at Kingfish, 262 N. School Ave. in Fayetteville.

May 7 — Pat Byrne & Beat Root Revival with supporting act Meadow Makers at Heartbreak House, 229 N. Block Ave. in Fayetteville.

May 14 — Western Youth joins local acts Arkansauce and Rachel Aamons at Railyard Live, 101 E Cherry St. in Rogers.

Categories: Music