Listen Up Brunswick County: Good Music & Good Deeds
PHOTOGRAPHY BY Genie Leigh Photography
Listen Up Brunswick County started with a passion and came to life thanks to good-old-fashioned hard work. Now in its third year, it has hit its stride, with its first sold out concert in January. And Listen Up Brunswick County has some big plans for its future.
Jeannie Dufour and her husband moved to Supply from Connecticut a few years ago. They were looking for a place to retire and they loved Supply as it reminded them of their town in Connecticut (with more warm days). It had everything they were looking for, except the perfect place to hear exceptional live music. She craved an intimate venue where seats were provided and felt as though Wilmington was quite a drive for a lot County residents. After talking to friends, Dufour realized she wasn’t alone in her wishes, so Dufour decided to launch Listen Up Brunswick County.
While back in Connecticut, Dufour attended live music events on a regular basis, including some festivals she speaks highly of. Eventually, she began taking notes on musicians she loved. When she decided to take the leap into event planning and booking musical acts in North Carolina, she already knew which artists she should focus on.
At first, it was hard. Dufour said that most musicians and booking agents hadn’t heard of Brunswick County. But today, thanks to Listen Up Brunswick County, that’s changed.
“Getting performers to come to Brunswick County is no longer an obstacle. The word is spreading and we are now on the touring map,” Dufour shares.
One would assume given her talent at sniffing out good music that the director of Listen Up Brunswick County is an avid musician herself. But when asked about this, Dufour laughs, “No, I am a listener! You can’t be a musician if you don’t have fans, so that’s my role!”
But Dufour has a good ear and doesn’t limit herself to a genre. Although all bands at Listen Up Brunswick County are considered “Americana,” that’s a wide definition.
“I have a long list of people I’ve heard before, or have heard on the radio, that we think would be a fit. We try to have some diversity, blues and maybe country, bluegrass, pop… We’re kind of all over the place. But we have some musicians, like The Kennedys, that are so popular they come back every year. This year is their fourth appearance with us.”
Listen Up Brunswick County currently concentrates most of its shows during the beginning of the year, summer being a hard time to get crowds to attend. Originally, performances were at the Holden Beach Chapel’s Fellowship Hall, but as the demand has grown, she found they wanted more space. This year, they have partnered with Brunswick County Community College, which Dufour was initially nervous about given the financial risks but has been a welcome change.
The Community College is more centrally located, the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office has graciously provided security for the events and Check Six is on site to sell beer and wine.
“The community has been really great,” Dufour adds. “[The community college] shared so much good information with us.”
But Listen Up Brunswick County doesn’t end with the amazing music they bring to the County. It is a nonprofit that focuses on giving back to the community.
Each year, Listen Up Brunswick County has identified one area nonprofit to partner with and all proceeds are donated to that organization. The first year they worked with the Brunswick County Homeless Coalition and last season and this their work will benefit the Hope Harbor Clinic.
While Listen Up Brunswick County does have a board that steers the organization and a wonderful team of volunteers, Dufour is the primary force making things happen. One of her recently completed projects was a CD compilation of artists who have played as part of Listen Up Brunswick County.
“They were all so gracious to allow us to take their original music, all fourteen songs [on the CD],” Dufour shares.
The musical acts have been so supportive, indeed, that when Vance Gilbert heard of Dufour’s intent to put together a compilation he composed an original song about Brunswick County.
Eventually, Listen Up Brunswick County will use its growth to do even more in the community. They want to encourage arts in the schools and work with Brunswick County educators to bring music into the classes more regularly. They want to have more shows through the year and sell out every show they have.
But what Dufour really wants is for people to come out to a Listen Up Brunswick County show and try it out. Dufour promises that once people come, they will be hooked.