Origin and support:
Thoroughly woven into the fabric of a welcoming community, Grassroots Concerts has for more than a quarter century presented live music from artists who have put us on the national folk map. Our success is due to volunteers and audiences who like to listen.
The series is rooted in the era of river fests and house concerts, evolving beyond river bank and living room to serve larger gatherings in a sustainable schedule of spring and fall Fridays. Remaining dedicated to the intimacy and interactive environment, Grassroots has drawn music lovers to shows hosted in civic halls, churches, and for several years the Nisswa Community Center.
Now hosted at Journey Church's Live Well Nightclub and Coffee Bar in Nisswa, the non-profit series holds the line on the price of admission thanks to grant support from the Five Wings Arts Council, a regional authority periodically using tax revenue approved by Minnesota voters.
"Artists love our series, love the acoustic venue, appreciate not playing in a bar, and love that people are listening," said Dawn Stattine, artistic director, who books the performers.
Audience members have driven from as far as Saskatchewan, Canada, and routinely attend from the Twin Cities and most consistently from a radius of about 60 miles.
Among the treasured relationships with everyone involved is that with Journey Church, which provides a comfortable setting more like a living room than a sanctuary, complete with locally roasted Stonehouse Coffee and baked goodies. The concert series helps Journey maintain the comfortable setting and at every concert accepts food shelf donations that are shared across the area.
Other ancillary benefits that result from the series include the Friday night bump in business to Nisswa, from pizza to pub. Nisswa Motel discounts lodging for Grassroots artists.
Current board members are Katherine Davich, Maryann and Robert Eliason, Jan and John Lobben, Peter Lofstrom, and Dawn and Joe Stattine.
More than 100 musicians since 1988 have graced the Grassroots stage, including several who return when asked. Many don't ordinarily play concerts in communities with a population under 1,000. For this series, they will take a detour.
They often perform alone, with instrumentation perfected in countless gigs across the globe. Individual artist styles have included Celtic, Bluegrass, South African, New Age, and Blues. There's even been Canadian step-dancing (April Verch).
They have commanded larger fees and attracted thousands in a single show (Leo Kottke, the late Richie Havens, Greg Brown), but know the special energy and love to be shared among 150 to 200 seriously interested fans on these special Friday nights.
A complete list of past performers and the dates they played our series is on the Previous Artists page of this website.
"I love to hear a good story, and folk musicians all have that in their songwriting," says Janice Bradshaw, one of the concert series originators. "They tell the stories of their lives, of the people they meet and the places they've been."
"When Tom Paxton's wife said our sound system ran as well as the best, that said a lot," recalls Ron Miles, former artistic director. "Artists value the listening venue. Occasionally, one is moved to debut a song. Paxton did." ("There Was No Time to Say Good-Bye")