VNMF: The Art Creating a Music Festival in the Midst of a Pandemic

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Spring and summer are typically chockfull of opportunities for budding media professionals: music festivals to cover or organize, internships with record labels and PR firms, and perhaps most importantly to this region, the Nelsonville Music Festival. Ohio University students usually have ample opportunities to utilize the four-day festival in a professional development capacity by working with Stuart’s Opera House, the Ohio University School of Media Arts & Studies, or WOUB Public Media.

Just a few weeks into March 2020, the COVID-19 crisis forced the cancellation of all major events, including the Nelsonville Music Festival. Due to the highly contagious nature of the novel virus, public health officials deemed it unsafe to mingle with those from outside of one’s immediate household, let alone participate in mass gatherings.

“In the wake of (COVID-19) we had a pretty wide swath of students and recent graduates who were affected because of their internships and jobs being wiped out,” said Ohio University School of Media Arts & Studies director Josh Antonuccio, who soon began brainstorming ways for the beloved Nelsonville Music Festival to “find a life online” while simultaneously making up for some of the missed professional opportunities the COVID-19 crisis created.

Antonuccio worked to create a series of paid media production internships and temporary job positions for students and recent graduates and took the idea to Stuart’s Opera House artistic director Tim Peacock. Peacock was “thrilled,” and a team of student and recently graduated media producers, under the on-the-grounds guidance of Antonuccio and Ohio University School of Media Arts & Studies faculty Andie Walla and Brian Plow (with the remote assistance of WOUB producers Evan Shaw, Adam Rich, and Emily Votaw,) began designing and creating the Virtual Nelsonville Music Festival experience that will stream on Stuart’s YouTube page August 21-22.


The festival will include sessions from regional artists filmed by the aforementioned Ohio University crew, as well as submitted performances from artists who have performed at the Nelsonville Music Festival in the past. Regional performers include Counterfeit Madison, Snarls, The D-Rays, Lisa Bella Donna, Caitlin Kraus, Water Witches, CAAMP, Angela Perley, Hot Tuna, and Stuart’s After School Rock Band. Todd Snider, Lydia Loveless, Shovels & Rope, Mandolin Orange, Bedouine, Steve Poltz, Leggy, Ernie Johnson From Detroit, Haley Heynderickx, Tré Burt, Vieux Farka Touré, Steve Poltz, Tank & the Bangas, Hubby Jenkins, Michael Hurley, and Joan Shelley have all submitted pre-recorded sessions that will be included in the festival stream.

Listen to WOUB Culture’s conversation with Antonuccio and Chloe Musick, the Marketing and Public Relations Director at Stuart’s Opera House and the Nelsonville Music Festival, embedded above.

The Virtual Nelsonville Music Festival is produced by Stuart’s Opera House, WOUB Public Media, the Scripps College of Communication and the Ohio University School of Media Arts and Studies, in partnership with OU Performing Arts, the Ohio University Center for Entrepreneurship, and the Haden DeRoberts Foundation.