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Surprise! Provo is home to a thriving music scene

Published: Thursday, Aug. 1 2013 5:00 p.m. MDT

Tyler Glenn of Neon Trees performs with Cristal Ramirez of The Blue Aces at the July 2013 Rooftop Concert Series. The series is held the first Friday of every month May through October and features local talent.

Justin Hackworth, Justin Hackworth Photgraphy

PROVO — One day while shopping, Provo resident and blogger C. Jane Kendrick couldn’t help but overhear two college students making fun of her hometown.

“They were saying, ‘Who would actually live in Provo?’ and ‘Yeah, it’s just a spot that you pass by on I-15.’” Kendrick laughed.

And it should be comical. For one thing, Kendrick spends the first Friday of the month dancing on a rooftop in downtown Provo and listening to local artists, along with thousands of other people. Hardly something to just pass by.

“I wanted to tell them there’s a lot they just don’t know about Provo,” Kendrick said.

The city's thriving music scene flies in the face of the stereotypical image of Provo. With acts like Imagine Dragons, Neon Trees, Fictionist, Lindsey Stirling, Ryan Innes, Joshua James, Isaac Russell, The New Electric Sound and The Moth and the Flame (to name a few) reaching national and international acclaim with top 40 hits, cross-country tours and millions of views on YouTube, one can’t help but wonder what smalltown Provo is doing right.

Several elements have contributed to the rapid growth, success and uniqueness of the music scene. Notable among these is the revitalization of downtown Provo, the creation of more opportunities for local artists to perform, the refusal of music venues to sell alcohol and the influence of the local culture.

“There is just something about here and now that is making it work," said Kendrick, who is also one of the founders and sponsors of Provo’s Rooftop Concert Series and a self-proclaimed promoter of Provo. "There is an energy going on in Provo that hasn’t been here before.”

Downtown

In 2009, the city approved a series of new development projects and created new committees in a conscious effort to revitalize downtown Provo and make it “historically new” (see www.downtownprovo.org). Already host to many old but well-preserved buildings, the construction of Zions Bank Financial Center, the Utah Valley Convention Center, the FrontRunner train station and more free parking have helped draw more people downtown.

With the upcoming expansion of the Nu Skin Innovation Center (a project that has been in the works for several years) to keep up with the company's growing popularity, a new temple for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the recent announcement of Google Fiber — which will offer free basic broadband to every residence in Provo as well as the option to upgrade to speeds of 1 Gb/second — the downtown renovation is picking up even more speed.

One of the newly formed committees was named “Center Focus: A Vision and Plan for Downtown Provo,” (see www.provo.org/redev.centerfocus.html) and had to do simply with the cultural identity of downtown. A group of private citizens — made up of Kendrick, singer/songwriter Mindy Gledhill, photographer Justin Hackworth, music manager Sarah Wiley and others familiar with the music scene — was asked to help think of ideas and ways to get people to take advantage of all downtown had to offer. One of their ideas resulted in the Provo Rooftop Concert Series, where local artists with followings are invited to perform on a rooftop on 100 North and 100 West. Now in its fourth season, the popular series brings in thousands of guests every summer.

“The Rooftop Concert Series has been huge for Provo,” said Sam Schultz of Sammy’s, a café across the street, who also shares a passion for and actively participates in the music scene as a manager for musicians like Innes and consultant and sponsor for numerous bands.

Provo was named as one of America’s Most Livable Cities in 2010 by forbes.com, and more recently as one of livability.com’s Top 10 Downtowns of 2012.

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