BY JOHN McCURDY / MANAGING EDITOR //
At age 29, Emory grad Russell Gottschalk is the founder and director of his own non-profit, the Atlanta Jewish Music Festival. Now in its fourth year, the showcase has ascended to new heights by securing Lisa Loeb for its Main Event, to be held March 16.
“You get someone like Lisa to be involved in our festival – and also available to do a family program in the afternoon – is probably the thing we’re most proud of this year,” Gottschalk said.
“Personally, I feel a very strong connection to Israel; I’m a Birthright alum, and I feel like the AJMF is something that may not have happened if I didn’t go on that trip,” he said. “So I’m really excited about the band Electra. They’re a group of guys from Tel Aviv, and they play some really fun music.”
The AJT had a chance to talk to Russell a bit more about just how far his brainchild has come.
Atlanta Jewish Times: When the Atlanta Jewish Music Festival was first featured in the Atlanta Jewish Times – two years ago – you guys were just getting off the ground with your second-ever festival. Catch me up on how far you guys have come in the meantime.
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Russell Gottschalk: From two years ago to this year, our biggest growth has been both upward and outward. In 2011, we had a three-day festival with three events. We’ve since made this a bigger event: last year was a five-day festival, and this year is a three-day festival, but there’s four events in three days.
We’ve also been more intentional in targeting certain demographics with these events. For example, we’re doing a jazz night for the first time this year to kick off our festival. Also, for the first time this year we’re doing a family program, which will be an opportunity for people with young children, ages 2 to 7, to engage with the AJMF.
As we continue to grow, we’ll have more opportunities to present different types of music and touch different parts of our community.
AJT: About this year’s festival – what does it mean to get an artist like Lisa Loeb to headline?
RG: I’d say Lisa is, hands-down, the most exciting thing about this fourth-annual AJMF. To get an artist of that caliber, of that level of recognition and talent, is phenomenal.
As you may know, a lot of our previous artists and many of our artists this year are more niche or emerging artists; they don’t necessarily have broad appeal across the Jewish community or the music community. Lisa Loeb is not that type of artist; Lisa has had a successful career for decades, and the fact that she had a new album come out at the end of January and is on a spring tour behind this new album really made her the perfect fit for our festival.
Now, the people opening up for Lisa – Electra and Saul Kaye – are similarly fantastic musicians. They come with a complementary styles – Kaye does Jewish blues, combining the Delta with the Torah, and Electra is an Israeli rock band, a little bit more of a harsh, grunge sound, which reflects the area of the country that they’re from.
It’s a great bill, and we’re excited to hear the music of all the people involved.
AJT: People should also know that AJMF has year-round programming. Tell me a little about the philosophy behind that.
RG: We think that programming year-round is a “win-win-win.” It allows for our community to continue to be engaged with AJMF, so it’s great for our brand.
It’s also great for the community because, as a person who loves Jewish music, I don’t want to wait 11-and-a-half months between festivals; I want to be able to enjoy Jewish music year-round, and different types of Jewish music and different artists.
Lastly, it’s great for the artists; we have such a fantastic local Jewish music community and national Jewish music community, we love to be able to support these artists as much as possible.
Visit atlantajmf.org for more information, a full schedule of events and ticket links.