MANCHESTER >> Maybe 65 really is the new 55, or even better.
Local musician and former political lobbyist Bob Stannard will attempt to test that theory next Friday, June 17, when he celebrates the big 6-5 with a birthday party/fundraiser at the Southern Vermont Arts Center. While crossing one of life's milestones and performing a concert with a group of musicians he has played with or known from earlier years, the proceeds raised from the event will go to support both the arts center and Heartworks of Vermont, a local charitable organization which aims to make a difference in the lives of families in need.
Five years ago, for his 60th birthday, Stannard performed with a group of friends at the Vermont Arts Exchange in North Bennington to support that organization. This time around, he wanted to support some Northshire-based groups or institutions, he said.
"It was an opportunity to take the sting out of turning 65 and do some nice things for some other folks," hw said.
Heartworks came to the assistance of a local family in Rupert last year whose son has been diagnosed with a disease which confines him to a wheelchair and required expensive retrofitting of their home. The organization raised $23,000 towards that end. Proceeds for the concert will be split between them and SVAC, said Renee Zobel, the development manager for the arts center. They are earmarking the funds for their performing arts programs, she added.
"It helps open our doors for the non-profit partners and area schools to use our facility," she said. "And it offers quality programming at a quality facility to present them."
But first will come some fun and music, along with some dancing on the floor of the Arkel Pavilion, where the show will be staged, Stannard said.
Stannard is a blues-oriented harmonica player who has played with several of the biggest names in the genre. Generally considered to have evolved in the Mississippi River delta out of the African-American experience of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, blues artists spread northwards during the 1940s and 1950s, making Chicago, for a time, the center of the musical style. Some of the artists of that period such as McKinley Morganfield — a.k.a "Muddy Waters" — and Chester "Howlin' Wolf" Burnett, had an enormous influence on many prominent rock musicians who emerged in the 1960s and the influence lingered for decades.
For his concert on June 17, Stannard will be bringing several acquaintances collectively dubbed "Those Dangerous Bluesmen" to the stage of the Arkel. He's dedicating the concert to David Maxwell, a friend and pianist who passed away last year, and who played piano five years ago for his 60th. This time, David Bain, another pianist will fill that role, along with Joe Moore, a saxophonist, and a group of core bandmates those who attended last January's "Ski for Heat" benefit show will recognize. They include Jeff Salisbury, Kenny B and Dennis Wilmott. Rounding out the band will be guitarists John Falk, Chris Robertson and Wesley Stannard, Bob's son.
But there's more. Bernice Lewis, a singer-songwriter from Northhamption, Mass. will also be performing, as will Gina Coleman, another singer Stannard has performed with. They will be introduced by Jonathan Goldsmith, a local resident well-known as the "world's most interesting man" from his work for Dos Equis beer.
Then there will be Big LLou Johnson, flying in from California to perform a set or more, while debuting a recently completed new album. Johnson is the voice for Sirius XM Radio's "BB King's Bluesville." He and Stannard met somewhat by accident.
They were both attending the Blues Music Awards in Memphis, Tenn. last year and their hotel roooms were next door to each other. They kept bumping into each for the following five days and realized they had a lot in common, Stannard said.
"He's coming here to do a set with the band and me — I'll be a sideman in my own band and he'll be debuting his new album," Stannard said.
Meanwhile, Stannard will also be celebrating another milestone — his election as the chairman of the board of the Vermont Arts Council. Founded in 1965, the Montpelier-based organization's mission is to advance and preserve the arts across the state. It is in the middle of a five-year plan to integrate the arts into every Vermont's student's education, as well as helping market the arts in Vermont, according to its website.
"I have some ideas on what I want to do and I hope they work work with my colleagues on the board," Stannard said of the position and organization.
Tickets are on sale now for the concert, which starts at 7 p.m. on Friday, June 17. To purchase tickets, or for more information, call the arts center at 802-362-1405 or visit svac.org. Doors will open at 6 p.m.