Agency for Change - Spencer Munson and Shannon Claire, Lincoln Calling » KidGlov

Announcer:

Welcome to Agency for Change, a podcast from KidGlov that brings you the stories of changemakers, who are actively working to improve our communities. In every episode, we’ll meet with people who are making a lasting impact in the places we call home.

Lyn Wineman:

Hi everyone, this is Lyn Wineman, president of KidGlov. And welcome to another episode of the Agency for Change podcast. Today’s guests, Spencer Munson and Shannon Claire are both involved in Lincoln Calling, which is a great nonprofit organization focused on advancing arts, music and education. Spencer, you are the director and Shannon, you’re the development and communications manager. And I’m really eager to talk with both of you today, learn more about the great impact you are making on the Lincoln community and hear more about this great event you have coming up shortly as well. So let’s get started by just talking about Lincoln Calling. And Spencer, let’s start with you. What’s the history of the organization? Tell us a little bit about the mission and just some more information about the event itself.

Spencer Munson:

Yeah, Lincoln Calling started very much as a DIY event by a friend of mine named Jeremy Buckley, with a little bit of funding from the Daily Nebraskan.

Lyn Wineman:

Amazing what you can do with a big dream and a little bit of funding, right?

Spencer Munson:

Right, what started out as 20 bands over two days has now evolved into about 75 bands-

Lyn Wineman:

Holy cow.

Spencer Munson:

Over three days. At one point, we even probably eclipsed a hundred different musical acts as part of Lincoln Calling. For the first probably six or eight years, it was very much in that DIY realm and realized that it just continued to grow. More venues, more bands, then legitimized it into an LLC, in which we started raising sponsors and getting larger and larger acts. It started out, I believe, as a local or regional festival and now we’re pulling acts from all over the world.

Lyn Wineman:

That’s amazing.

Spencer Munson:

Yeah, and over the last seven years, we’ve decided we wanted to kind of take a different path and be more of a nonprofit service aspect as part of the festival. So not only providing entertainment, but providing a platform for community conversation, arts engagement and now digital media creation.

Lyn Wineman:

Fantastic.

Spencer Munson:

Yeah, so as a mission, I guess we’re a nonprofit organization that advances music and art and innovation through immersive cultural experiences, education and creative community activation. I don’t have that memorized. I did pull that up. I need to memorize it. The executive director should have that memorized.

Lyn Wineman:

We’re not on video, you didn’t even have to admit that. I love that you did.

Spencer Munson:

And we’ve had a lot of amazing help through the years and we have amazing venues in downtown Lincoln that have been excellent. We have five really great brick and mortar spaces. We’ve had lots of support from the city, the chamber, a lot of businesses that have investment in Lincoln’s future. I also think, in the last few years, it’s been really exciting to get investment from the university as well. We’ve been collaborating with various departments at the university. And then we’ve been very fortunate to have some other local nonprofit partners that have really helped us excel. The, what was Hear Nebraska which is now the Bay and Rabble Mill, the Nonprofit Hub, aka, the Foundry. As well as some of our local radio KZUM has been really supportive and the Downtown Lincoln Association have been really excellent so.

Lyn Wineman:

That’s a great list of partners.

Spencer Munson:

Yeah, it is.

Lyn Wineman:

I think people are really, really excited for the event. I think they’re really hungry for something fun like this to do. So Shannon, I was, of course, peeking at the Lincoln Calling website and my team wants me to let you know, they love the design by the way, so people should check it out. And I noticed there’s a clear and transparent focus on D-E-N-I with both the organization and the event. Can you tell me more about this vision?

Shannon Claire:

Yeah, absolutely. So, with Lincoln Calling being around for as long as it has been, it’s obviously evolved and grown just as we have kind of as a society, right. And I think in the last definite like five to seven years, just organically, we really made diversity and artistic expression and educational programming a priority. And I think also given the last year and a half, we all have kind of survived through. We also recognized during the time of the global pandemic and then of course, all the civil unrest that unfortunately, but also fortunately took place last year, we recognized that we needed to come out and essentially have a statement. Be able to give a commitment to our community, to let them know that yes, for prior years, about a handful of prior years before 2020, we were organically moving in this direction to where people would see 60% of our lineup would support BIPOC artists, LGBTQ+ artists. So that we were serving a community but we’re also representing the community that is often underheard and underrepresented.

Shannon Claire:

And so moving forward, we’ve definitely done the work as an organization to decentralize our team. We have so many wonderful contributors and board members to make up the great organization that Lincoln Calling now is. And we’re really looking forward to being able to learn from our community, continuing to learn and grow from the artists and educators that also are participants of the festival.

Lyn Wineman:

That is such a great aspect and I’m glad you said that because it’s been, the last 18 months have really been something, right. But I do believe some good things have come out of it. And so I’m glad you mentioned that. But COVID did affect a lot of things and unfortunately still is, but affected how organizations reach and engage the community. Knowing that’s a big part of the Lincoln Calling event and the organization having exposure to the artists and musicians and creatives, how did you overcome that challenge in the last year? And how are you thinking about that for this year’s festival?

Spencer Munson:

I think when we developed Lincoln Calling into a nonprofit, we had a long-term goal of being a year-round organization, being an organization that I think also was digital media creation, was educating the youth in new media and event production. And the pandemic just sped that up for us. What was a five-year plan we fit into a year.

Lyn Wineman:

Wow.

Spencer Munson:

In which we were creating digital content on a regular basis, producing digital festivals, holding regular community conversation and civic engagement forums, because we realized that we had this platform and we needed to be able to utilize it. We had the know-how to be able to make that move quickly. And I think rose to the challenge. And I’m really fortunate that we’ve been able to surround ourself, our team stepped up to the challenge with honestly, very little compensation in a lot of ways. And we found friends within our community that had the know-how and everybody came together and we made it happen. And we turned it into something that’s not like you said, I think we started the Lincoln calling started as an event. And now it is very much a fully operational and year-round operational organization that we’re creating content, we’re educating interns that are interested in this kind of work. And we are having difficult, sometimes, and important conversations around issues that are facing our community.

Lyn Wineman:

Yeah, yeah, that is, you’re right. A lot of these conversations are not comfortable and it would be very easy and it is very easy sometimes to just say, I’m just not going to go there because I don’t want to mess it up, right. But they need to be had and you’re providing people a forum. Shannon, how about you. Any thoughts on how COVID impacted the organization or the event?

Shannon Claire:

Well, I mean, Spencer said it. It definitely allowed for us grow quicker in the sense of growing up quicker. And right now, even so as we’re planning on 2021s event, it’s kind of, okay, we just saw that. I just saw right now that the risk dial has moved up into orange. And so how does that look moving forward in terms of how this year’s event will look and we’re definitely looking forward to being able to make Lincoln Calling happen. And we know, as you said earlier, the community is looking forward to it as well.

Shannon Claire:

And we have such a great group of contributors and staff and board members right now that are connected to so many different facets of the community that it really helps and allows us, myself and Spencer, be able to kind of figure out how to navigate this landscape that, granted, we did it last year and it was kind of on the fly and we just made it happen with the digital experience. Now it’s like, okay, we have that experience. Now we know what to kind of plan for. And now we just kind of got to wait and see a little bit. And I think also with community coming out and really speaking up and letting us know what they feel comfortable with, we’re definitely taking that into consideration too.

Lyn Wineman:

That’s great. I mean, honestly, I have to ask you. How stressful is it to plan an event when in this environment, right? We’re all just kind of watching that dial tick up a bit, but yet a good percentage of the population has been vaccinated. And I didn’t mean to make this a conversation about vaccines, but that has to be a lot of stress, right?

Spencer Munson:

It is. And I think what we’re doing too is also seeing what a lot of other like-minded festivals are doing, especially ones that are going to be scheduled over the next few months. And I think that’s giving us some excellent guidance. Not only CDC, our own city, our own team, but doing the research about those peer festivals. And I think we’re going to draw a hard line on the vaccinations and require them with your ticket, potentially require a test as well. Probably ask folks to mask inside, but allowing and creating for various options so that people can have their own comfort level. They can be outside if they wish, they can choose the distance they want to be apart from each other. And I think it’s just allowing and creating a safe environment that people can choose their comfort levels within.

Lyn Wineman:

That’s great to know that you’re doing that research and doing that work. Can we switch to the fun part of the event?

Spencer Munson:

Yeah.

Lyn Wineman:

All right, thinking about the upcoming Lincoln Calling, could you just talk more, tell us more about the event, and I love each of you to tell, what are you really most excited about. And Shannon, let’s start with you and then go to Spencer.

Shannon Claire:

Well, I mean, we always have, I really think just a smashing lineup of musical performances. And this year, granted of course too, based on the last year and a half, we’ve definitely had to pivot a little bit in terms of our budget and who we’re bringing to Lincoln and things like that. But the festival has always embodied supporting emerging artists. And I feel like this year is super representative of that. And being able to reinvest the funds that we’ve been able to put together for this festival to support the artists that have been impacted the most by the last 18 months with the pandemic.

Shannon Claire:

And so we’ve supported a lot of regional acts. We’ve supported a lot of local Nebraska acts, some of the best Nebraska acts that I think you could come across. And for me what’s really exciting about that is, we’ve talked about it in our mission and a lot of our talking points as an organization is seeing our local acts kind of live out their dreams a little bit, of being on the same stage with performers that they listen to or that they admire and look up to. And so we have a lot of great shows, our showcases, even where we have headliners that are set up to where they have supporting acts that are super fans of the headliners of that stage. So to see them be able to share a stage with a national act, that’s something that I always eager about and love being a part of to make happen.

Lyn Wineman:

Oh, yeah, sounds like a musician’s bucket list to me, right?

Shannon Claire:

Yeah.

Lyn Wineman:

How about you, Spencer? What are you excited about?

Spencer Munson:

This year we tried something new, I think because we couldn’t go out and maybe get some of the bigger names and we wanted to be careful about flying a ton of artists in. We really went out and found really interesting partners to create showcases, which we’ve never really done. Maybe kind of in a south by southwest model of thinking about different organizations that are impacting our community, music labels, community centers, places of business. And so this year we have, I think, six different showcases. We have a big EDM showcase with a crew called Black Magic that’s just doing excellent work on putting on big dance parties. We’re working with Vision Maker Media, which is a branch of Nebraska Public Media. They’re celebrating their 45th anniversary of putting on the largest native film festival in the country.

Spencer Munson:

And so we’re presenting a whole stage of native artists, which I’m really excited about. We’re working with a music label in Kansas City called The Record Machine, which our local favorites Tuffee are a big part of. So they put out a new album and then we’re going to feature other highlighted artists on that label. We are also working with CompanyCam and they hire a bunch of musicians. So we’re having a little CompanyCam showcase. As well as The Culture House, which is a really cool community organization in north Omaha that has been doing amazing things for their community as far as giving youth the opportunity to learn new media, create music, create art. And they just partnered with Saddle Creek Records, which is a long time, well-known Nebraska label to put out an entire music compilation, featuring a gentleman named Marcey Yates, who’s the founder of Culture House and all of his musical partners that he has in Omaha. So really excited to put that showcase element as part of the festival this year, which is new.

Lyn Wineman:

That’s a really interesting concept. If people could see me, I’m smiling ear to ear, I just cannot wait. I cannot wait. Now, I’m really curious. So one thing we like to talk about on the podcast is, how did your paths lead you to this place, right? How does someone get involved in something so fun and engaging like this? And Shannon, let’s start with you. What was your path like to get here?

Shannon Claire:

Well, I think, so for myself, so I’m not from here originally. I was not born and raised in Lincoln, Nebraska, and I’ve lived here now for 11 years. And when I first got here, I was just kind of like, what do I do in Lincoln, Nebraska? And all of a sudden, through a couple of folks that I knew, I discovered the art community and it just sucked me in. And I think the one thing that’s so great about Lincoln is how attainable things are here in the sense of, if you just do a little work and have a little bit of, a little conversation with some folks-

Lyn Wineman:

Is true.

Shannon Claire:

You will be able to get connected to the things that you are passionate about. And for me, I’ve always been a music junkie and art junkie and I just, Nebraska in general has such a vibrant arts and culture scene and league and especially. And so I just started reaching out to people. I initially reached out to Hear Nebraska, which is now Rabble Mill and got involved there. I used to be a photographer and that’s kind of how I really got introduced into the music scene. I was photographing all the bands.

Shannon Claire:

Then I got to know Spencer. Spencer and our paths crossed. And I used to work for Casey Lamb, and the list goes on and on as you get to know everybody in the community. And I contributed to Lincoln Calling in several different types of ways over the years, but more so the past few years coming on as a contributor and then also fellow organizer now with Spencer and I love it. It’s awesome. I mean, we get to put on a great event for the community and so many people in the community too that can just literally reach out to us and say, “Hey, I want to take photos. Can I take photos?” We’re like, “Sure.” Hey, I want to put a showcase together. Okay, what’s the information. Sure, here you go. And it’s, Lincoln Calling is very much a community effort.

Lyn Wineman:

That’s fantastic. People will always, I bet people always ask you, how did you end up in Nebraska, right. How many people transplant here?

Shannon Claire:

That happens.

Lyn Wineman:

Spencer, let’s ask you a bit, what’s your story? How did you get to this role?

Spencer Munson:

Yeah, I first want to point out Shannon’s eye as a photographer really made her stand out initially. And as somebody that was putting on events and helping with events, I think everybody noticed her skillset in her eye for being a great photographer, which led her to really be invited to shoot a lot of the cool events that were going on. And eventually even curate a little local film festival that we had. And so I think she did a really excellent job of inserting herself in the scene with that skill.

Lyn Wineman:

Brought a lot of value with that in talent.

Shannon Claire:

Thanks.

Lyn Wineman:

Now you are a true Nebraska, humility is a big Nebraska thing, right.

Spencer Munson:

Mine was, I think originally came from a lot of hustles. I originally came from a design journalism background. And so I started working at a record store and got to meet a lot of people because of my nerdery love for records. And I love vinyl to this day. I buy and sell records and that’s connected me to a lot of neat people. I was also DJing a bunch. So I was playing clubs and bars and venues all over downtown, meeting people that way. And then I would go to live shows and then invite everybody over to my house and play the after parties. So you just kind of really got to meet and develop a good rapport that way. I also helped with a couple of venues and their progression, what originally was called the Box Awesome, which was a music venue that was underneath the O street overpass in downtown Lincoln.

Lyn Wineman:

Oh wow.

Spencer Munson:

It lasted for about two or three years. And then the owners decided to make a jump a step up and bought the Bourbon, the old State Theater and turned it into the Bourbon Theater. And I was part of that team in one way or another for about the first eight years of its existence.

Lyn Wineman:

That’s a really cool location.

Spencer Munson:

Yeah, from either making flyers to booking bands, to just being the point person for a particular evening, I wear a lot of hats there. And so while I was kind of working in a lot of these different industries, I was finding gaps that the community needed. One of those gaps was booking electronic and hip hop music. And so I’ve kind of filled that gap and started throwing my own parties and booking acts that I thought that Lincoln needed. And I think that took off and with legs of its own allowed me to expand my DJ reach. I was touring all over the Midwest and throwing a very successful party in Omaha at the waiting room.

Spencer Munson:

And so I think just kind of having a lot of these different hustles really allowed me to create a wide array of musical connections, which I think is a big part of what Lincoln Calling is about. It’s not about one genre or one venue. It’s very much about the community and about representing lots of genres and lots of different kinds of people. I also was fortunate to have some really great friends with great ideas, and I took those ideas I think, and helped see them to, I think, a larger idea of here’s a really cool DIY Fest that is growing and needs some legitimacy. So I was the first person to go out and really start that LLC and chase down some of those first sponsors in that early funding.

Spencer Munson:

So I think, like you said, it’s community and just kind of inserting yourself in different pieces of that community, having a community that was accessible. It wasn’t, nobody was in their own little cool kids club. I think most people were really welcoming to that energy of just wanting to be involved in one way or another. And so I think, I guess pride myself in having an enthusiasm and having a joy about me that I hope is infectious and just, I love building teams and being a part of teams and trying to bring the best out of the people around me and the community. And I think, that’s kind of where I went.

Shannon Claire:

I was just going to say to give that, reciprocate the compliment. The thing that Spencer really just shines that is being able to get people excited, excitable about what it is that he’s trying to share with them in terms of being able to again, bring people together. And yeah, he has a very infectious nature. I mean, his laugh alone is amazing.

Shannon Claire:

However, I again, have worked with Spencer in some fashion for almost 10 years now and seeing how he navigates conversations and how he can wear so many different hats and be able to, he’s very adaptable. So he can talk to pretty much anybody and connect with them and be able to get them to engage. And I think that’s super valuable, especially when you’re putting on community events is to be able to have relatable conversations that when you’re essentially what you’re pitching to sponsors or you’re reaching out to participants and hiring staff, whoever, being able to see he can relate the information that the other can see themselves in this event or in this organization, which is really special.

Lyn Wineman:

I could see why the two of you make a great team and how get all of this work done. I mean, my takeaway from both of your journeys is that you each followed your interests and your passion, but you hustle. I like the word hustle. You both worked at it to get more involved, but yet you found a community that opened their arms to you as well. And I think that’s great about Lincoln, great about the arts community in general too. So I’m going to ask you the question next that I ask everybody. I love this question because people who know me know that I really I’m inspired by inspirational quotes. And I get to talk to a lot of really smart people and a lot of them are really humble about it, but I think they’ve great words of wisdom. So Shannon, I’m going to go to you first. Once again, can’t see you Shannon but she’s–

Spencer Munson:

Shaking her head like–

Lyn Wineman:

It’s going to be fabulous. It’s going to be fabulous. Shannon, give us just a few words of wisdom to take with us.

Shannon Claire:

Well, I don’t have like a one-off cool catchy thing, right. But I think just in terms of reflection and words of wisdom, being able to just humble yourself and listen to other people and to their experiences. And also being able to share and communicate your own. I think being able to do both of those things can really set you up not only for success, but again, to be able to be adaptable. And I think being adaptable is one of the most important things, one of the most important characteristics to be able to have in almost any given situation. A sense of understanding.

Lyn Wineman:

I love that. I love that because I can see that in the event too, right. I can see that humility, that listening, the sharing, the communicating, I see all of that in the work that you’re doing. And I think that’s really great. All right, Spencer, you’re on the hot seat.

Spencer Munson:

All right, I’m going to go like hella cliche.

Lyn Wineman:

I know.

Spencer Munson:

Everything is better with music.

Lyn Wineman:

Everything is better with music, I love it. That would make a great bumper sticker. Although people don’t use bumper stickers anymore. And that dates me for sure. I love it. Everything is better with music.

Spencer Munson:

I think one of the greatest joys that I have is sharing new music and art with somebody and watching them get an immense amount of joy from it. And I think that more people need to be open to that discovery and that sharing of music and art.

Lyn Wineman:

Yeah, that’s great.

Lyn Wineman:

I know, I’ve heard a lot of people during the pandemic talk about turning to music when they needed a pick me up or a little bit of calming, right. We spent so much time alone that music has become an important part of that. So absolutely.

Spencer Munson:

It can shed your anxiety. It can give you energy. It can turn your day around. It’s really been a life saver during the pandemic.

Lyn Wineman:

A hundred percent, a hundred percent. So for our listeners that would like to learn more about the event or the organization, how can they find you? How can they find that beautiful website?

Shannon Claire:

Yeah, just go to lincolncalling.com and you’ll see the beautiful website, beautiful homepage. Big shout out to our designer, Audrey is a local designer.

Lyn Wineman:

Nice.

Shannon Claire:

And-

Spencer Munson:

Looking for a job.

Shannon Claire:

Yeah, you can hit up our website and everything’s laid out real nice, really user-friendly. You’re curious about what our COVID precautions are going to be, we have a health and safety tab there. We have a music tab where you can go in and find out information about our artists. You can kind of do a deep dive and find out who’s performing, where they’re from, what have they been working on and check out their music as well. And then we have an art section and education section too that has all of our programming in it. And if you want to find out more history about the organization, that’s on there too.

Lyn Wineman:

Fantastic, that’s great.

Spencer Munson:

I do encourage folks to check out some of our social media too. I think our Instagram is really strong right now, highlighting a lot of the artists and what their past histories are. And we also created all this amazing content over the last two years that is being housed on our YouTube channel. And that’s what we call Lincoln Calling TV.

Lyn Wineman:

Lincoln Calling TV on YouTube. That sounds like a lot of fun. All right, fantastic. So as we wrap up our time together today, could you each tell me what is the most important thing you would like our listeners to know about Lincoln Calling, the event and the work that you’re doing?

Shannon Claire:

Sure, well, Spencer kind of touched on this a little bit is the discovery aspect and what I’ve always taken away from it as an organizer in recent years is hearing so many people. Once they go, they’re bopping around from venue to venue. Oh, I never have heard of this band before. Oh, I didn’t know this band was from Omaha. Oh, I didn’t know this band was from Lincoln. The discovery aspect being open to maybe you see the light and you’re like, I have no idea who any of these artists are. Well, taking that chance and just coming out and being a part of the community and being a part of an event that’s 18 years strong now and being open to learn and discover maybe something even about yourself within that experience of the festival.

Lyn Wineman:

That’s great. That’s great. How about you, Spencer?

Spencer Munson:

I guess I would like to see, I mean, one of our goals in the past few years is to create more public art as part of the festival. We’ve created probably five or six murals around downtown Lincoln. And I think there needs to be more modern, public art, more street art, if you will. And I think I hope that Lincoln gets on board with that more. And I hope that folks realize that it’s very important for the community and that you support that public art aspect.

Lyn Wineman:

That is fantastic. That makes people really happy. It builds pride, it creates thought and conversation, which is wonderful. Well, Spencer and Shannon, I am going to say I’m so excited for the event and I really do believe the world needs more people like the two of you. So thanks for spending some time with us today.

Shannon Claire:

Thank you so much.

Announcer:

We hope you enjoyed today’s Agency for Change podcast. To hear all our interviews with those who are making a positive change in our communities, or to nominate a change maker you’d love to hear from, visit kidglov.com at K-I-D-G-L-O-V.com to get in touch. As always, if you like what you’ve heard today, be sure to rate, review, subscribe, and share. Thanks for listening. And we’ll see you next time.

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