Songs at the Center

Songs at the Center-Chris and Andy Shaw (Photo by Brian Smith)Thanks to the MAC, Natalie’s and several singer-songwriters who call this home, Worthington is quickly evolving as a songwriting center.

Worthington has long been known as a community with a rich history, unique shopping, great restaurants and a wide range of family-friendly events that take place throughout the year. More recently, however, it seems that Worthington residents have something entirely new to add to their hometown resume. The city is rapidly emerging as a songwriting center, thanks in part to the addition of popular venues like the Peggy R. McConnell Arts Center of Worthington (MAC) and Natalie’s Coal-Fired Pizza & Live Music. These venues not only know how to present music, but they are bringing artists and audiences together in a way that has never been done before in this town.

Songs at the Center is Born

Award-winning songwriter, Emmy-nominated journalist and Worthington native Eric Gnezda is a driving force behind this movement. Along with his business partners, Andy Herron and Alan Beavers, he co-founded and co-produced Songs at the Center, a weekly series of singer-songwriter performances that take place at the MAC. The performances, which are displayed across multiple media platforms, are produced in an in-the-round format. They feature three or four songwriters in a half-hour episode, with members of the audience joining the performers on stage.

It all started a few years ago with the First Tuesday Songwriter Circle, an opportunity for singer-songwriters to get together and perform on a regular basis at the MAC. As it turned out, the event attracted the talents of some of the best songwriters in Nashville. During that same time period, Charlie Jackson opened Natalie’s, which has since grown into a popular Worthington venue for live music. “The MAC and Natalie’s are both very conducive to the singer-songwriter genre, and that was the basis for all of this,” Gnezda explained.

Then Gnezda got an idea. He decided to put the performers on stage, in the center of a circle, surrounded by the audience. Songs at the Center was born. The singer-songwriter performances and interviews are taped live at the McConnell Arts Center in an intimate audience setting, and then broadcast across various platforms, including WOSU-TV (following Austin City Limits), on the website at SongsAtTheCenter.com, and via various social media outlets.

The next Songs at the Center taping will take place on January 11, 2015 at 1:30 p.m. at the MAC. Episodes are set to air for a minimum of 26 consecutive weeks on WOSU-TV beginning in January. You can also find special programming at SongsAtTheCenter.com, including extended artist interviews and much more.

What it Means for Worthington

Gnezda couldn’t be happier that this musical renaissance is taking place in his hometown. “All of this is happening where I grew up. I had behavior science class in this building,” Gnezda said about the MAC. “I lived in Colonial Hills as a child, so I grew up across from where Natalie’s is today. I have traveled all over the county as a singer-songwriter, so to think that this level of songwriting is coming to Worthington is like a weird dream.” But Gnezda is not the only successful singer-songwriter from this area. In fact, several others call this home, such as Parker MacDonell, Matt Munhall, Nicholas Williams.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for Worthington to work together to do something that has unlimited potential,” Gnezda added. “I’m really all about collaboration at this stage of my life. I want this show to be successful and for it to really show people who Worthington is and what we can accomplish together. It’s my hometown, and I’m proud of it.”

For more information about Songs at the Center, visit SongsAtTheCenter.com and sign up for the mailing list.

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