On Saturday, Sept. 19, ticket purchasers will have the opportunity to enjoy the Beckley Art Center’s (BAC) first virtual, prerecorded concert “Songs & Folklore,” a collection of music and history of the early blues in the American Midwest and South, performed by Jonathan Hawkins.
Originally from Point Pleasant, West Virginia, Hawkins, who now resides in Washington D.C., discovered a love for music at a young age, joining his first band in the eighth grade.
Almost immediately after graduating high school, the musician pursued his career further by attending music school and from there he started expanding his portfolio and musical tastes as a touring singer-songwriter and instrumentalist.
After being hired for corporate commercial contracts, performing three international Broadway tours and working as a featured cruise line musician, Hawkins made the choice to focus on his personal musical journey.
“A few years back, I decided that I wanted to focus on my own goals outside of chasing commercial gigs. I wanted to make an effort to put more time into my year playing my solo act or playing with my band,” Hawkins said, adding that this desire to develop his own style resulted in his “Songs & Folklore” show.
“I came up with this little mixture of my journey musically. It highlights the styles that most influenced me and my writing like fingerstyle blues, jazz, Spanish and Brazilian guitar and Latin guitar.”
While Hawkins will be performing some original music, he will also be playing tunes that he learned on the road, as well as music by some of the “greats” of the American songbook, including Mance Lipscomb, Mississippi John Hurt, Rev. Gary Davis, Skip James, Furry Lewis, Scraper Blackwell and others.
During his show, Hawkins will explore the common themes between each genre as they gained popularity during their respective times.
“The act is a melting pot of influences," he said. "It’s music history but it’s also my history.”
According to Executive Director of the BAC Robby Moore, the show was originally meant to be a live performance held in the gallery but had to be adjusted to a virtual performance because of Covid-19.
While this is the center’s first virtual musical endeavor, Moore is hopeful for a good turnout.
“I think the show will be a great event for music lovers and for people who love history. It’s perfect for students learning about the origins of music and what that means for the music we play today.”
Not only is the performance a first for the art center, but it is also a new experience for Hawkins, who shared that he has never sat down to record an entire set before this.
“I do a lot of demo music videos, so in terms of setting up a room for recording, I have done that plenty of times. This is the first time I have actually done a full performance video and I am really looking forward to that aspect of the show. When you are live, the show is the show and what happens, happens but with this, I was able to sit down and tweak things and work on the post-production which was really interesting.”
As for the show itself, after purchasing tickets through the BAC, ticket holders will receive a link to view the 45-minute-long performance.
The performance, which will be Hawkins’ first solo performance since March, will be available to view for 24 hours.
Anyone who purchases a ticket will automatically be entered in a merch giveaway hosted by Hawkins. The winners, who have the chance to win t-shirts, hoodies, stickers, can koozies or one of the musician’s CDs, will be announced on October 3.
“This feels kind of like a folk revival but a personal revival as well," Hawkins said. "I’m really looking forward to this performance- its rhythmically driven, heavy guitar-driven music featuring percussion, fingerstyle guitar and two-hand tapping. It celebrates the small, local customs that end up becoming a national identity.”