The Hallberg Center for the Arts and Songwriters
Less than a year after acquiring the old church and establishing the Hallberg Center for the Arts, board member and founding member, Andrew Spreck approached me (Eric Peterson) wanting to start up something called Songwriters in the Round.
I had no idea what he was talking about. So, he explained to me that it was a format that would bring three songwriters on stage, then take turns performing their original music.
(A note… I asked Andrew if he could give me a title for the performances something a little more exciting that I could help market, but Andrew held firm… it had to be Songwriters in the Round)
Intrigued, Andrew and I brought it to the board and received unanimous approval.
This format would help fill a void for songwriters, many of whom, to make a little money and express their love of music, would need to perform at venues performing various cover songs written by other famous musicians.
We were able to write a sound system into a grant. When we’d purchase the building there were wires coming from under the “stage” area. Andrew recognized it as a “snake” which was a cable that could be used for musicians to plug in their mics and instruments, carry the signal to a amp/mixer which would then send the music on to the speakers that we had acquired. Determined to make this work, Andrew (a pretty lean guy) crawled through a door in the office, and under the stage (with about a 9 or 10” total clearance) and retrieved the snake.
We were ready to go. On February 24 2016 the first Songwriters in the Round kicked off with Greg Stein, Paul Dennison and Andrew Spreck. Every three months, we brought in songwriters from across Minnesota (and Wisconsin) to perform their original music. One of the earlier songwriters stated in a conversation with teary eyes, “I’ve been writing music since 1967 and this was the first time people came to hear just his original music.”
Andrew continued to coordinate and run the sound system for Songwriters in the Round, long after he’d left the Wyoming Area Creative Arts Community Board of Directors bringing in 62 songwriters to the Hallberg Center for the Arts. In 2019, Andrew stepped back to pursue other projects. Realizing the importance of this series to the organization, Kirk (Breeze) Larson and Jess Eischens stepped in to continue the series.
It should be noted that before Gene Hallberg got involved supporting the Songwriters series, all these musicians made their way to Wyoming, MN and performed with no compensation. Just a few tips and occasionally had a CD sale or two.
The frequency under Breeze and Jess was gradually upped to every other month, and this year, the still impactful Songwriters in the Round is becoming a monthly event. And now, thanks for the Hallberg Family, the art center is now able to compensate the songwriters for their appearances in Songwriters in the Round.