Google “Music City” and you will find Nashville, Tennessee. Google “Music Island” and you find – nothing. But the way things are going, that may soon change.
Over the last few years, we’ve had an incredible increase in local musical talent; interesting new places for music making; and more stars visiting from around the country, even overseas (think the National Philharmonic Orchestra of Ukraine last winter). Jazz, chamber music, coastal country, opera, acoustic, R&B, folk … you name it, and you can find it on Amelia Island. In the course of a year, you can savor something special almost every week.
For example, in the next few months:
- Mahler folk songs with Amelia Island Opera stars, at Story & Song Center for Arts and Culture, Nov. 25-26
- Trumpet great Wynton Marsalis with The Jazz at Lincoln Center, at the First Baptist Church, Nov. 30
- “NATROM: Holiday Revue,” Motown renditions of holiday favorites with soul, at Story & Song, Dec. 9
- Assorted musicians and dancers at Dickens on Centre, downtown Fernandina Beach, Dec. 7-10
- Amelia Island Singers with “Joy to the Season,” Amelia Plantation Chapel, Dec. 15 and 17
- Crescendo Amelia Big Band Christmas shows at Amelia Community Theatre, Dec. 22-23
- Puccini’s “La Boheme” with Amelia Island Opera, at Amelia Plantation Chapel, Jan. 4
- Sean McCarthy’s Band with country, bluegrass, and rock, at Story & Song, Jan. 6
- The Magic of Mozart with the Dover Quartet, at the Ritz-Carlton, Jan. 19
All this and much more comes on the heels of the Amelia Island Dance Festival’s marvelous September programs at Amelia Community Theatre, and jazz greats in October with the Les DeMerle Amelia Island Jazz Festival, celebrating its 20th season. The Amelia Island Chamber Music Festival is now in full swing, and two new festivals are coming up: the first annual “Festival of Stories and Songs,” Feb. 2-4, at Story & Song, and the new Spring Hill Suites by Marriott; and the “Fernandina Beach Song Writers Festival,” April 12-14, at multiple locations including aboard an Amelia River cruise.
In addition to the river cruise, music can be found in surprising places these days. Recently there was jazz at the Fernandina Beach Airport; dance and music at “Arts in the Marsh” at Kayak Amelia; a renowned tap-dancer and jazz combo at First Baptist Church; and a spooky opera at Disco Witch Brewing. On tap this winter, you’ll find “Beethoven and Beer” at Mocama Beer Company; and “Songs of the Sea with the Galway Girls” at the Museum of History.
Terrific musicals take place regularly at Amelia Musical Playhouse and Amelia Community Theatre, and most days you can catch talented artists at bars and restaurants around town, such as Sean McCarthy or singer/songwriter/one-man band, Brian Ernst, when they’re between tours in the U.S. and abroad. Often, these talents are overlooked by folks who don’t frequent bars and nightclubs. But that may change as more venues welcome the arts and earlier performances.
With its comfortable “listening room,” upstairs from the bookstore/bistro, Story & Song can accommodate 125 people. Owners Mark and Donna Kaufman have always loved live music. When they moved here from Nashville in 2005, they brought a little bit of Music City with them. For 10 years, they invited favorite Nashville artists to perform in Fernandina Beach with all donations and proceeds going to the artists and host venue, Burns Hall at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church. Now, as Story & Song Center for Arts and Culture, they welcome musicians, singers, writers, and artists from near and far to dazzle and entertain almost weekly.
With top talent, diverse music, and places to enjoy it, plus easy parking and low ticket prices, Amelia Island can easily stake its claim to the moniker, “Music Island.”