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Popular concert series kicks off next week

In 2004, fresh off a visit by none other than Andy Griffith as part of a ceremony unveiling the newly minted Blackmon Amphitheatre, Surry Arts Council Executive Director Tanya Jones set out on what might have been considered a quixotic project — starting a regular outdoor concert series in Mount Airy.

By regular, she meant professional bands coming to town at least weekly, if not more often.

That attempt was wildly successful. Now, nearly two decades later, the Summer Concert Series routinely brings two, even three bands, to the amphitheatre each week during the spring and summer months.

This year, the series is expanding once again, going a couple of weeks into October, with a total of 59 concerts between its opening next weekend and the final two shows on Oct. 13 and Oct. 14.

That’s not all that is new this year.

“We will have handicap access to the upper level for the first time ever, (along with) granite tables for additional seating and wheelchairs,” Jones said. There is also new space available in the Betty Wright Room, in the newly built arts center next to the amphitheatre, just across the street from the Andy Griffith Playhouse.

“The space overlooks the amphitheatre and has access to the terrace,” Jones said.

She added that the arts council also is looking to start shag dance lessons, for those beach music enthusiasts who would like to be able to hit the dance area in front of the stage at the amphitheatre.

The concert series is popular with area residents and those in nearby communities. Jones has said on many occasions it is not uncommon to find people there from Winston-Salem, Greensboro, even a few who come in from further away and stay overnight in the city when their favorite bands are appearing.

While weather can affect attendance, she said many concerts had between 600 and 700 people in attendance last year. “We sold over 550 annual passes,” she said. Those passes, $150 each, provide access to all 59 concerts for the ticketholder.

The venue has also become a popular one for bands in the Southeast.

“Bands are calling us to be part of our series,” she said during an interview in 2018. “We have become well-known among the beach music bands and fans.”

Today, that is more true than ever.

“The bands love the venue/amphitheatre,” she said. “Many have told me it’s their favorite venue.” So much so, she has come across a bit of a conundrum — she has more bands asking to come to Mount Airy and play in the series than she has availability.

It was not always this way.

Back in 2004 and 2005, when she was starting the series, the story was far different, with bands — many of them coming from communities across the South — reluctant to commit to a series they had never heard of in a relatively small town.

“It was extremely hard for me to book the bands,” Jones said. “I was trying to book the bands a year in advance and … our series had no credibility, no history,” she said during an interview several years ago. “Many of the bands simply have too many opportunities to play in larger communities, or to play corporate gigs that pay well, so it was hard to convince those groups to block out a date or two a year down the road for a concert series no one had ever heard of.”

She managed, although that first year, 2005, had far fewer concert dates than the 2023 version will. The series grew slowly in those early years, but now it’s well-established, popular among music fans and bands, and seems to keep finding new ways to grow.

Today, the series will feature bands playing Beach Music, R&B, Top 40, 80s music, and other musical genres as well, including Caribbean music. The series has even featured tribute artists playing one star’s particular song set.

The series is scheduled to get underway with Jukebox Rehab taking to the stage on Saturday, April 29 at 7:30 p.m.

The following week will be the first three-show weekend, with The Embers featuring Craig Woolard on Thursday, May 4, The Magnificents Band on May 5, and The Holiday Band on May 6. All three shows begin at 7:30 p.m.

Admission to each show throughout the series is $15, or a season pass.

Thirsty Souls Community Brewing and Dairy Center will be back this year at all the concerts selling concessions. Those who attend the concert are encouraged to take blankets or lawn chairs. For more information, or to purchase tickets, visit



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