HAMLET — Those interested in music and history of Richmond County can lend an ear this weekend for the eighth annual John Coltrane Music Edu-Tainment Festival.
The festival honoring the late jazz legend will be held from noon to 7 p.m. Saturday at Wayman Chapel Faith Center, a general, multi-use facility located at 451 Osborne Road in Hamlet off Airport Road.
“This will be for folks with all genres of music or have something in their heart,” said organizer and Hamlet native Gerard Morrison. “I keep a few spots reserved on Saturday for anybody that wants to perform. But they have to do the open mic first.”
The main portion of the festival will feature live performing acts while honoring homegrown celebrities of education, entertainment, politics, business, fine arts and future leaders. Visitors can learn little-known facts about the area and can gain a renewed appreciation for a region Morrison said is too often referenced for underdevelopment, unemployment, dropout rates and adult illiteracy rates.
“If it doesn’t stimulate the mind, I won’t touch it,” he said. “I’ve done a lot of work with political campaigns, so I’ve learned that. I wanted to fuse all those things together. This way we have fun, and we get things done.”
Morrison emphasized that the festival aims to bridge the gap of a cultural and socioeconomic divide.
“These counties are so rich with heritage and talent, but they’re so territorial, so I want the arts and ‘edu-tainment’ to create a bridge and facilitate,” he said. “We can use the arts to create an economic development tool and be a mecca to drive tourism in the area. We’re into bridging cultures and bridging races. We’ve got to stop being colorblind and start being color-brave. We’ve got to be inclusive for everyone in the region, not just certain ones.”
Morrison said the arts are used for people to constructively express themselves, but this weekend’s event is also to bring awareness to several causes.
“The causes we highlight are cancer, sarcoidosis, which killed former actor and comedian Bernie Mac, Alzheimer’s, suicide prevention, domestic violence and education and literacy for students,” he said.
The main focus on Saturday, however, will be remembering Coltrane and his legacy, as well as shedding light on the history of celebrities from Richmond County — and the surrounding area — that few know about.
As a special tribute to Coltrane, Morrison is looking for saxophone players — not matter what level — to bring their instruments to Saturday’s festivities at noon for a 90th birthday saxophone salute where the players will belt out “Happy Birthday.” He also hopes that this will lead to some musical improv.
“Cross-generations and cross-cultures, no matter what background, you can find something in common in music,” Morrison said. “Singers, soldiers, survivors, spoken word artists and all musicians, but especially saxophones are invited. Come meet, greet, eat and enjoy unique talents and information.”
In recognition to Coltrane’s 90th birthday, entry for the first 90 adults will be $8 and for the first 90 veterans, students, survivors and educators will be $5. After that, the price will rise to $10.
For more information, call or text 347-286-8742 or email 4JCMEF@gmail.com, visit www.jcmef.com or follow @JCMEF on Twitter.
Reach reporter Matt Harrelson at 910-817-2674 and follow him on Twitter @mattyharrelson.