Nearly five months since the rapid shutdown of nearly every facet of business throughout the Garden State due to the onset of COVID-19, the world is starting to come to grips with how to open up again.
If music is the thing which soothes the savage breast and live music takes the edge off months of quarantine, The Music Barn at the Gloucester County 4-H Fairgrounds has the perfect remedy. The operation, which aims to showcase talented but relatively-unknown musicians, has been given the green light to present live concerts once more, with the summer season set to kick off Aug. 14.
“We’ll welcome Joshua Howard, an alum from The Voice. He was on Adam Levine’s team, and I believe he was featured in Season 6,” said Jake Heil, owner of the Music Barn, during a conversation with the Sun on July 27.
“We look for the best up and coming artists, people who are not as well known, but nonetheless world-class performers who are talented. I think he fits the bill quite well.”
It’s a proper and positive 180-degree turn for Heil, and his business.
Back in the spring, with coronavirus causing event cancellations left and right, Heil kept active with the launch of a live streaming concert series on Facebook that replaced all of the originally-scheduled concerts. At the time, Heil said he wasn’t looking to make money, but rather to maintain a connection with the community in the most unusual of circumstances.
As strict social distancing measures were put into effect by state mandate, Heil was compelled to cancel the first half of the spring schedule. Later on, as restrictions remained, the rest of The Music Barn’s spring season was wiped out.
After Howard’s appearance, Heil said he plans on having as full a slate as possible.
“We have five events currently scheduled. The closest one after that would be Aug. 29. It’s an all-day music festival, featuring bands from throughout the area. The only requirements for inclusion are they have to be quality performers and need to be under 21 years old,” he revealed.
Of course, the safety and security of patrons, staff and performers will be paramount in an ever-evolving situation, and Heil can assure the public that there are extensive precautions in place.
“We are social distancing everyone, having their chairs placed far apart. We’ll have additional sanitizing stations, plenty of hand sanitizer. We are requiring everyone to wear masks, walking in, walking out, going to restrooms. Masks are not required when you’re sitting in your own little area,” he offered.
“We encourage everyone to sit with their own social group at all times. We are not limiting numbers on anyone in a group and we don’t have a maximum capacity. People can bring their own chairs and towels but we have chairs for those who need them. We have masks to provide to everyone as well. We will be doing screening, with contactless thermometers, at the entrance. We think it will be the safest environment you can get under the circumstances.”
Despite the success of the Barn’s online concert presence, Heil admitted these summer sessions won’t be available to those still too skittish to venture out in public.
“These concerts will only take place in person,” he said. “It was a great thing, that over 11,000 people attended our concerts in the spring, but for now we’re fully live. As we go along I think you’ll see more stuff happening online.”
Although the summer season’s late start surely means later starts for fall and winter programming, the boss isn’t yet thinking about everything that comes next. Instead, he’s choosing to focus on the fun and fortune in what’s immediately ahead.
“Typically I would plan much farther in advance, but now it’s like every other industry with a wait-and-see approach,” Heil said.
“I have nothing currently scheduled until what the spring looks like. It could be worse, or it could be fine. But we’re handling everything as it comes and hopeful for the best.”
For all general information about future musical events at the Fairgrounds, visit: www.themusicbarn.org. Further information about COVID-19 policies can be found at: www.themusicbarn.org/covid19safety.