Faces in the Crowd

Orlando looks to spark local economy through music

By Dwight Collins | Jan 28, 2014
Photo by: Dwight Collins Local resident and event promoter John Orlando has partnered with Bay Chamber Concerts to produce the third annual Great Cabin Fever Escape. Back, from left, are event organizers Ronald vanHeeswijk, Monica Kelly, John Orlando, Hanna Demmons and Brett Hayward. Front, from left, are members of Dolphin Strike: Garth Wells, J.R. Braugh, Noah Barnes, Owen Cartwright and Jeff Walsh.

Rockport — John Orlando has combined his passion for music with love of promoting events to help bring some much-needed excitement to the Midcoast in the dead of winter, as well as helping spark the economy of the community he grew up in.

Orlando moved to Camden from Boston the summer of his freshman year and graduated from Camden-Rockport High School in 1991. Since then, he has considered the Midcoast home.

Now a days, the entrepreneur splits his time between concert promotion and running his aging father's excavation business in Massachusetts.



The Great Cabin Fever Escape is scheduled for Friday, Feb.7, from 7:30 p.m. to midnight at Rockport Opera House.

It is a 21-and-older show with a cash bar available. Part of the proceeds are going to help fund community radio station WERU.

Tickets for the show are $25 in advance or $30 the day of the event. Tickets are available at Zoot Coffee and Harbor Audio Video II in Camden, Rock City Café in Rockland, and Hope General Store in Hope. Tickets can also be purchased online at baychamberconcerts.org.


“I work all year running the family business so that I can pursue my passion,” Orlando said. “I pay for a lot of the expenses of promoting events out of my own pocket. It’s a labor of love, man, so I do what I have to do.”

His love for an old fashioned “jam session” led Orlando to organize an informal gathering of musicians during the 2009 National Toboggan Championships. Since then that impromptu, all-volunteer effort has morphed into the fifth annual “Great Cabin Fever Escape.”

“The first two years was totally volunteers and a bunch of people playing music," he said. “Now it has grown to a professional event that takes hundreds of hours to plan.”

Different years bring different challenges and this year Orlando cleared hurdles with the help of Bay Chamber Concerts and the town of Rockport.

“Rockport has been amazing to work with,” he said. “Bay Chamber has been an unbelievable partner and they understand the need to bridge the gap between its current classical fans and a younger crowd that enjoys an eclectic array of music.”

Orlando believes that events like this -- 300 people in a place like the opera house -- are good for the economy.

“That’s 300 people who would not have come to Rockport and that equates to money being spent in local restaurants, hotels and other business. We are just trying to create a flow of money into the local economy – because let’s face it – it can use the help.”

Orlando said instead of trying to change what is wrong with the local economy and living on the Midcoast, he prefers to embrace what works.

“We have an almost unlimited resource to great musicians in the area and some great venues to hold events like this,” he said. “I’m a small business owner, who installs septic systems all summer long to pay for this event and I hire local sub-contractors to work the show. I want to keep that money local because I know if I pay someone from around here to work, the likelihood of them spending local is much higher.”

Monica Kelly, director of Bay Chamber Concerts, said she feels the collaboration is a win-win situation.

“This is a great way to diversify and expand the kind of events that we can offer the community,” Kelly said. “Bay Chamber has such a long tradition of classical music and that is what is expected. Anytime you have a situation where something is expected it has a chance to get stale. We now want to expand what we’re exposing our followers to.”

Kelly said the joint effort utilizes both Bay Chamber’s and Orlando’s strengths to be able to make both of their jobs easier.

“John [Orlando] has this grass-root style and has some deep connections within the community,” Kelly said. “He has the drive an ambition to do all of the heavy lifting such as putting up the posters, contacting the performers, setting up people to perform certain functions, while we can help with cost by providing things like a copy machine and paper, and other administrative tasks like printing tickets and setting up the ticket vendors.”

The Great Cabin Fever Escape will feature The WIYOS, Dolphin Striker and DJ Terry Frank.

“The WIYOS opened for acts like Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan and John Cougar Mellencamp on a stadium tours and have had success on the national stage,” Orlando said. “Dolphin Strikers are a local band, with four of the five members being windjammer captains. They are pretty awesome to listen too.”

While he has already put his skills to work locally, Orlando recently learned he has the opportunity to learn the promoting business from the best. Don Law, an internationally-known concert promoter, has agreed to allow him to shadow and learn the tools it will take to bring his small enterprise to a whole new level.

“This is a great opportunity for me, it is not everyday when someone with the wealth of knowledge is willing to share it with someone like me,” Orlando said. “It is a defining moment for me that is for sure.”

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