In 2013, a group of Corvallis-area musicians had an idea: Why not put together a summer concert series that gave those musicians a place to play and spotlighted a local cause as well?
It was the start of the SAGE Summer Concerts, held on Thursday evenings at the Starker Arts Park Amphitheater in Corvallis and meant to benefit the nearby Starker Arts Garden for Education (the SAGE of the title).
Over the years, the series has grown to the point where it routinely draws 500 to 700 people to the amphitheater for each concert. And the proceeds from the shows have gone to the garden, which grows some 10,000 pounds of vegetables each year for area food banks.
It's also grown to the point where the primary responsibility for organizing the series has shifted to the Corvallis Environmental Center. That duty now falls to the center's outreach and event coordinator, Teagan Lochner, who's quick to point out that some of those original musicians still lend a hand.
But the goals of the series pretty much are unchanged from those early days, Lochner said: to offer a family-friendly evening of music and other activities and to use that stage to highlight the work going on at the garden.
The musical approach has broadened a bit, she said, and now includes bands from the region as well as local favorites. Thursday's concert is a good example, featuring Corvallis indie rockers Mons La Hire and Pa'Lante, a Latin jazz ensemble from Portland. (See the information box for details about the other concerts.)
Lochner said she works to ensure that each season offers a diversity of musical styles and genres. Other acts on tap this season include the Corvallis band Unseen Signs (formerly Organized Chaos); Inner Limits, a rock, blues and funk trio from Eugene; Portland singer-songwriter Olivia Awbrey; Far Out West, a rootsy funk quartet from Portland; and Hillstomp, a country-blues duo from Portland.
Lochner said this summer's series will help draw attention to a project at the garden to build three greenhouses that will allow produce to be grown during the winter months.
And concertgoers from previous years will notice one big change to the amphitheater area this summer: City of Corvallis workers have drained the pond for renovations. The work won't be finished by the time that the series wraps up in August, but concert attendees will be able to check on the progress every couple of weeks.
"It's really funny how some people are attached to that pond," Lochner said.