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‘AMP’ing up for more music

An AMP summer concert at the Santa Fe Railyard. (Courtesy of Soulcatcher Studio)

An AMP summer concert at the Santa Fe Railyard. (Courtesy of Soulcatcher Studio)

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

In case you missed it, the City Different didn’t make the cut for the 2020 Levitt Foundation AMP grant awards. The $25,000 grant helped nonprofit AMP Concerts bring music to the Santa Fe Railyard for three consecutive years ending in 2019.

 Jamie Lenfestey, director of AMP Santa Fe. (Courtesy of Missy Wolf )

Jamie Lenfestey, director of AMP Santa Fe. (Courtesy of Missy Wolf )

But don’t hit the panic button just yet. Jamie Lenfestey, director of AMP Santa Fe, has a few tricks up his sleeve.

Lenfestey, who has been a fixture on the Santa Fe music scene since 1991, plans to stage a crowdfunding effort on the platform to make up the shortfall.

“If 2,500 people each put in $10, we’ll be right where we were before,” he said.

The concert promoter was as surprised as anyone when Santa Fe didn’t qualify for the grant, which will help fund free public music in 20 underserved cities across the country during 2020.

“We’ve been fortunate to be part of the Levitt Foundation’s program for the past three years. We were looking forward to being a fourth-time winner,” Lenfestey said in a telephone interview. “We got the votes. We finished in the top 10 in voting and, in the past, everyone who’s been in the top 10 has gotten money, to the best of my knowledge.”

But when the 20 cities that will receive Levitt AMP grants were announced, it was Gallup representing New Mexico on the list, not Santa Fe. Other award-winners include such cities as Berea, Kentucky; Fort Smith, Arkansas; Utica, New York; and Woonsocket, Rhode Island.

Still, Lenfestey doesn’t begrudge Gallup its win. “This is a placemaking grant to bring music to underserved cities. This wasn’t a competition between Gallup and Santa Fe,” he said. “We helped Gallup with the voting.”

Lenfestey noted that, as professional concert promoters with a presence in Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Taos, AMP is different from the community organizations that typically receive Levitt grants.

What the Levitt grant gave AMP in Santa Fe was consistency, Lenfestey noted. The terms of the grant required AMP to produce 10 free music concerts that had to be on the same day, which Lenfestey decided would be Saturday. In some years, there were as many as 13 music events in a season. There were also free movie screenings, but that’s a different story.

Assuming all the financing falls into place, AMP’s Railyard summer concert series will be held on Fridays in 2020. Lenfestey thinks the 2020 openings of Rio Rancho-based Bosque Brewing Co., Nuckolls Brewing and a distillery will bring younger patrons to the Railyard.

Having fun at an AMP concert in the Santa Fe Railyard. (Courtesy of Soulcatcher Studio)

Having fun at an AMP concert in the Santa Fe Railyard. (Courtesy of Soulcatcher Studio)

Based on his experience in the music business, Lenfestey thinks the younger crowd prefers to party on Friday. Older folks like Saturdays better because they need Friday to recuperate from their workweek.

Can the Railyard support four craft beer emporiums? The new arrivals will join existing Railyard tenants Second Street Brewing and Violet Crown Cinema, which has an extensive selection of craft beers.

Lenfestey notes there are streets in Colorado tourist towns that have six craft breweries.

This argument is ironic, given that Lenfestey’s email signature is a quote from New Mexico Territorial Governor Lee Wallace, who served from 1878-81: “All calculations based on experiences elsewhere fail in New Mexico.”

Asked to explain why he uses that quote, Lenfestey said, “Agents are always comparing us to Austin and Denver. Those are two of the strongest concert markets in America, if not the world. The financial model is totally different here.”

While the Lensic Performing Arts Center and the Santa Fe Opera are world-class venues in the City Different, Lenfestey notes that the Denver-Boulder market has enormous numbers of top-notch performance spaces.

Lenfestey, who joined forces in 2015 with AMP Concerts executive director Neal Copperman in Albuquerque, knows of what he speaks. He was the first promoter to bring outside musical acts to the Santa Fe Opera and was on hand for the re-opening of the historic Lensic theater in 2001.

His Railyard music and movie credentials are unrivaled. It was Lenfestey who produced the first concert to celebrate the grand opening of the reclaimed space 12 years ago.

As part of the crowdfunding appeal for the 2020 Railyard summer concert series, AMP plans to offer donors such perks as T-shirts, VIP parking and restaurant gift certificates.

In addition to moving the summer music series from Saturday nights, AMP and other Railyard tenants are working together to create a market for vendors in the Santa Fe Farmers Market building on Friday nights to attract more traffic to the area.

Stepping into help as the presenting sponsor for the Railyard summer music series is Falling Colors, a health care data company that was a sponsor last year.

“There is a big collaborative push,” Lenfestey said. “The Santa Fe Interplanetary Festival is going to host eight different lectures. Friday nights are when movies open, so people might come down to Violet Crown for an early show before the concert. The Railyard is set to come into full bloom in the summer of 2020.”

Those who want to learn more about when the crowdfunding appeal will go live on should check in periodically at or visit the nonprofit’s Facebook page, Lenfestey said.