Making a Music Festival with Ciara Sosnowski

Music festivals have been a popular topic of conversation recently, with Coachella and Fyre Festival making headlines. It got me thinking about the complicated preparation that must happen to create a successful festival. To get a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into planning a music festival, I spoke to Ciara Sosnowski, a freshman at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan.

Sosnowski is planning a music and arts festival called “Fringe Fest” for the second year in a row. She started it at Rochester Adams High School during her senior year and is continuing it on a bigger scale this year. As someone who watched from the sidelines while she planned Fringe Fest last year, I knew she would have a lot of insight about the hours of work and planning that goes into pulling a music festival off. Here is my interview with Sosnowski, someone who took a passion for music and art and turned it into something wonderful!

HC: What is Fringe Fest and where will it be?

CS: Fringe Fest is a music and arts festival specifically geared towards high school & college-aged musicians and artists! This year, it is taking place in the Rochester Municipal Park on June 7, from 4-9 pm. Our festival aims to give young artists a place to showcase their talents and passions while connecting them to others who share their passions

HC: How many artists, vendors, and performers are going to be there?

CS: Our music lineup has 8 bands and solo artists, and I am hoping to hit 60 artists selling their art! We also have food trucks and student food vendors.

HC: Where did you get the inspiration to do this?

CS: In high school, I was very aware of all of the amazingly talented artists and musicians all around me, and I’m also an artist and musician myself, so I want to give students a place to share their art and do what they love with others who understand where they come from. I also noticed that student-athletes always got an opportunity to show their passions and talents to people. I essentially wanted to create an equivalent to “the big game” for high school and college-aged artists and musicians. 

HC: What drives you to spend so much time and effort making Fringe Fest happen?

CS: I think that Artists and musicians don’t have enough outlets, especially in our age demographic, and that is very important to me. Supporting young artists is vital. We should stop telling kids “don’t go into art, it isn’t viable” but rather we should be telling them “here is an opportunity for you to thrive.”

HC: How long does it take to plan, and how much of your day is devoted to planning a music and art festival?

CS: I have a very “fly by the seat of my pants” personality, so it kind of depends on what the day looks like for me. Some days I go to several meetings a day with schools and the city to plan, or I will promote and plan for hours on end. Other days I don’t do that. It’s all very new and I am figuring out how to do this as I go, so it’s kinda a fun surprise what each day brings! 

HC: How difficult is it to balance being a full-time college student with planning a music and art festival?

CS: In all honesty, it is extremely difficult. However, I believe in this idea so much, and this is the biggest passion in my life, so I know it’s going to be worth it. My grades have definitely taken a hit in the process, but I really believe placing more emphasis on looking at these young talents is something the art world needs.

HC: Can you talk about the differences in planning the first fringe fest last year to the planning process this year?

CS: This year, I have run into a lot more legal implications. For that reason, I have had to speak at city council meetings, deal with insuring the event, register with the IRS as a certified nonprofit, and more. 

HC: Was there anything you thought could be done better after last years fringe fest? Are there any new difficulties this year?

CS: Last year’s Fringe Fest was a dream come true. I really feel like all the stars aligned and everything went so well. One problem that I’m running into this year is that I’m not very good at delegating jobs, so I find myself doing a lot of it by myself. This has proven to be super overwhelming, which I’m trying to get better at. I have a vision for how I want it to look and feel, so it’s hard to let other people take control of my baby.

HC: What are you the most excited about regarding fringe fest?

CS: Nothing makes me happier than meeting artists and bands, and watching all of the incredible talents interact with each other. I feel so honored to create something that allows for creative connections to be made between young people. My favorite part of Fringe Fest is the overwhelming amount of joy it brings to the audience and the participants.

HC: Do you plan to continue it in the future in Rochester or expand it and add locations?

CS: Absolutely! I don’t necessarily plan to keep it in Rochester, this is just where she was born. I would love to bring it to Detroit in the coming years, and I would also love to make it like Sofar Sounds where people can start their own in their cities, or even tour around to different cities like Warped Tour. 

If anyone is in the Midwest on June 7th, consider stopping by Fringe Fest. If it’s anything like last year’s event, it will be incredible. Sosnowski has been working incredibly hard behind the scenes to make her vision a reality, and I hope to see you there.

The joy that music and art bring to people, young and old, is truly a beautiful thing to witness, and nothing kicks off the summer better than eating, jamming, and dancing with a group of great people. Thank you to Sosnowski for taking the time to talk with me and give an inside look into the making of a music festival.


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