This might be the first you’ve heard of Mittenfest. If so, then, well, it’s an exciting five-day-long music festival that raises funds for 826 Michigan’s educational endeavors with local students, primarily tutoring expository writing skills along with an overall encouragement of their creative expression (through short stories, poetry, and even songwriting). This is the tenth Mittenfest, which has always been hosted around the holidays, just as the New Year dawns. Mittenfest X will feature several unique Michigan-based bands, spread across five nights at Bona Sera in Ypsilanti (Dec 29-Jan 2).
In honor of ten years, the opening night of year 10 will mirror the lineup of year 1, with Frontier Ruckus, Misty Lyn Bergeron, Matt Jones, and Fred Thomas.
I reached out to several past performers along with the current group of volunteers and 826 staffers who organized Mittenfest X; I’m going to let them take it from here…
Chris Batghate (Singer/songwriter/frequent Mittenfest-performer):
Mittenfest accomplishes something I consider miraculous. It splices communities together. It provides me with an opportunity to use music to do something other than just get friends in the front row.
Dina Bankole (Mittenfest co-organizer / Local musician):
Last year was my first year in the planning committee and I knew I wanted to help book Mittenfest again as soon as last year’s ended. I definitely brought my “fest philosophy” from having planned the first two Best Friends Forever Fests in Detroit, like always keeping an eye toward diversity, mixing old and new…so I was really excited and ready to join the MIttenfest team.
Linda Jordan (Mittenfest co-organizer):
I got involved because Mittenfest highlights the very best of the Michigan music scene, and I have always been inspired by the community’s willingness to come together and volunteer for a good cause.
Matthew Milia (Frontier Ruckus singer/songwriter/ frequent Mittenfest-performer):
We were honored to be asked to headline the first night of this 10th anniversary. It’s a celebration of what I feel must be one of the most special music scenes in the country: this trans-Michigan network of diverse yt likeminded artists and a rare spirit of good-natured connectedness that has forged over so many years and through so many bands’ lifespans.
Jeremy Peters (Mittenfest co-organizer/Ghostly Intl’s Director of Creative Licensing & Business Affairs):
Leaving Ypsi was tough, with the closure of such an important venue in Woodruffs. But, it was nice to engage with the Ann Arbor crowd a bit more, that being said, I’m excited that Bona Sera has welcomed us with open arms for this coming year.
Matt Jones (Singer/songwriter/consistent performer):
I’ve played every one and the strange thing is that while I can remember all the antics happening off stage, I can rarely remember anything that actually happened on stage. Off stage is the best part.
Brandan Pierce (826Michigan’s Detroit-based program coordinator):
The interactions I’ve had with students, helping them unleash creativity they didn’t think they had, has been the most rewarding aspect of this work. When a student suggests “…maybe…the world is taken over by unicorns…?” and they hear an adult get super excited about that idea, then you watch a student transform into a well-oiled generator of imagination.
Graham Parsons (singer/songwriter for The Go Rounds):
826Michigan is a tangible, active and important organization and I think raising money for educational efforts through music is undeniably positive.
It is amazing that we’ve raised more than $115,000 to date. That goes a long way to helping students learn that writing doesn’t have to be something you have to bear, it can be fun.
We’re hosting after school tutoring programs four days a week in Ypsilanti & Ann Arbor, along with field trips and tones of other creative writing opportunities for students. We serve over 3,000 students annually! This festival has been a financial asset as much as it’s helped spread the word and gets more people involved. We need help designing chapbooks, assembling robots, putting stickers on envelopes even… If even one person comes to one night of MIttenfest and starts volunteering after, I’ll be ecstatic.
I think the work (of 826Michigan) is invaluable, especially given the deficiencies in our public education system. 826Michigan provides kids in Southeast Michigan an opportunity to be creative and develop their writing skills.
Amanda Uhle (826Michigan Executive Director):
Much has changed in ten years, but we’re still offering young people unique opportunities to grow, learn, and create with help from caring adult volunteers. We continue to be committed to helping students succeed in school and in life by way of tutoring, writing workshops, and publishing opportunities.
Mittenfest X: Featuring Frontier Ruckus, Fred Thomas and much much more!
Hosted Dec 29 through Jan 2 at Bona Sera (200 W. Michigan Ave, Ypsilanti) starting at 7pm each night
For more info, visit 826Michigan.org, and find the full lineup at mittenfest.org