If you’ve seen a big-name show—Indigo Girls, Dr. Dog and Al Green, to name a few—in Santa Fe in the past 20 years, chances are it was put on by Fan Man Productions. But the company is no more. As the Fan Man himself, Jamie Lenfestey, announced in a mass email Jan. 31, he has given up his for-profit venture to accept a position as director of concerts at local nonprofit Linda Heath Foundation.
While Lenfestey’s events already in the works—such as the upcoming Randy Newman performance (underwritten by LHF) at the Lensic Performing Arts Center on March 14—remain unaffected, his move could have other, further-reaching effects on the Santa Fe music scene.
Lenfestey joined LHF due in part, he says, to the finicky nature of the Santa Fe music scene.
“Look around the state, and you will see that the promoters and people bringing art and music to New Mexico are all nonprofits,” he tells SFR. “There’s a reason for that, and that is that it isn’t easy doing this.”
Lenfestey sees the move as a way to expand his promotions laterally while reaching a wider audience and becoming more involved within the community. For example, he wants to overhaul his Railyard Park concert series to reach more people.
“The Railyard has a lot of great, unrealized potential,” he says. “I think the city did a great job with it, but they have failed with one thing, and that is giving people a reason to go there. As a for-profit, getting the support to do Railyard shows the way I’ve wanted has been tough, but now, as a nonprofit, I’m sure I can do it right.”
While larger cities have corporations that underwrite many events (Bud Light Concert Series, anyone?), Lenfestey says Santa Fe is relatively corporate-free, so large sponsorships aren’t in the equation. Going nonprofit, on the other hand, “will open doors fundraising-wise that may have been closed before,” he says. “There’s the whole tax-deductible incentive for individuals and businesses.”
Other music promoters agree that nonprofit funding does provide more options. However, Mike Koster, director of Santa Fe nonprofit Southwest Roots Music, says, “It’s not that it’s easier to get money, but we’re talking about a lot of grants and foundations with money allotted specifically for nonprofits.”
Lenfestey also aspires to offer musical outreach within the local school system through musician appearances and workshops.
“The youth in Santa Fe is grossly underrepresented,” he says. “My own son is 15 and starting to look around and realize there isn’t a whole lot for him to be interested in; I’d like to make Santa Fe better for those who can’t get into bars.”
Accessing alternative venues also may be a benefit of working with a nonprofit, as commercial sponsors tend more toward bars.
As for LHF itself, according to nonprofit information service GuideStar, the private grant-making foundation, which has made notable contributions to the Santa Fe Community Foundation and the restoration of Cristo Rey Church, is headed by James Heath.
“I met the founder about three years ago, and he played a role in a couple of my Railyard shows,” Lenfestey says. “We both saw the expansion to music as a way to reinvigorate the foundation while giving Santa Fe more in terms of not only music, but art and theater and so forth.”
Lenfestey’s exit from the for-profit world could also affect Santa Fe’s other promoters.
Tim Franke, who promotes concerts through his for-profit company T-Cubed Productions, says Lenfestey’s departure could be a boon for business.
“There are really no guarantees when you do this for profit,” Franke says. “I can only speculate that, with Jamie going nonprofit, I may see a rise in agents coming to me for club shows.”
Lenfestey feels that, at LHF, he will have a more tangible impact on the Santa Fe music scene than at Fan Man.
“I truly believe I can make Santa Fe a better place to live by offering much more culturally,” he says. “I need to fight for what I can do.”
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