Local folk musician starts sustainability festival

Come for the food, stay for the music — and the message. Old Town’s First Annual Songs for Sustainability Festival hits the Old Town General Store’s court yard on Sunday.

The brainchild of local folk musician Monte Aaron Pride, 21, this event proves that music can make a difference.

In fact, that’s why Pride chose to set up a festival.

“I mainly decided to do it because one of the few things that can really bring people together for a common cause is music,” Pride said.

And Songs for Sustainability’s message is clear: to inform locals about the importance of conservation.

“My goal is to continue building Lansing’s awareness of the importance of living sustainably by creating a unique atmosphere for like-minded folks to engage with each other, vendors, booths and the music,” wrote Pride in the event’s press release.

The festival itself is only a day long, but it is packed full of local food vendors and local businesses. All donations to the event also benefit local area 501(c)(3) non-profit Music is the Foundation.

“They basically fund and create local music programs in schools in the greater Lansing area and they bring ukuleles and guitars to people who might not have had the opportunity to play them otherwise,” Pride said. “It was founded by Ben Hassenger, a friend of mine, and he created programs in Lansing after programs got cut. It’s a cool way for people to give back to add something to it.”

And with Pride’s environmentally conscious mindset, it’s certainly no accident that he is a student at MSU’s Department of Community Sustainability and is double majoring in environmental studies and sustainability and sustainable parks, recreation and tourism. After a busy summer of putting together the weekend’s lineup, Pride is confident in the performers chosen for the information-driven event.

“The schedule is Sea Bridson who is a local folk singer, then the Stump Brothers, who are really cool. They are a couple local guys with a ukulele and a trumpet and they play old-timey stuff,” Pride said. “After that, the Rupple Brothers will be playing and then the Dangling Participles and then Jim Jersey, he’s an older artist and a really talented guy too.”

And even though not every musician carries sustainability-oriented music in their repertoire, Pride took care to pick out Michigan folk musicians.

“I think the issue of sustainability and shifting people’s focus to living without impacting the environment has become a really big thing, that people have started to adjust their lifestyles for and are just interested in learning more about,” Pride said. “I think the festival provided a cool way for people to engage with those ideas and engage with each other in an afternoon focused on it. The acoustic folk genre fits well with the vibe and focus of the festival.”

Pride himself is a prolific artist, having released two EPs during his time in college, as well as his first full-length album, “Hawthorne Morning Sound.” However, he won’t be performing this time.

“I decided this time to focus on the other musicians and focus on the goal of the festival as a whole, rather than as just a gig for myself,” Pride said. “I wanted to involve other people.”

Pride is saving that for a Nov. 18 performance at the Robin Theatre, exactly one year after the debut of his first full-length album. He said that part of the reason he felt comfortable using his hometown as the place for his album debut, the festival and release of more music is the strong bonds in the artistic community.

“I think it’s really cool, the support from everyone’s different genres,” Pride said. “I have musical friends and the connections that are well outside of my genre. Everyone’s willing to support each other and go out to shows. It feels like a safe place, without different bands or genres being cliquey.”

“Songs for Sustainability”

Sunday, Sept. 24 Noon-4 p.m. FREE/Donations accepted 408 E. Grand River Ave., Lansing (517) 487-6847, oldtown-generalstore.com