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John Jarrard benefit concert could grow into festival
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Over the next few years, the John Jarrard Foundation is hoping to expand its annual benefit concert into a weekend-long festival.

And in order to make the vision happen, the foundation wants to hire a full-time director.

"We’ve been on almost a strictly volunteer basis for seven years, or since inception, and we’ve been able to grow leaps and bounds," said Allen Nivens, chairman of the John Jarrard Foundation Board and a local musician. "We feel like a full-time person will enable us to go beyond what we’ve been able to do on a volunteer basis and pay for his or herself with new programs that we’re going to institute."

The annual concert event honors John Jarrard, a Gainesville native and country songwriter who died from complications from diabetes in 2001.

Jarrard wrote a number of hit songs for musicians like George Strait, Alabama, Diamond Rio, Tracy Lawrence and others.

The concert raises funds for local charities such as the Boys & Girls Clubs of Hall County and Good News at Noon.

"Those particularly were two things that were real close to John’s heart," said Bruce Burch, a Nashville songwriter who grew up with Jarrard and helped found the annual concert.

The seventh annual John Jarrard Concert was held in October.

Burch said within a few years, the John Jarrard Foundation would like to see the annual concert expand.

"We could turn it into a festival that would encompass more than just a one-night performance," Burch said.

Aside from extending the concert, Burch said he also would like to add more diverse musical acts. Currently, the concert focuses on country songwriters, but Burch would like to see gospel and Latin musicians sign on. "Gainesville has got so much great music coming out of it," Burch said. "We haven’t really celebrated it."

Nivens said one of the organization’s other goals is to bring music into local schools. Nivens thinks learning about writing music with professional songwriters would be a great experience for kids in school. "What we’d like to do is go into schools with real live professional song writers and ... open (students) up to something that they won’t really be able to do even in regular arts and music classes," Nivens said.

Nivens said the organization wants to remain focused on giving. "We will continue to stay on a not-for-profit basis so all the profits and proceeds from all of these events can come straight back to the charities in Northeast Georgia that we support."

Burch said though the organization is considering some big changes, the purpose of the John Jarrard Foundation will stay the same.

"Our main focus has always been honoring John Jarrard’s memory," Burch said. "He loved music and he loved Gainesville and he loved helping people."

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