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Monthly concert series will offer high quality at low prices

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Diana Nollen  ::   UPDATED: 21 January 2014 | 3:53 pm   ::  

CEDAR RAPIDS -- Anthony Brown, 28, got tired of hearing people his age whine about having nothing to do. His reply? Stuff to Do -- a monthly concert series featuring affordable ticket prices and music jumps genres.

First up is Midwest jazz fusion group Koplant No, playing two shows Friday (2/8) at the intimate Opus Concert Cafe, next door to the Paramount Theatre. On March 8, the local quartet Sunday Afternoon will bring its a cappella sounds to the same venue.

"I like to think I'm a fairly hyper-connected person," says Brown, whose full-time job is manager of Community Engagement and Development programming at Diversity Focus in Cedar Rapids. Originally from Wichita, he's lived in Cedar Rapids since 1999.

"When you do any kind of marketing or promotions, you tend to know about everything that's going on," he says. "But I keep running into people who say, ‘There's nothing to do here’ or ‘There's nothing here that I want to do.’ People have just been saying that over the years.

"Honestly, I got tired of hearing people complaining about it and being bored. I think boredom is self-inflicted," he says. "I know there is a lot of stuff to do out there."

Once a month, he'd like to offer something different. He realizes young adults can't always afford the higher ticket prices at major events and venues in the Corridor, so he decided to chip away at that stumbling block by keeping prices low. He's hoping to keep all event prices under $15 and eventually branch out to other venues.

Opus, which seats up to 90, seemed like the perfect place to launch his initiative.

"They really want to get more small performances in there," he says. "It's an awesome little upscale venue."

He'll be happy if 60 or 70 people show up for the initial concerts. They're designed to run 60 to 90 minutes, so the before- and after-dinner crowds can "cap off the night or start the night off," he says.

A cash bar and light snacks will be available. Eventually, Brown would like to offer dinner options. "That would be my goal, especially once we get a following," he says. "It goes back to diversifying not only the programming, but diversifying your audience.

"It would be nice to show that Cedar Rapids is meeting the needs of the community, or adapting to meet the needs of the community, especially for my generation," he says.

Koplant No sprang from the Iowa City music scene in 2008, weaving electronica, progressive rock and hip-hop elements through jazz improvisation. The foursome, now scattered through the Midwest, has garnered rave reviews from public radio, and has appeared at the Iowa City and Twin Cities jazz festivals.

"It's an awesome fusion-hybrid-jazz combo group," Brown says. "To be quite frank, I don't necessarily have the taste for jazz music, but I love their music. It's really unique."

He also likes the way the band engages the crowd in live shows.

The March 8 concert switches directions with the a cappella stylings of Sunday Afternoon.

"I'm impressed -- especially after watching 'Pitch Perfect,' " Brown says. "It's kinda cool what people can do with their voices. ... Sunday Afternoon is a great collective of people, a great blend of voices. They're going to be unique and something we really have not had here before, on a local level.

"That's another thing I want to do -- to make sure that what we do is relatively local to the Corridor," he says.

The public can help shape future shows by responding to a survey on the Facebook page, Cedar Rapids Stuff to Do.

"It's all about mixing things up," he says.



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