The First Annual Bluesfest brought many acclaimed artists and comedians from across the United States to Ball State University and Muncie, Indiana for the first time. The event was orchestrated by Carolyn Bonner, who works for C+B Entertainment Productions, and Ball State alum Paris McCurdy, working in the Office of Inclusive Excellence.
According to Bonner and McCurdy, the mission of this festival was to find a way to not only introduce more people to Ball State, but it was also a way to introduce a new type of sound to the residents of Muncie that they may not be used to. They said they aspired to introduce a wider range of entertainment so that everyone in the Muncie community can feel involved.
McCurdy said there has been a thirst in Muncie for a different kind of music that hasn’t been introduced to Ball State yet, and after doing some research, Bonner found that Ball State has never held an event quite like Bluesfest. She said there have been many different types of shows held at Ball State, but none that focus on, “Southern soul, but it’s a different type of southern soul with different genres, expressing all different nationalities.”
Bonner wanted to put together a show that was welcoming not just for people who were already fans of blues, but people who were interested in getting into it and didn’t know where to begin. In attempting to do so, Bonner and Mr. McCurdy have been working on this festival since 2017.
“I reached out to Carolyn, told her what I wanted to do (Blues Festival), she was on board, and she appreciated it,” McCurdy said. “She said ‘we are going to bring this in and make sure that we can do something for everybody.’”
The long process to bring Bluesfest to Ball State was to make sure all artists were hand-picked and willing to come to Ball State to bring awareness to the school and community. Bluesfest was a lot of artists' first time in Indiana, one of which being West Move; although West Move isn’t the only person who came to Muncie just to experience or participate in the event, as multiple guests in attendance came from places like Pennsylvania, Florida, Georgia and Colorado.
“I drove all the way from Ohio to see Wendell B,” Rudy Collins, a guest at Bluesfest, said.
Bonner said these artists have a dedicated fan base that is willing to commit the time and money to see them perform.
“A lot of people follow these artists,” Bonner said. “I noticed they hadn’t been in this area and I wanted the opportunity to bring them to this area, which is something that Ball State is trying to do anyway, bringing the community together.”
J’Cenae has been performing for more than 20 years and said she was ecstatic to perform for the crowd at Ball State, and described her music as “soul music that is feel-good music.” West Move has been performing solo for five years and said she feels her music is “something that people can listen to” and she hopes people can feel “encouraged, inspired, ready to tackle the next day” after listening to her music.
McCurdy compared music to a sporting event in that a sporting event brings people together and so does music, regardless of background.
He said, as an alum, it was important to him to give back to the school that has given him the opportunities to advance in his athletic and educational career. To do so, McCurdy wanted to help put together an event that he could be as passionate about as anything else he has done in his life.
“This event here is a first for Ball State,” McCurdy said. “You want to make this an all-inclusive campus and to do that you have to open up things that attract everybody.”
Contact Joseph McKeigue with comments via email at Jpmckeigue@bsu.edu.