Brian Fest continues to grow in its fifth year

Brian Fest

Iowa City Yacht Club — Friday, Aug. 11 at 8 p.m.
Downtown Pedestrian Mall — Saturday, Aug. 12 at 2 p.m.

Dave Zollo and the Body Electric, featuring Otar Taktakishvili, play Brian Fest 2016. — photo courtesy of Matty Cretzmeyer

For the fifth year running, Matty Cretzmeyer will be honoring the memory of his brother, Brian, in downtown Iowa City with a fundraising concert for the Brian Cretzmeyer Trust for Young Musicians.

For the first year ever, Brian Fest will span two days and two locations.

“We make changes to Brian Fest each year to maximize exposure,” Matty said in an email. “This year, for example, we have switched from June to August, in hopes of catching more of the student population. The trust … is also making new connections each year — that is a big thing for us, finding new avenues for the charity to support.”

The trust, and the fest, were set up to celebrate Brian’s legacy of making music in Iowa City. A piano player since the age of 3, Brian started formal lessons at age 4 and was a fixture on the Iowa City music scene with 10 years in his band, the Gglitch, before passing away in 2009 at age 29 due to cancer. The trust helps young musicians in the community through its support of organizations such as the Preucil School of Music, the Pre-College Piano Conservatory at the University of Iowa and the West Family Foundation at West Music.

There is a strong focus on providing opportunities to children who might otherwise not have the chance to study music. The trust and the fest also work together to provide performance opportunities for those children — this year, students from West Music will be showcased at Brian Fest; Preucil students have performed in the past.

“Our family has lived in Iowa City for a long time, and my parents have always emphasized the importance of music,” Matty said. “Iowa City seems to be a place where that spirit thrives, and we are doing what we can to keep it going, if not make it stronger.”

That spirit of music and of giving is evident in the lineup of musicians scheduled for the fest. All performers donate their time to the event; some have been doing so for all five years. Dave Zollo, the Uniphonics and Otar Taktakishvili have all participated since the first year of the fest — the Uniphonics didn’t play last year, but are making it this year despite another gig the same night in Cedar Rapids; Flash in a Pan is likewise pulling double duty, with a Friday Night Concert Series performance downtown prior to their slot at the Yacht Club for Brian Fest. Taktakishvili, who had been friends with Brian in high school and played with him in the Gglitch, flies in from New York each year for the fest, Matty said.

Wrangling this much talent all in one place, with donated time, is actually “relatively easy,” Matty said, thanks to the memories that his brother left behind. “Brian’s character and his musical talents are something that touched a lot of people, and in turn, there is a lot of interest in honoring his legacy,” he said. “It’s humbling to have such great talents involved each year; I believe it really speaks to the level of musician and person Brian was.” Matty also credited the Iowa City music community which, he said, “is and has always been a beautiful thing.”

Brian Fest 2017 takes over the Yacht Club on Friday night, Aug. 11, and then spreads out onto the Ped Mall on Saturday afternoon. There is a $10 cover charge for the Yacht Club show, which begins at 8 p.m. Donations are encouraged for the Saturday show; there will be multiple sites set up on the Ped Mall to accept them. There are other ways to donate set out on the trust’s website. The Brian Cretzmeyer Trust for Young Musicians is a 501(c)(3), so donations are tax deductible.