Sounds of Kingman is bringing music, culture to downtown Kingman at a family-friendly price
Sounds of Kingman has grown louder each year since a group of committed citizens formed the nonprofit cultural organization in 2010 to provide free entertainment at various venues around town, most notably Metcalfe Park.
Bring your blanket, lawn chairs, picnic basket and cooler to the park, corner of Beale Street and Grandview Avenue, at 5 p.m. Sunday, June 11, for the next concert, the first appearance of Lonesome Dick.
The band has been playing its original style of rockabilly, surf, vintage country, blues and swing music for 14 years in the tri-state area, including gigs at the Cellar Door and Black Bridge Brewery.
Sounds of Kingman spent $30,000 building a new stage at Metcalfe, expanding the previous stage by three times its size, adding a structural steel arched cover and putting in handicap ramps that are helpful for musicians lugging their equipment onto the stage.
“What makes me happy is when I see other people use it,” said Robin Gordon, chairwoman and one of the founders of Sounds of Kingman.
“They have plays here, weddings and concerts. We knew it would be a great addition to the park, and really, that little tiny stage was never intended for us,” she said Thursday during an interview at Metcalfe. “There was no cover. The musicians were in the sun.”
Gordon, a former Kingman City Councilwoman, said once the stage was finished, the city’s Parks and Recreation Department helped beautify the park by painting the building behind the stage, reseeding the grass, removing old trees and planting new ones.
Gordon moved here in 1979 with her ex-husband, looking for a fresh start and independence from family, and worked more than 20 years for a Citizens Utilities Phone, now Frontier Communications.
For her, Kingman is home, and the arts are important.
She got the ball rolling on Sounds of Kingman after her involvement in the Regional Urban Design Assistance Team, an effort by the American Institute of Architects to revitalize and preserve historic downtowns.
“One of the things they highlighted in order for downtown to thrive is to bring people down here. Maybe they’ll go to a coffee shop or see a store they’d never seen before,” Gordon said.
“A lot of the public said there was no culture in Kingman. We felt that by putting on concerts, not only would we use the park, we would bring people downtown and provide culture, and whatever we provide would be at no cost.”
Karen Lynne was on board from the beginning and is vice chairwoman of the group. She’s in charge of performance contracts and publicity, and also works on the website, www.soundsofkingman.com.
Gordon and Lynne recruited other hard-working volunteers, all sharing the same passion for bringing concerts, historical presentations and other cultural events to Kingman.
Among those attending the first committee meeting were Martha Prumers, Rosanne Rosenberg, Josh Noble and Wendy Dunlap.
Mary Griffis joined the group as treasurer, Cheryl Salfrank took on the job of project coordinator and Marge Oehlke recently started a monthly newsletter.
Robert Vogt, the lone man on the committee, is entertainment coordinator. He’s a photographer and artist, and played drums in a variety of bands, so he finds and auditions concert performers.
The organization has made advances on several levels, including expanding its steering committee, establishing the concert series in the park and joining with the Mohave Museum of History and Arts to present “Our Time, Our History” programs.
All events are free to the public, which is the group’s proudest accomplishment, Lynne said. She moved to Kingman from Kansas City in 1972, and wants to see the town become an even nicer place to live.
Nearly 300 people attended a play in February about Wyatt Earp, featuring the great-grandnephew of the famous Old West lawman. He came from Phoenix to perform his show at Lee Williams High School.
The show was expensive, somewhere in the neighborhood of $2,000, and was paid for in part by a grant from Arizona Commission on the Arts.
“As we got bigger, our costs got more and more,” Gordon said. She gave a special shout out to businesses such as JM Eagle and Mission Bank, which have sponsored at least once concert each year. The average cost for a band is $200 to $300.
The Kingman Area Chamber of Commerce recognized Sounds of Kingman’s contribution to the community with an Andy Award in 2016, and Gordon was honored in 2016 for Women Making History (arts).
“We really have received a lot of positive reinforcement,” she said. “It makes me feel good to stand up on stage and see little kids in strollers and elderly people in wheelchairs. We put on a variety of music to appeal to everyone.”