by AARON BREWINGTON
After a 2009 arson fire destroyed the Little Nashville Opry, an entertainment venue that had served Brown County for more than 30 years, the community felt the loss. Things took a bright turn when the Brown County Music Center opened in August 2019 to a sold-out Vince Gill concert.
Nashville, Indiana, was one of the first artist colonies in the United States. Now, with the new music center, which seats 2,017, the community is becoming one of the premier stops in Indiana for touring musical acts.
“Brown County pushes the arts,” says Kevin Ault, president of the Brown County Tourism Commission. “That isn’t just painting a picture. The musical arts are big here, too.”
It wasn’t long after the fire that the need for a new venue was realized. Local architect Barry Herring, who also owns the Brown County Inn, drew up plans for a new facility. But, without funding, the project lingered. Eventually, Ault and the Brown County Convention and Visitors Bureau’s Tourism Commission got involved. Funding was raised through an innkeepers’ tax and a bank loan. The group built on the outskirts of Nashville, a 13-acre spot large enough to build the state-of-the-art facility they felt necessary to accommodate the caliber of performers they hoped to attract.
Since opening last year, those performers have included The Beach Boys, Melissa Etheridge, Kenny G, Chris Isaak, Gordon Lightfoot, and Tanya Tucker. Those on the horizon include Willie Nelson, Michael Bolton, Martina McBride, and LeAnn Rimes, all set to play in April.
According to Christian Webb, executive director of the Music Center, success breeds success in the music industry. “You have to have a customer service approach,” Webb says. “The stars, their producers, and their tour managers all talk. We offer state-of-the-art lighting and sound. Our dressing rooms and catering hall are top-notch. That all goes back with them to wherever they are from.”
For more information, visit browncountymusiccenter.com.