I'm waiting in the atrium of the Central Library for 17-year-old Brandon Lott, Herron High School junior and coordinator of this year's Independent Art and Music Festival, Indy's rollicking day-long outdoor festival, featuring two stages, twelve bands, and almost one hundred local artists and vendors. I'm actually a little nervous. What kind of high school student has the chops to coordinate an event of this scale? I vaguely wonder if he'll be carrying a briefcase.
Not even close. He's actually sporting burlap shoes and one very cool pair of horn-rimmed glasses. Brandon's completely laidback and manages to be self-assured, yet unassuming, seeming totally comfortable in his own skin. He's also really easy to talk to, which is great, because I've got a lot of questions.
By no design of his own, Brandon suddenly found himself the coordinator of IMAF through connections made and experience gained in his internship last summer with the Harrison Center for the Arts. Last year, he was just a volunteer, but this year he's planning it all, the center of a whirlwind of activity. Coordinating IMAF is a colossal endeavor, one he's been working on since September. In case you didn't do the math, that's nine months of event planning. "Sometimes I like taking on really big things, really huge challenges that seem impossible to accomplish," he explains. "I just want to be able to say that I overcame that fear, that I got in there and did it, and I completed the task. I just really like challenges."
Oh, you don't say?
There's a certain indefinable vibe that radiates from passionate people, and this kid's got it in spades. Brandon's love for music fuels his IMAF efforts, and it really shows. We spend a few minutes extolling the innumerable talents of Sufjan Stevens and The National, and then he admits, "I really love all types of music. My favorite part of coordinating IMAF was just going in and looking up all the local bands and listening to them. That process is so awesome; I don't know how to explain it. I would just think, 'I'm going to get this band that is so great to play at my festival.' I discover them and I bring them here and then I get to share them with everyone else." I can tell he's sincere because just in the short time we spent together, I spent as much time scribbling down the names of new bands to investigate as I did taking notes for my interview.
I'm curious about the ins and outs of his job, and we talk a little bit about what it takes to be a coordinator. As you might expect, strong organizational skills and attention to detail are at the top of the list. Brandon says, "I've found that out about myself, that I'm very into the big picture. I want to see the final product, but I'm not really taking those steps to get there. So I have to slow it down, and just wait a little bit, take it one day at a time, and don't try to rush to get to the end. It's just like with my own music; when I'm recording music, I just really want to hear that final product, so I don't really critique every little thing that I need to for it to sound as good as it could. My advice to anyone coordinating an event is: don't rush, take it slow, and really focus--focus on the little things."
The hardest part about planning IMAF? Hands down, the phone. "I have this constant fear of talking on the phone with people I don't know," he laughs, "and I have to do it a lot. I still haven't overcome that, but oh well. I can't run from it because it's my job."
Though Brandon says that, over all, coordinating IMAF has been much easier than he expected, I find myself a little overwhelmed by everything it entails. Brandon describes the gigantic binder and 10-page to-do list that he was given when he started, the hours of hard work, and the many (dreaded) phone calls. And it's not over yet. IMAF takes place on June 8, two days after Herron lets out for the summer. "Those two days are going to be packed," Brandon says. "I'm going to have to really be on it."
Once IMAF is over, Brandon's looking forward to another summer internship at the Harrison Center, writing music with his newly formed band (Lake Monster, coming soon to you, at IMAF 2014), and contemplating--maybe--an eventual career in music production. Music production, Brandon explains, is a little bit of a scary career choice because it's so competitive. But what is Brandon Lott, if not ready for a challenge?
As we're wrapping up, I'm even more excited about IMAF than I was when I arrived. I'm about to shut off my recorder when Brandon says something that sums up perfectly my own feelings about why IMAF is so wonderful: "Basically what IMAF is all about is just showcasing the talents of our local artists and musicians. It's their time to shine and show all of Indianapolis what they do and how hard they work in our community." He's exactly right--and it's going to be great. I shake Brandon warmly by the hand, and we part ways on the front steps of the library. There's nothing left for me to do now but head home and type up my notes--but not, of course, until I've listened to everything on my long list of new music.