In an effort to level the playing field between male and female musicians in the music industry and perhaps boost attendance, the Orioles are staging “Friday Fireworks & Music,” which provides local talent and up-and-coming female country music artists a chance to perform at Camden Yards during and after games.
At Friday night home games until Aug. 23, local students perform during the seventh inning stretch and female country musicians immediately before the post-game fireworks display
The concert series, in its second season, is spearheaded by singer and songwriter Margaret Valentine, the spouse of Orioles executive John Angelos, in a partnership with the nonprofit organization Change the Conversation, a group that advocates for gender equality in the country music industry. John Angelos is the son of Orioles owner Peter Angelos and runs the team’s business as its executive vice president.
The aim of the Friday night shows is to correct the opportunity disparity between male and female performers.
“There is an imbalance, and we can’t ignore that,” said Valentine, who owns the Nashville-based entertainment company Pound It Out Loud. “What’s the point of having a platform if you don’t use it?”
The team’s emphasis on providing a wider array of entertainment options comes as Orioles Park at Camden Yards attempts to shake its image as a baseball-only venue, even hosting Billy Joel for a historic first rock concert in July. Despite the ballpark’s popularity, attendance for Orioles’ games hit a 40-year low last season as the team posted the worst record in baseball.
While the organization would not comment directly on the effect of the music series on attendance, a team spokesman said that stadium offerings held in the summer months like entertainment and fireworks generally do boost turnout.
The musical performances also reflect the shifting dynamics of Orioles ownership as the aging Peter Angelos battles health problems and prepares to cede control of the team to his sons John and Louis Angelos, who oversees the team’s baseball operations.
While John Angelos is a music lover, Peter Angelos said in 2000 that he was “not going to have [Camden Yards] become some kind of honky tonk for various and sundry rock 'n' roll bands.”
Marina Bui, an Orioles spokeswoman, said the venue’s versatility allows it to provide a platform for a number of causes that align with the team’s charitable mission to uplift diverse communities.
“At end of the day, it culminates with people who are passionate about women’s rights,” Bui said.
She added that the Orioles organization has a long history of supporting various arts institutions and has plans to award two grants to Baltimore School for the Arts and Jubilee Arts for music and cultural education on Friday.
The team also has instituted other female-oriented events this summer, including holding an “A League of Their Own” Orioles Theme Night on Mother’s Day.
Since June, the Orioles also have hosted the temporary exhibit “Standing Together: Women’s Ongoing Fight for Equality,” in partnership with the National Woman’s Party, which takes the form of an abstract, experiential display posted on various fixtures on the ballpark’s lower concourse. The exhibit highlights the centennial anniversary of the passage and ratification of women’s constitutional right to vote. It will remain in place through the 2020 season.
Susan Carter, president of the National Woman’s Party, said the Orioles have impressed her organization with the team’s commitment to advancing women’s causes.
“For us, it’s a very exciting and different kind of venue,” Carter said. “The opportunity for fans to be exposed to history and reflect on the progress of the movement — we’re so excited to be at Camden Yards.”
On Friday, 15-year-old Sasha Lichez from Lutherville performed “This Land is Your Land” during the seventh-inning stretch, and 19-year-old Carter Jones — who goes by the stage name Carter Faith — performed original music for the second year in a row for the Camden Yards crowd. Jones said singing at Camden Yard last year gave her confidence to pursue her dreams at Nashville’s Belmont University, where she studies songwriting.
“I’ve been lucky to find a lot of females to work with who champion what I want to do with my music,” Jones said.