A passion for music and promotion

The Baltimore Sun

Adam Furman, a junior at Atholton High School, lives and breathes music. "I'm either playing, organizing or listening to something," he said. "That's pretty much my whole life right now."

His passion extends beyond playing in a typical garage band. "I've been [organizing] a so-called Basement Fest since I was in eighth grade," he said.

That fest has outgrown his basement. Last year, hundreds of people attended Furman's Basement Fest in the backyard of friend Sean Kincaid's house in Glenelg.

Now, HC DrugFree has joined forces with Furman to organize the Shamrock Jam Fest - featuring seven alternative rock bands - from 7 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. tomorrow at Slayton House in Wilde Lake Village Center.

"[St. Patrick's Day is] a day in particular where a lot of kids will go out and drink or throw a party," said Wilde Lake junior Matt Higgins, who will perform with his band, the Getaways. "This gives people something to do instead."

Proceeds from tickets, which cost $5 at the door, will benefit Backpacks for Success, which provides backpacks and school supplies to needy students, and HC DrugFree, an organization that aims to provide an alcohol and drug-free environment for young people.

Laura Smit, HC DrugFree's executive director, contacted Furman, hoping to use his connections as a musician and manager in the amateur rock scene.

"We couldn't do this without Adam because he has all the contacts," Smit said. "[He is] amazing. He walks around with his clipboard and has all his rules for the bands. ... Hopefully he'll be able to do this for a living someday."

Smit said it was Furman who created the event's name.

"Originally it was just going to be called the Teen Band Fest, and then we got the date on St. Patrick's Day. And Adam had this great idea and changed the name to the Shamrock Jam Fest," she said.

"A lot of adults are afraid to organize these types of events because they're afraid kids will bring alcohol and drugs and get into fights," Smit said, adding, "The vast majority of kids are doing the right thing. They want to be successful in life, and they want to have fun events."

This is the first time Furman has worked with HC DrugFree. He still plans to hold his Basement Fest, tentatively scheduled for May 20.

"It's all about networking," he said, sounding like the businessman he hopes to become.

"I'm looking into music marketing and managing," Furman said. "At first, I wanted to do classical stuff, but then I realized I didn't want to be broke," he said, joking.

He takes about 10 percent of the band Disarmingly Charming's fee in return for arranging its shows. "It didn't really matter to me - the money. It was just fun going around with demos," he said.

When not fixing gigs, Furman plays in Atholton's marching band.

"I'm an orchestral timpanist, but usually there's not much room in a rock band for an orchestral timpanist," he said. So he plays percussion in his rock band.

The demands of school and marching band forced him this year to cut back and stop managing a band called the Vault. However, school also serves as a prime setting for his networking.

Alex Ruben, a keyboardist in the Automatic Stallions, is taking an English class with Furman.

"I heard about the [Shamrock Jam Fest] through Adam. He sort of said in passing, 'Would you guys be interested in playing this show on St. Patrick's Day?' We were down, real down,' " said Ruben.

Other than occasional shows in Washington and Baltimore, high school bands usually play only at coffeehouses sponsored by school clubs.

"This one's at Slayton House, which is a totally different [venue], and all the funds are going to a charity as opposed to a school group," Ruben said.

Furman joins a few others organizing charity music festivals, most notably Chipapalooza III, which will benefit Juvenile Diabetes Research labs June 24 at Centennial Park, organized by college students Chip Hiden, Patrick Gibson and Chris Trenner.

"I'm really enjoying organizing something like that, seeing a bunch of people come together to listen to some good tunes," Furman said.

Basement Fest, originally free, began as a way for Furman to share his band's music. "We just wanted to be heard. And to get more people to come, we had other bands come," he said.

He is using MySpace to promote Basement Fest. The Web site has helped him develop a wealth of connections with other musicians.

Basement Fest drew teenagers from Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania last year. "We had a group of hippies from Pennsylvania," Furman said.

With a huge turnout and a ticket price of $2, he soon found himself with a very lucrative event.

"We figured that we didn't need the money, so we might as well give it to charity," he said. Previous Basement Fests benefited Hurricane Katrina victims and the Caitlin Dunbar Fund.

Behind the laid-back attitude of the performers is a strong commitment to music. Higgins, for example, plays the piano, the trombone in Wilde Lake High's marching band and rehearses with the Getaways two or three times a week on guitar. During those rehearsals, the Getaways prepared a 30-minute set for the Shamrock Jam Fest: five covered songs and five originals.

"I'm excited every time we [the Getaways] have a show," Higgins said. "It's an adrenaline rush, you could say."

Information: www.hcdrugfree.org, or 410-799-4879.

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