June 2024
Locals Offer Free, Intimate Acoustic Concerts
Sundays at the Sundance coming June 23
Sundays at the Sundance founders Nancy and Wendy Robertson, and Bill and Linda Zombeck

Listening to live music in a small venue provides an intimacy most audiences look for, but rarely find. Husband and wife Bill and Linda Zombeck, and sisters Nancy and Wendy Robertson, decided to make that kind of experience available here so more people can enjoy the skills and talents of our local musicians.

Since its first concert in March 2022 Sundays at the Sundance has provided free quarterly Sunday-afternoon concerts, each featuring three groups of artists in 25-minute sets. “We try to give a selection of musical experiences in each concert,” Wendy said.

That mix may include folk, country-western or blues, with original songs or covers, male and female performers, and solos, duos, trios or quartets. So far 32 different groups, all from the greater Prescott area plus a couple from Phoenix, have played on the program for appreciative audiences.

The second-anniversary concert in March this year brought back five groups of previous performers. “It was very rewarding, and the audience was exuberant. Everybody was celebrating with us!” Linda said.

In the early search for a space the group came across the Sundance Room in the Elks Performing Arts Center, from which they derived the name. That quickly became too small, and they moved to the third-floor Crystal Hall for a perfect fit. It seats 120, and reservations through prescottelkstheatre.org are needed. Many of the shows sell out, but no-shows usually leave room for walk-ins, Nancy said.

“When the contract to rent the room came, (Elks PAC managers) Steve Kartstein and Liz Rogers said, ‘Let’s wait on that (rental fee) and make it a community event,’” Linda said. Another concern was liability insurance, but again, the venue stepped in to cover the venue and all performers sign waivers. The four founders split the $125 cleaning fee for each concert.

For the first show they expected 30 people and more than 70 showed up, and they were generous with tips, so much so the organizers had to put out a second container, and they found a hundred-dollar bill among the contributions. A few days later an envelope with two more hundreds arrived from an anonymous donor. All tips and donations go directly to the performers.

“We didn’t know what we were doing,” Linda offers, but the results of their efforts and planning say otherwise. The mission statement for Sundays at the Sundance says it will provide “a warm and friendly acoustic-music space that connects musicians to the audience in a beautiful and quiet setting without ambient distractions.”

“It’s an alternative to bar scenes,” Nancy said. “The performers just love being listened to and knowing people can hear the lyrics.”

Instruments and voices can be amplified, but no electric guitars, basses, keyboards or drums are allowed. Drinks (beer, wine, sodas, water) and snacks are sold at the back of the room, the proceeds staying with Elks PAC. The founders’ skill sets cover sound tech, marketing, graphics and artist bookings.

Although the four founders (a fifth dropped out) are all in their 70s, music has been part of their lives since childhood. The twin Robertson Sisters perform locally and recorded their first album two years ago, at age 72. Wendy picked up the guitar at age 10 (Nancy plays ukulele) and they sang in choirs since fourth grade. For five years in the 1980s they played country-western and folk music in bars and coffee houses in the San Francisco Bay area. They also sang with Schola Cantorun for 25 seasons. Since 2013 they’ve been playing at folk festivals and open mics in northern Arizona and at the Glendale Folk Festival.

Bill Zombeck has also played guitar since his younger years, including with rock bands in high school, college, during his Navy years, and in Texas. In Prescott he and Linda (both 75) started a ukulele group called the Wicki Wacky Woos and played at assisted living facilities and on Acker Nights. Linda also plays dulcimer, piano and washboard.

Sundays at the Sundance concerts are scheduled around the solstices and equinoxes (excepting the December events), and it has accumulated quite a following. Performers and audiences alike appreciate the Crystal Hall acoustics. While many of the concerts fill every seat, the group is not interested in a larger space. “We’re not going anywhere,” Linda said.

“The Elks does a great job. We all want to keep it free-admission,” Wendy adds. 

When asked how they find musicians, Bill said they often go out and listen to people they’re not familiar with. Sometimes others will pass along the names of performers. They’ve now got a database of interested musicians, Wendy said, “more people than we can use.”

The next Sundays at the Sundance takes place on Sunday June 23, 3-5 pm in the Crystal Room. It features Kathleen's 'Clear Channel Music,' with favorite songs from now and then, Brandi Loves Danny, featuring Paula Lane blending country flavor with ‘70s pop in an energetic performance, and longtime folk, country and blues singer and guitarist Greg LaCosse.

Reservations are recommended through prescottelkstheatre.org, with admission at the door subject to availability.

Sue Tone is a mostly retired local journalist.

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