Though the three-day music, arts and film festival that takes over Athens each year in June has become an event to anticipate, many are unaware of the charitable actions that are associated with AthFest.
These charitable actions are carried out by Athfest Educates, a nonprofit that “advances high-quality music and arts education for local youth and the Athens community through direct support of school and community-based programs and events, including an annual music and arts festival,” according to the organization’s website.
This year, the organization paired with the Gretsch Foundation, the charitable organization associated with the Gretsch guitar brand, to continue the tradition of auctioning a signed guitar.
“AthFest Educates partnered with the Gretsch Foundation, the charitable arm of the Grestch family, in 2008 as a way to help raise funds to support the festival,” said Jill Helme, the executive director of Athfest Educates. “The folks at Grestch are generous and care about music education, so it was a natural partnership.”
Since 2008, the auction has featured guitars signed by bands such as R.E.M. and Widespread Panic.
The Gretsch Foundation donates a guitar, which is later signed by a prominent band and sent to auction. This year, the guitar chosen is a Gretsch 6118 two-tone Green Anniversary electric guitar that was built in 1999 before being exhibited at the Georgia Music Hall of Fame.
“The Gretsch Foundation selects the guitar,” said Helm. “They select a guitar based on who we will have sign the guitar each year and what they have available in their foundation.”
Drive-By Truckers are the featured band this year, with the instrument signed by members Mike Cooley, Jay Gonzalez, Patterson Hood, Brad Morgan and Matt Patton.
“We always try to pick a band that has a connection to Athens and a band that has a large enough fan base that will yield a larger auction price,” said Helm. “The Drive-By Truckers have always been supporters of AthFest and the AthFest Educates mission, and they were happy to help in this way.”
The band was unavailable for comment.
Without signatures, the guitar is valued at $2,400 with an included case. The value is expected to increase with the signatures, and therefore, the instrument is also available at a “Buy It Now” price of $4,000. If not purchased at the “Buy It Now” price, the auction will continue through the end of Athfest with the winner being announced at noon on June 26.
The money raised is not scheduled to go to one specific education initiative, and instead benefits Athfest Educates in general. However, the organization does award bi-annual grants to local educators to fund music and arts programming.
One of many past grant recipients, Burney-Harris-Lyons Middle School, used the funding to purchase strings instruments, namely a class set of acoustic guitars. In Winter 2016, the school received a second grant to purchase “three electric guitars, three electric basses and an amp/mixer combination to expand the school's current guitar program and encourage students to learn a greater variety of musical genres and develop an individual style,” according to the organization’s website.
“The guitar program at BHL began as a way to reach students who were not interested in participating in the traditional band and orchestra programs,” said Melanie Sigler, principal of Burney-Harris-Lyons. “The Athfest Educates grants have made a significant impact in our school and provided exciting learning opportunities for our students.”