If it's true, as Shakespeare wrote, that "all the world's a stage," one North Texan has made it his mission to prove the adage right here in Dallas-Fort Worth.
Musician Michael Clay recently approached Dallas Love Field officials with an idea to showcase homegrown talent, and as of this week, a new high-tech stage has been installed near the center of the bustling place. The stage's first order of duty: to host a Texas Music Series five days per week for the 14 million-plus passengers who travel through Dallas Love Field each year.
With a background in music and hospitality -- his production company oversaw the building and programming of the Glass Cactus nightclub at the Gaylord Texan, where he served as director of entertainment -- Clay says he is looking for opportunities to highlight the substantial, if sometimes unsung, contributions North Texas has made in music history. He is the co-founder and executive director of the Grapevine-based Texas Music Project (TMP), a nonprofit that focuses on "address[ing] the lack of funding for the arts in general and specifically music education in our schools and communities." Willie Nelson has served as honorary chairman since 2002.
The creator says the idea for a stage inside a Dallas airport seemed both obvious and a bit crazy at first.
The new stage continues the TMP's mission by providing performance opportunities for rising stars and established musicians alike. It will also introduce those artists to a much broader audience.
But, Clay says this story isn't about him. In fact, he's adamant. With his knowledge in audiovisual and music production, Clay stepped into the role of consultant in charge of programming. Love Field brought in Corgan Design to help determine how to make the stage work in the given space, Dallas-based Mecca Design for its fabrication and Argyle-based GoVision to install 9 foot by 12 foot LED panels that serve as the backdrop. Clair Solutions, which also counts the AT&T Performing Arts Center, the Majestic Theater and Music Hall at Fair Park among local clientes, provided audio and lighting services.
"I'm a guest in their house," Clay says. "With my background, I just happen to always be thinking about ways to capitalize on captive audiences."
An airport is, of course, full of potential audiences every single day, many who have time on their hands and a desire to be entertained.
No one hopes for a flight delay or lengthy layover, but music from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays might just make such inconveniences a bit more enjoyable.
The stage is located in the main terminal near the food court, which is within the secure area, so only ticketed passengers will be able to enjoy the live performances on any given day. However, the audio signal is relayed throughout the entire airport, and Clay says they are developing a YouTube channel and other live streaming and social media channels for broadcasting performances to those who aren't flying.
When the venue isn't being used for the Texas Music Series, the city of Dallas plans to call on the Office of Cultural Affairs and other educational institutions to fill the stage, according to Guy Bruggeman, the art and program coordinator for the Department of Aviation.
Kevin Faciane, partner and vice president of business development for GoVision, is hopeful airports across the world will take note. He says:
"This is one of those incredible ideas that makes you say, 'why didn't I think of that?'"
Clay calls the GoVision LED wall a "game changer." It can transform the stage design with seemingly limitless versatility and, during downtime between live performances, can be used for music videos, advertisements and airport communications to patrons.
As of Monday, the Love Field Stage's Texas Music Series is in full swing with a kickoff performance by singer-songwriter Jon Christopher Davis. Brendon Anthony, director of the Texas Music Office, a state-funded business promotion office in Austin, stopped by to bless the stage. Other visitors included Danna Strong, director of operations for the Americana Music Organization; Rick and Beverly Lambert, parents of CMA female vocalist of the year Miranda Lambert; and legendary singer-songwriter Radney Foster.
The airport setting also lends itself to occasional fortuitous collaborations. On Tuesday, Fort Worth's Matt Tedder -- who recently appeared on season 10 of The Voice -- was joined onstage by fellow The Voice season 9 semifinalist Madi Davis of McKinney and Paul Harrington of Rockwall who, perhaps surprisingly, provided the harmonica solo for Pitbull and Ke$ha's "Timber." Angie Keilhauer, who also appeared on season 10 of The Voice, just happened to be flying through, and she hopped in for an impromptu song before her connection.
Collaborations are unlikely to happen every day, but when they do, they will fit beautifully into the stage's original vision.
"Everyone thinks of Austin as the music city, and it's a great one, but so many artists originated here, and I think Dallas is the right place to showcase that," Clay says.