Concert bids bye to departing Live Acoustic Venue founder

2013-04-11T00:00:00Z Concert bids bye to departing Live Acoustic Venue founderGerald M. Gay Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
April 11, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Saturday's performance at Abounding Grace Sanctuary will mark more than just the end of the spring concert series for the Live Acoustic Venue Association.

After nearly five years, LAVA founder Bonnie Vining is retiring from her role as director of the nonprofit.

Her decision to depart was one of necessity. It was either leave LAVA or lose her sanity.

"There was a time when I could unwind on some evenings and weekends and even get away on occasional vacations," she said.

But those days are no more.

"I've been working full time in addition to presenting well over 100 concerts," she added.

Over the years, Vining has produced shows in different venues under the LAVA moniker, including her Abounding Grace performances and Music on the Mountain on Mount Lemmon, which is returning May 25 under new management.

Vining hopes to use her new-found time off to pursue a variety of activities, including bicycling, reading, hiking, dancing and "attending concerts that I'm not responsible for," she said.

She'll also continue to work for the Vail School District as manager of the Vail Theatre of the Arts for a few more years, after which she hopes to fully retire to Costa Rica with her husband, Joe.

Saturday's farewell will feature the local groups Ice-9 and Bright & Childers, two of Vining's favorite acoustic bands.

She spoke to Caliente about LAVA and about what's next.

What word would best describe how you feel about your departure and why? "I'm not sure I can describe how I feel in a single word. But the feelings are somewhat akin to what you might feel when your child goes off to college or joins the military.

"I'm excited that LAVA will continue and hopefully flourish, but also a little sad to see this baby that I've raised move on."

Who will be taking over?

"A great guy named Chris Stamos who learned about LAVA from musician Stefan George while taking guitar lessons from Stefan. Chris and I have had several conversations, and I feel that he shares my passion for presenting live music and for creating community. He has some experience organizing music events, and he has the time and energy to devote to LAVA, plus a great vision of how he wants to expand LAVA to some new venues."

What was it that made you want to start LAVA in the first place? "I sold my coffee shop, Javalina's Coffee & Friends, in December of 2008 after five years. The economy had forced numerous restaurants out of business that year, and many restaurant owners who were able to hang in there stopped hosting music or reduced musicians' pay to make ends meet.

"Musicians were really suffering financially, and some of them appealed to me to help them find gigs."

Did you think it would grow and evolve the way it has? "LAVA's mission from the beginning has been 'to connect musicians with appreciative audiences in comfortable settings that are conducive to listening' And it has very much fulfilled that mission.

"However, I never expected it to evolve in the ways that it did."

Which artists, touring or local, have given you the most memorable performances? "I have to plead the Fifth on this. There have been so many."

What was the most important thing you learned running the series? "Follow your passion, and it will bring you unimaginable joy. But when your labor of love turns into a labor of labor, it's time to consider a different path."

If you go

• What: LAVA's Bonnie Vining farewell concert.

• When: 7 p.m. Saturday.

• Where: Abounding Grace Sanctuary, 2450 S. Kolb Road.

• Tickets: $15 in advance through lavamusic.org and $20 at the door.

Contact reporter Gerald M. Gay at ggay@azstarnet.com or 807-8430.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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