Letter to our friends, fans, and supporters about Flying Cat Music in 2019

We know that Flying Cat Music’s (FCM) last year of concerts ended with a cliff hanger. Sometimes “last” means “most recent,” and other times it means “The End.” Well, fellow lovers of great music, we can now report that 2018 did not spell the end of FCM. With a little help from our friends (and that includes you), we will keep on rolling for a 2019 concert year. This email contains a full update covering a lot of ground. It also includes a direct appeal for your financial support because without some short-term funding our plans for this year will grind to a halt. If you appreciate what FCM has done to date, and if you want to see us continue, please be sure to read the latter part of this “report” to find out how you can help (even if you don’t have time to read all the “news”).

There are major changes in store for FCM this year, all designed to increase the likelihood that we can prosper, grow, and remain on firm footing for the foreseeable future. Details are below, but here are the main points:

1. FCM is changing venue.
2. FCM has expanded our organizing group.
3. FCM is upgrading operations; from ticketing to website to sound.
4. FCM will hold our first 2019 concert sometime this spring. Booking was delayed due to the changes described in this email. More info will be forthcoming in March.
5. FCM has merged with a non-profit arts organization and can now accept tax-deductible donations and checks written out to our non-profit (however checks still cannot be written to “Flying Cat Music”).
6. Did we say that we need “seed money” soon? Yes, we do.

We call 2019 our transition year and no transition is more dramatic than our change in concert venue. Our concerts this year will be held at the Phoenicia United Methodist Church at 29 Church Street. Please note, we are talking about inside the church itself, not in the adjacent hall (which we will also have access to for serving refreshments, selling merchandise, etc.). Some of you may have attended a Phoenicia Festival of the Voice event held inside that church; if so, you are already aware of how special a space it is.

Before saying more about our new venue, we want to acknowledge our deep appreciation to the Empire State Railway Museum for hosting our concert series for the first ten years. It was not an easy decision for FCM to leave the Railway Museum. The Museum Board’s need to maximize potential uses of their space to strengthen both its finances and the Museum’s commitment to its railroad history mission presented some complications for us. None the less, the Empire State Railway Museum did offer us an opportunity to produce another year of shows there. We are extremely grateful for that offer. We retain our membership in the Railway Museum and we deeply support its ongoing activities. If you are not already a member of the Empire State Railway Museum, please consider becoming one. They have earned our continuing support.
By moving to the United Methodist Church, FCM gets to double seating capacity yet still enjoy a warm sense of intimacy provided by such a lovely space. That is huge for us (okay, pun intended). If you have ever been put on a waiting list to attend one of our shows, and/or ultimately denied attendance due to a sellout, you probably can appreciate this change. On our end, it reduces the stress of managing tight seating constraints. We will no longer need to set up and break down seating for every show, since comfortable pews are provided (bring your own cushion if want deluxe accommodations). Bottom line: our new venue (like the Empire State Railway Museum) is an exquisite room. It’s graced with a high ceiling, good sound, beautiful dark wood arches, and glorious stained-glass windows.
Simplifying our productions is essential for FCM to continue. It has to get easier for volunteers to produce concerts. If we can streamline the process enough, we might be able to stage more shows each year. We expect to introduce an online ticketing option this year that will replace our current RSVP system. We plan upgrades also to our website, sound system, lighting, and publicity efforts. Some of that is improvement for the sake of improvement, but much of it is essential to our continued success.
On top of all that, FCM itself is changing. After steering FCM for ten years, the current leadership team of “Janet and Tommy” (or “Tommy and Janet” as we are variously called) has expanded to embrace new energy and ideas. So when we say this is a “transition year” for FCM, that’s part of what we mean. Janet and Tommy (it’s us writing you this update) will remain in a leadership capacity throughout this transition period while new people are climbing on board to join us. About a dozen of us “Cats” have been meeting together since October, plotting a new way forward and building a new entity to take FCM into the future. Along those lines, we have exciting news to share; FCM has merged with an existing local non-profit corporation dedicated to the arts.
That would be Phoenicia Forge Art Center, Ltd. which had been relatively inactive in recent years but now is bursting with activity. Soon its name, as well, will change to reflect the merger. The Chairperson of its board, Dakin, is the former Chair of the Empire State Railway Museum Board and a big supporter of FCM. This is a match made in heaven, so to speak. In the years to come, our new non-profit entity, with a reconstituted board and a revitalized mission, will help break new ground for FCM. It has already opened up a crucial door for us. FCM can now apply for grants and accept tax deductible donations from the public–a darn good thing because FCM is encountering significant new expenses that we must cover.
When we realized it made no sense to keep our concerts going for just one more year, we had to face the music so to speak. Planning for another decade is more ambitious and the changes now underway offer FCM room to grow. That does come at a cost. Our rent was going up regardless of venue and both the Museum and the Church asked us to purchase liability insurance (believe it or not we’ve gone ten years without it). Our sound system minimally needs refurbishing and ideally upgraded to function better in our new space. Plus, there’s some acoustic “tinkering” with our new room that we want to do to make music sound even better.

We have to install new electrical outlets in the Church, and new stage lighting with permanent cables. The new “stage area” is larger and has superior sight lines, but we need to buy temporary floor covering to protect it during shows. We can now store equipment on site, but must purchase locks to do so. To enable online ticket sales, along with other enhancements, FCM will soon migrate to a new website that will no longer be free to operate. We need to print new business cards, make a new banner, the list goes on…
With an expanded team and a non-profit corporation, we are confident FCM will tap into new revenue streams. But that will take a little time and most of our additional expenses are front ended. So, dear reader, we are turning to you to help tide us over. We envision our 2019 concert series starting around April. There are bills we must pay before that first show. Can you help out? As is so often said, no donation is too small (though bigger ones do have their advantages.)
Checks can be written to Phoenicia Forge Art Center, Ltd. which remains the formal name of our non-profit organization until New York State processes our name change application. Should the spirit move you to donate to us some weeks hence, rather than now, please check with us first to see if the above organization name remains current. And always include “Flying Cat Music” on the memo line of your check to ensure that your donation is credited to us.
That brings you pretty much up to date. The next time you hear from FCM, we should have some concert schedule information to share with you. We very much look forward to seeing you at shows in coming months and to introducing you to our full team.
Janet and Tommy
Flying Cat Music