Quarterly Newsletter – Summer 2023

Letter from the Artistic Director | Interview with an Acorn Artist | Board Spotlight | Acorn News | Acorn Highlights


Letter from the Artistic Director

, Quarterly Newsletter – Summer 2023

Dear Acorn Friends,

This summer, you have been joining us for some very big events and exciting new initiatives! Thank you for your support all along the way as we continue our mission to impact the culture and quality of life in our community.

Over the past couple of months, we have seen a number of new ideas come to life. From our first-ever Acorn Music Festival to engaging new family programming, from visual arts to community partnerships, we continue to look for new ways to serve as Southwest Michigan’s arts and culture hub.

The energy of the inaugural year of The Acorn Music Festival could be felt all throughout downtown Three Oaks as festival-goers flocked to the area for the first-ever event of its kind at The Acorn. We presented 23 artists on two stages over the course of the 3-day Music Festival – headliners Alejandro Escovedo, Shemekia Copeland, Cracker and Son Volt, along with talented artists such as The Crane Wives, Aaron Lee Tasjan, May Erlewine, Anne Harris & Dave Herrero, The Bergamot, and so many more! We prioritized independent musicians and local artists as well, and watched as connections were formed among all the performers, including moments of mentorship and encouragement from veteran artists to those just starting out their careers. We are incredibly proud of our first year and look forward to presenting our 2024 2nd Annual Acorn Music Festival!

We put a focus on families and young people in new ways this summer with our Acorn Tree House series and The Acorn Dramatic Arts Camp (TADA, for short). Acorn Tree House shows are fun for the entire family, with positive, energetic and engaging artists who will spark a love for music for the young (and young at heart). There is one date remaining this summer – Saturday, August 26th featuring Campfire Stu. Come on out with your family!  And, speaking of creating a spark – our first-ever youth camp, TADA, sparked a love and appreciation for theater. Our fifteen campers – ages 8 to 14 – learned about acting, improvisation, musical theater, lighting design, set building and more. This all culminated in a delightful and successful production of The Wizard of Oz last month. We are already planning for what comes next for TADA – including other camps, workshops and theater intensives for students.

Art at The Acorn is another new idea that has brought our physical space to life in exciting ways. Through the end of this month, we continue to feature artwork by Frank Kurland. If you’ve attended an event recently, you probably noticed these beautiful paintings. Perhaps you were able to join us for our Artist Reception in June to celebrate Frank and his exhibition Dreamscapes and more. You may have also recently seen our announcement that we are open for submissions for future exhibitions for Art at The Acorn. Please pass along our Artist Submission Form to any fine artist that you think should apply. We intend to rotate exhibitions once approximately every three months. 

In other exciting news, in July we crowned the 2023 Winner of The Acorn’s annual Singer-Songwriter CompetitionAndrew Delaney from Arlington, Texas! This year’s competition featured six incredibly talented finalists – along with Andrew, we also heard from Stone & Snow, Reece Sullivan, Kelly Hoppenjans, Sarah King and Maggie Kubley. Each artist can be found online and on all platforms where you’d expect to find digital music, so please support them wherever you can!

In case you’re counting, we’ve welcomed four sold out audiences this summer alone – Heartache Tonight, Tab Benoit, Los Lobos and Steve Earle! We’ve continued our partnerships with Harbor Country Pride and the American Red Cross, plus we’ve presented live music weekly at the Three Oaks Market in partnership with our local Three Oaks DDA. The market runs every Friday from 3:00–7:00pm ET in downtown Three Oaks. 

All of this, plus we shared news about a generous matching grant opportunity, made possible by The Frederick S. Upton Foundation. Two of our programs that put the spotlight on local musical artists – Acorn Open Mic Nights and our Midwest Made concert series – create an outlet close to home that supports their continuing to live and work in our community as musicians, gain experience, grow a following, and ultimately sustain a career as an artist. The Frederick S. Upton Foundation has generously committed to match donations to support Midwest Made and Acorn Open Mic Nights, up to $10,000. Give before August 31st to see your impact doubled!

The changing of the seasons may change our pacing a bit, but will not change the quality of what we have planned for our community – this fall, we look forward to seeing you as we present artists like Duke Tumatoe, Rodney Crowell, Shovels & Rope and Henhouse Prowlers. We’ll also partner once again with Neighbor by Neighbor for a benefit concert with Meagan McNeal. Mark your calendars now for our Halloween Bash – Boo Ball on October 28th and the return of the Spectacular Tournament of Playwrights on November 4th. 

As always, thank you for your support for the arts in your community!

All my best,
, Quarterly Newsletter – Summer 2023

Nikki Gauthier
Artistic Director



Interview with an Acorn Artist

Lilly Hiatt

, Quarterly Newsletter – Summer 2023

Lilly Hiatt has been making music since she was 12 years old, when her father, acclaimed singer-songwriter John Hiatt, gave her her first guitar, a 1953 parlor-size Martin, and truly even before then. As the daughter of one of America’s leading songwriters, Lilly stands on her own two feet as a talented singer and gifted songwriter in her own right. 

With a strong country/roots rock influence, Hiatt's music is also steeped in tough, guitar-based rock, and her lyrics are unflinchingly personal missives about complicated relationships and the rocky side of life's road. 

Lilly attended high school in Nashville and later studied in Colorado at the University of Denver, where she decided she wanted to go professional as a musician after forming a band with fellow students called Shake Go Down. She made her recording debut in 2008, singing backing vocals on her father's album Same Old Man, and she began playing out with her own band.

To date, Lilly has recorded five solo albums, the most recent titled Lately which Hiatt describes as a record she wrote to share some of where she’s been: “Whenever songs happen for me, they are like photographs of time… [describing Covid] Last year was tough. That’s an understatement for certain. Tears were shed, lives were lost, and lonely was a way of life. I have always felt lonely, but never gone to the depths of solitude that I had in 2020. The irony of that is, I was not alone at all in that space. Everyone had lost something, and we all were trying to rebuild our lives as we knew them… I realized that my heart was full of everything I loved and that would carry me forward for the time being. Eventually we would all get back to one another.”

Lilly lives in Nashville, Tennessee with her husband Coley Hinson, cat Poppy, and dog Elvis. They make music whenever possible and enjoy creating records. Lilly comes to The Acorn on Saturday, September 23 with Nathan Graham. Tickets are on sale now.

Q: How did you get your start in music?

A:  I was into music since I was small. I loved playing on a little casio keyboard that someone had given me from like age 2 on. I started writing songs at about 12. But I was quiet about my plan until college-which was to make it as a songwriter in the world. So I formed my first band in Denver at age 20, and we eventually moved to Nashville. 

Q: Who are your biggest musical influences?

A: Pearl Jam, Mariah Carrey, Winona Judd, my dad, Lauryn Hill, Fiona Apple, Sublime…I could keep going and going but this gives an idea hopefully!

Q: What is the most surprising memory you have from a performance?

A: Well, one time we were playing at a dive in Nashville (a fave) called the Springwater. Everything was becoming odd while we were on stage, and I said to my bandmate Beth, this seems like a Harmony Korine movie…and no kidding, as I said that he burst in with a film crew and started filming stuff.

Q: Who is your favorite musician to listen to when you’re not making music of your own?

A: My husband, Coley Hinson.

Q: You are fairly open in your description of your record Lately about the impact of Covid isolation. What is the most important thing you learned about yourself during that time?

A: Wow, I learned I need people…badly! I always thought I was a loner, but I got VERY tired of being by myself. But I also learned how entertained I am by my two pets and in ways loved the simplicity of taking walks every day, playing guitar and being with my animals. (it was me, my cat Poppy, and dog Elvis during a lot of covid).

Q:  How has your music changed since you first began touring after college?

A: My first band was a lot of things, it was kind of jammy, a little blues, and a lot of words with an odd country rock thing too. It was fun, but all over the place. I still like all those sounds now, but I feel like they’ve become a little more focused into just being pretty much a folk song writer.

Q: What advice would you give to young artists?

A: Funny you ask, because I was thinking about the journey young people embark upon today. It takes a lot of guts to try to make a living out of your art. So don’t give up if that’s what you want to do. Make it happen, and stay true to yourself. Plenty of people will try to tear you down – and you will probably be your own worst enemy at times. But use all that energy to make great songs, and keep going. For real!!! But also, it takes A LOT OF HARD WORK so no forgetting that part! (haha).

Q:  What can our audience expect from you when you play at The Acorn on September 23rd?

A: We are gonna rock and have a blast with everyone!!! I am excited to hear Nathan Graham that evening. It’s gonna be fun.

The Acorn thanks Lilly for taking the time to be interviewed! We’re looking forward to Lilly’s show with Nathan Graham on Saturday, September 23rd



Board Spotlight

Bob Murphy

, Quarterly Newsletter – Summer 2023

Bob and his wife Kim are longtime patrons of The Acorn and residents of Three Oaks.

Bob is founder and managing partner at Movéo, a demand generation agency, headquartered in Chicago. For 31+ years Movéo has worked with leaders at B2B and healthcare brands such as Abbott, Cardinal Health, Pfizer, Syneos Health, Molex, and Careerbuilder to craft strategies that have a direct impact on growth.

Bob has worked with leadership at some of the largest nonprofits in the U.S. to define their brands and drive growth. These include Keck Medicine of USC, Trinity Health, Prisma Health, and Amita Health.

He also has played an active role in supporting a number of other nonprofits including Movember, Japan America Society of Chicago (where he serves on the Board), Family Service of Lake County, CamFund, Mulliganeers, and The Margaret Hackett Family Center Foundation in association with the University of Chicago Medicine.

Bob joined The Acorn board in 2018. After approaching the Executive Director at the time to offer help with marketing, he joined a committee tasked with building the new Acorn brand and a new website. The experience culminated with an event in January of 2019 introducing the new Acorn brand. Bob’s experience working with this committee led him to want to explore how he could do more: “My wife and I had been coming to Acorn shows for awhile. When we bought a home in Three Oaks in 2018 we began going to many more shows. As so many have experienced, it is such a special place. I wanted to explore how I could do more to not only help The Acorn survive, but to thrive.  I am very excited about our future.”

Bob began his tenure as Acorn Board Chair at the beginning of July.

Q: How would you describe The Acorn to someone you were meeting for the first time?

A: A truly unique organization and space focused on serving the community as its cultural hub. The Acorn is so much more than a building in Three Oaks. It’s a group of passionate people focused on bringing meaningful experiences to the community and beyond.

Q:  Where is your favorite place to travel?

A: Before we moved to Three Oaks, my favorite place to travel was southwest Michigan. I’ve enjoyed travels to the far east, including Beijing, Shanghai, Tokyo and Singapore. Now, my favorite places to travel are where my kids live—Portland and San Francisco!

Q: What is your favorite memory from your time at The Acorn?

A: So many! But here’s one. We bought our home in September of 2018. Shortly after we moved in we were invited to a Halloween party at a neighbor’s home. It was a crowded event and the costumes were amazing. From there we all walked to The Acorn for their Halloween party. So much fun! More amazing costumes, a great band and such great people.

Q: What is your favorite way to spend a day to yourself?

A: I’d start with a hike at the Warren Dunes. We have a favorite trail that winds through the woods, up and down some sandy hills and eventually leads to the beach. A great workout and very scenic. Next, I typically browse the New York Times and Washington Post to catch up on what’s happening. I’d also catch up on emails as well as joining meetings for work and The Acorn.

Q: What are your hobbies/pleasures in life?

A: Art is one of my passions. Visiting galleries, getting to know the artists and the stories behind their work is fascinating. Lounging around the house and enjoying the artwork is equally enjoyable.

Q: What is a 'fun fact' about you or something people might be surprised to know about you?

A: I’m a pretty darn good karaoke singer.


Acorn  News

The Acorn Dramatic Arts Camp Culminates in The Wizard of Oz
Inaugural Year of Youth Camp Delights Campers and Families Alike

, Quarterly Newsletter – Summer 2023

The cast of The Acorn Dramatic Arts Camp’s inaugural year takes a final bow following their performance of The Wizard of Oz on July 13, 2023. 

That’s a wrap on the first year of The Acorn Dramatic Arts Camp! This group worked so hard to put a successful production of The Wizard of Oz up on The Acorn’s stage, and were all so delighted to see such a full, receptive house to see the final production. 

Campers came from all corners of the region – with all levels of theater experience – to participate in the inaugural year of TADA camp. Starting on June 19th, we welcomed a total of 15 kids, ranging from age 8-14, to learn elements of acting, improvisation, musical theater, lighting design, and set building. 

Early on, campers were able to hear the experiences and stories of theater experts from around the region to establish a foundation for theatrical productions, and by the end of the first week of our four week camp, auditions for the production were held. From there, the group built this show from the ground up, working with our camp staff and Acorn Board members alike to work on costuming, sets, character development, music, and (of course) memorizing their lines. 

We are so proud of the work that was put into the first year of TADA camp, and were delighted to see that spark ignite for a love and appreciation of theater. We can’t wait to see what this program holds in the future, and would like to give a special thanks to those who helped put this together: Cassidy Vlietstra, Vicki Bryant, Michael Bond, Ginny Weynkamp, Kris Zook, Tim McFeeters, Elise Bradford, Belle Schmidt, Catherine Doll, Janet Davies, Chris Preston, Amy Black, the Little Theater of Bedford (special shoutout to Mr. Jeff), and the Monday Musical Club for their sponsorship of this program.


Andrew Delaney Announced the Winner of The Acorn’s 2023 Singer-Songwriter Competition
Top Six Finalists Turned in Stellar Performances 

, Quarterly Newsletter – Summer 2023

Pictured left to right: Reece Sullivan, Stone & Snow (Clint Thompson and Karen Bridges), Maggie Kubley, Kelly Hoppenjans, Sarah King, Andrew Delaney

The 2023 Acorn Singer-Songwriter Competition saw a Top Six that consisted of seasoned and incredibly talented musicians from geographical locations ranging from Texas to Louisiana to Vermont, along with Ohio, Indiana and Michigan. 

Kelly Hoppenjans, Reece Sullivan, Andrew Delaney, Maggie Kubley, Sarah King, and duo Stone & Snow took the stage to wow The Acorn audience and our judges panel – independent musician and Acorn Singer-Songwriter Alum Abbie Thomas, Acorn Talent Buyer Donnie Biggins, and producer Lance Werner.

After serious deliberation, the judges advanced Andrew Delaney, Reece Sullivan and Stone & Snow to the Top 3 and each artist performed again. The audience cast their vote and this year’s winner was named – Andrew Delaney from Arlington, Texas!

Cincinnati, Ohio duo Stone & Snow was awarded second place, and Reece Sullivan of Lafayette, Louisiana took third place.


Art at The Acorn Celebrates the Visual Arts
New Initiative to Continue in September and Beyond

, Quarterly Newsletter – Summer 2023
The Acorn Center for the Performing Arts transforms into a visual art space with our new initiative, Art at The Acorn. We are open for Artist Submissions for consideration for a future exhibition.

Our current Artist, Frank Kurland, will continue to be on view through the end of the month. Artwork exhibitions rotate once approximately every three months. One Artist is featured during each exhibition/rotation period. Depending on size, generally up to ten to twenty pieces can be displayed.

photo: Artwork by Frank Kurland. Kurland, our current Art at The Acorn featured Artist, will continue to be on view through the end of August.

Upcoming rotation periods are:

  • September through November 2023
  • December 2023 through February 2024
  • March through May 2024
  • June through August 2024

If selected to be a featured Artist for Art at The Acorn, additional exhibition terms will be discussed and a written agreement will be required. Transportation and installation of artwork is the responsibility of the Artist. Artists must also provide their own insurance coverage and have the ability to take payment for the sale of their work.

Interested Artists should fill out an Art at The Acorn Artist Submission Form.


The Return of The Acorn’s Spectacular Tournament of Playwrights Slated for November
Six Finalists to Compete

, Quarterly Newsletter – Summer 2023

We are thrilled to announce the return of the Spectacular Tournament of Playwrights to The Acorn! Our reading committee has spoken, and we recently announced the six finalists whose work will be brought to life on The Acorn’s stage on Saturday, November 4th

With the help of Twin City Players in St. Joseph and the Beckwith Theatre in Dowagiac, we will be bringing the finalist’s work to life on The Acorn stage, bringing in stage talent from our corner of Southwest Michigan. Our judges will narrow down the works to the top three finalists, where the audience will vote to determine which one of our writers will win our 2023 competition!

photo: Our 2023 Finalists are Kyle P. Berry, Susan Meadows, Larry Nielsen, George Platz, Shawn Samuelson Henry and Steven Satta.


Program Recap


Check out some of these recent moments at The Acorn.

, Quarterly Newsletter – Summer 2023The Acorn is proud to celebrate pride year after year with our friends at Harbor Country Pride. Club Rainbow was a fun-filled evening of drag, dancing, and most importantly LOVE! Our theater was bursting with PRIDE by the end of the night.

, Quarterly Newsletter – Summer 2023It was entirely fitting to kick off the inaugural Acorn Music Festival with our friends The Bergamot on June 16th. Over the course of the 3-day weekend, 23 artists took to the stage – two stages, in fact, with the use of our balcony stage, which was constructed just for the event. Headliners Alejandro Escovedo, Shemekia Copeland, Cracker and Son Volt were joined by The Crane Wives, Aaron Lee Tasjan, May Erlewine, The Bergamot, and many other talented artists in this first-ever event of its kind at The Acorn.

, Quarterly Newsletter – Summer 2023The Acorn returned to Fernwood for another Acorn Anywhere performance, this time featuring Second Hand News! The tunes of Fleetwood Mac combined with Fernwood's beautiful atmosphere made for the perfect evening. Guests enjoyed refreshments from River Saint Joe while lounging in lawn chairs or dancing in the garden. Thank you to Fernwood for having us!

, Quarterly Newsletter – Summer 2023Little Miss Ann Band delighted our audience with a positive, upbeat and engaging show centered around fun for the entire family as part of our new Acorn Tree House series! There is one date remaining this summer – Saturday, August 26th featuring Campfire Stu. Come on out with your family! Mike Struwin’s Campfire Stu tastefully melds silliness with sincerity.


Schedule of Shows

, Quarterly Newsletter – Summer 2023

Shemekia Copeland performs at The Acorn Music Festival on June 16, 2023. Photo courtesy of D. Anson Brody.

Friday, August 25
Illegal Smiles: A Tribute To John Prine

Saturday, August 26
The Acorn Tree House presents Campfire Stu

Saturday, August 26
Devon Allman & Donavon Frankenreiter

Sunday, August 27
Midwest Made – Lake Effect Jazz Big Band

Friday, September 1
An Evening With BoDeans SOLD OUT

Saturday, September 2
Rocks Off: A Tribute To Rolling Stones

Sunday, September 3
The 1985 - Totally '80s Tribute: A CLUB ACORN Show

Friday, September 8
Tuba Skinny  A CLUB ACORN Show

Saturday, September 9
Marrakesh Express – A Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young Experience

Friday, September 15
Brooklyn Charmers - The Music of Steely Dan

Saturday, September 16
Duke Tumatoe & The Power Trio

Sunday, September 17
Open Mic Night Featuring Riely O’Connor and Molly B. Moon

Friday, September 22
CJ Chenier & The Red Hot Louisiana Band - A CLUB ACORN Show

Saturday, September 23
Lilly Hiatt w/ Nathan Graham

Friday, September 29
SuperBlue: Kurt Elling & Charlie Hunter

Saturday, September 30
The Music of Simon & Garfunkel

Sunday, October 1
Rodney Crowell: The Chicago Sessions Tour with Special Guest Laurel Lewis

Friday, October 6
Meagan McNeal "Do it with Love" Benefit Concert for Neighbor by Neighbor

Saturday, October 7
An Evening with Shovels & Rope

Friday, October 13
Dave Bruzza of Greensky Bluegrass

Saturday, October 14

Friday, October 20
Billy Elton — Tribute to Billy Joel & Elton John

Saturday, October 21
Led Zeppelin 2

Sunday, October 22
Open Mic Night - Youth Night!

Friday, October 27
Henhouse Prowlers

Saturday, October 28
Boo Ball Featuring Expo ‘76 and The Shams Band

Friday, November 3
The Erly Album Release w/ Kelly Hoppenjans

Saturday, November 4
2023 Spectacular Tournament of Playwrights

Friday, November 10
The Claudettes w/ Maggie Kubley

Saturday, November 11
Corky Siegel

Sunday, November 12
Open Mic Night

Friday, November 17
Mike Struwin + Mark Ficks – A Midwest Made Show

Saturday, November 18
Echoes of Pompeii

Wednesday, November 22
Dancing Queen: An ABBA Salute

Friday, November 24
Dancing Queen: An ABBA Salute

Saturday, November 25
The Acorn Tree House Presents Sean Masterson's Timeless Magic


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