Quarterly Newsletter – Winter 2024

Executive Director | Interview with an Acorn Artist | Volunteer Spotlight | Acorn News | Acorn Updates


Letter from the Executive Director

, Quarterly Newsletter – Winter 2024

Dear Friends of The Acorn,

It’s hard to believe we're already well into 2024, and what an exciting season we have planned!

After an eventful year-end in 2023 – full of thrilling concerts and family events celebrating the season; community recitals, in-school music education programs, and free film screenings; and sending off 2023 with a massive party featuring Shemekia Copeland and Nathan Graham – we are looking forward to sharing more unforgettable, one-and-only live experiences this spring.

We are so grateful to partner with The Pokagon Fund on an upcoming new program just for students of River Valley High School and New Buffalo High School, providing free movie nights and an opportunity for teens to gather together in our space. We've also hosted our second year of The Acorn’s Dance Showcase; this year expanded to feature 8 area dance studios over 6 weeks, and though weather impacted some of the earlier showcase dates, the series finished strong with impressive performances of dancers of all ages and styles.

The Acorn was glad to partner with Detroit's Theatre Thirty3 on Annie Baker's award-winning play, Circle Mirror Transformation in January, and very much look forward to bringing more theatrical offerings to Three Oaks!

With upcoming announcements of exciting new artists, returning musical favorites, new initiatives and programming, and community partnerships – The Acorn truly is a home for arts, live music, and cultural shared experiences in Harbor Country. We can't wait for you to join us this spring; thank you for being a part of the momentum into 2024!


, Quarterly Newsletter – Winter 2024

Ashley Magnus
Executive Director



Interview with an Acorn Artist

, Quarterly Newsletter – Winter 2024

Aaron Lee Tasjan

Aaron Lee Tasjan has cultivated a brilliant and outstanding career, which is to be made all the richer with the April release of his latest album, Stellar Evolution. The album is just what the title suggests – truly the sum of all of the parts of Aaron Lee’s diverse accomplishments to date (which include singer, songwriter, guitarist, producer, band leader, activist, and Grammy nominee) while clearly heading in a brand-new direction. Stellar Evolution is a career defining work and a major leap forward for someone who’s never been afraid to push the boundaries of any and all expectations.

The forthcoming Stellar Evolution is being described as “a striking collection of hyper pop, indie rock, 80s synths and angular guitars. With his trademark sardonic wit, Aaron Lee shares poignant self observations and reflections on the world at large, that are a clarion call and safe space for anyone who has been made to feel other.”

Aaron Lee has been working his way towards a record like this since he first started making solo albums, with 2015’s In the Blazes. He stuck to an alt-country paradigm early in his career, though he knew that all of his favorite artists were the ones who broke out of their own boxes. His approach to that changed when he began to be more open about his queer identity.

“I realized that part of being an artist means building a community. What do you want that community to look like? Who do you want to be a part of that community? As an artist, it’s your job to curate that, and to be a reflection of what you wanna see in the world,” he says. “I gradually got braver to share more and more of myself through each record, and the music just kinda had to follow suit.”

As he was writing, times became very dark for the queer community in the South. Bathroom bans and drag bans were enacted in Tennessee, while right-wing rhetoric around LGBT people became uglier and uglier. Tasjan knew this album needed to reflect the vibrant community that has become home to him. “You don’t wanna think that you live in a time where people are still so vocal about the hatred that they have for each other. But it’s something that I think we’re seeing the whole world over,” he says. “I felt like it was really important to let people know that they’re not alone, that we’re all in this fight together and that we see each other, and that we’re gonna do what this community always does, which is come together and have each other’s backs…”

We’re looking forward to Aaron Lee’s Stellar Evolution tour stop at The Acorn on Saturday, April 20th!

Q: Who and what are your biggest musical influences?

A:  There are far too many artists, bands, singers, instrumentalists and producers that have influenced me to whittle it down to a concise list. I’ve just always absorbed, listened to, and appreciated tons of different kinds of music. I’ve also studied Jazz and Classical guitar so I have many points of entry for inspiration. 🙂.

Q:  In our inaugural Acorn Music Festival last summer, you were a stand-out, a fan-favorite for sure. You’re playing The Acorn again on Saturday, April 20th. What can fans expect from you for this show?

A:  This tour is centered around the release of my new album, Stellar Evolution, so we’ll be playing a good number of songs from the album plus some songs people have known for a few years now, like Little Movies and Memphis Rain. I’ve been so happy with how the new music has come together though. The band is sounding super fresh and exciting.

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

A:  Gosh, this is another pretty much impossible one to answer. Lately it’s been: Lizzie No, Adeem The Artist, Kim Richey, Outkast and Butthole Surfers, but it’s always changing.

Q:  Did you always want to be a musician? What advice would you give to young artists?

A:  I decided I wanted to play music for the rest of my life when I was 12 years old. I was playing guitar for about a year and had a natural talent for it and confessed to my Mom one day I would rather just play music during the day than go to school. Haha. 

My advice for young artists who want to make music into a career is to try to be focused on developing their music and not fall victim to the headspace of being obsessed with achieving some sort of fame through music. If you work to become a great, lyrical songwriter and singer who can play an instrument well enough to understand the mechanics of rhythm and harmony, you will be an indispensable musical resource no matter what role you choose to inhabit in your career.

Q:  What is your favorite memory from a live performance (of your own or someone else’s)?

A: Once in Mexico, I found myself on stage singing and playing with Kevn Kinney, Chuck Prophet, Peter Buck and John Paul Jones. That was a truly magical evening!

Q:  Anything else you think our Acorn audience would like to know about?

A:  I love performing and playing live so much and I’m so grateful that I have been given the extraordinary opportunity to call it my life’s work. I am enormously grateful to each and every person who buys a ticket to my show and I promise to give it everything I have up there. I can’t wait to have a memorable evening together at The Acorn!

The Acorn thanks Aaron Lee Tasjan for taking the time to be interviewed! We’re looking forward to his Stellar Evolution tour stop at The Acorn on Saturday, April 20th. Tickets are selling quickly!




Volunteer Spotlight

Bernadette (Bernie) Rapaich

, Quarterly Newsletter – Winter 2024

When Bernadette (also fondly known around The Acorn as Bernie) moved back to Southwest Michigan from spending eight years in Kalamazoo, she found herself missing the art, culture and community she had discovered there. Coming from Bridgman, Kalamazoo felt like a big city to Bernie and she fell in love with all kinds of local art there. She wanted to be more involved in the community here after her return to the area and also find ways to spend time with other people who were equally passionate about the arts. In Bernadette’s words, “The Acorn seemed like that kind of place.” 

Bernadette joined the ranks as a volunteer in July 2023 and hasn’t looked back since. She describes The Acorn as “delightfully unique” and says it is “full of beautiful, welcoming people.” The treasured relationships Bernie has formed keep her coming back to The Acorn time and time again. She says, “I think I came for the music and stayed for the people.”  

In the eight months Bernie has been volunteering her time at The Acorn she has given close to 100 hours of service. She has also recently been added to our Board of Directors. We are grateful for her dedication to The Acorn and our community, and look forward to many years together in service to arts and culture!

In Bernadette’s career, she works in clinical mental health. She currently serves as a medical social worker at a hospital in the ER. She has previously worked as a therapist in private practice, which she hopes to make her way back to one day. 

Q: What are your hobbies/pleasures in life?

A: I’m pretty wild about nature; learning about it, and spending time in it; I’ve always found it essential to my mental health. I spend a lot of time hiking in the woods or walking the beach (searching for beach glass) with my dog, Louie! I also love expressing myself through art; photography, writing, painting, and all kinds of creative mediums. I love reading; a rainy day, at home with a book? Perfection. Of course, spending time with friends and family, I am completely obsessed with my nieces (ages 4 & 2), and I spend as much time with them as I can. Mental health and social justice are incredibly important to me. I enjoy learning and advocacy around these areas.

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

A: Of course, there are so many, quite a few include the kind of shows where, by the end the entire place is dancing- including the volunteers. One specific memory is – before a show, Rasa had surprised everyone with an “End of the summer picnic,” an assortment of snacks and sweets and small cups of iced coffee was laid out on top of a red and white gingham picnic blanket. We all toasted to a lovely summer season. I remember feeling so happy I started volunteering that summer and was looking forward to my experience at The Acorn continuing into another season.

Q: Who is your favorite musician you've seen perform at The Acorn? What did you love about them?

A: This question may be harder than my favorite memory. How does one choose?! I love the open mic nights and the songwriting competitions, I’m endlessly blown away by the talent all around us. I enjoyed the whole Midwest Made series. If I can pick two, The Michigan Rattlers was the very first show I volunteered at, making it inherently special, but I also love that they are Michigan natives and I am a big fan of all kinds of folk music. I also loved Second Hand News at Fernwood, it doesn’t get more magical than Fleetwood Mac music, in late summer, outside in the gardens.

Q: Are you a bookworm? Who is your favorite author and/or what is your favorite book?

A: I am a proud, lifelong bookworm, it's something my parents fostered intentionally in my sister and me growing up. I love any excuse to go to a bookstore. I am currently reading Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney. I’m a fan of all of her books. It's fascinating how she is able to describe complex relationships and emotions.

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

A: A speech I wrote was selected as the commencement address at my graduate school graduation.

Q: How do you define success?

A: Success to me is contentment, or feeling at peace with my life. Happiness like any emotion comes and goes and, unfortunately or fortunately, I’ve never been motivated by money. To me, contentment looks like being grateful, spending time doing things I enjoy and find fulfilling, always growing and challenging myself, and making a positive impact whenever I can.


Acorn  News

Art at The Acorn – Chris Brown Awakening
Visual Arts Initiative Continues – Open for Submissions

, Quarterly Newsletter – Winter 2024
Current Art at The Acorn Artist Chris Brown answers audience questions guided by Janet Davies at an Artist Reception February 2, 2024 for Chris’s exhibition Awakening, currently on view at The Acorn through March.

Art at The Acorn has brought our physical space to life in exciting ways. The performing arts can be complemented in a special way by the visual arts. With our first two exhibitions which featured Frank Kurland and Nicolina Holt, and this latest body of work from painter Chris Brown, we see the impact that a cohesive installation of art can have on our unique space and the experience of those who enter our doors. 

Chris was born and raised in the Detroit area, graduated from Michigan State University, moved to Chicago, wrote fiction, played in bands, dabbled in photography, graduated from the University of Chicago, worked and worked some more, bought a place in Three Oaks, discovered painting during the pandemic and can't stop.

Awakening follows Chris’s painting from about a year into his journey, when he started working in oils. Using multiple layers, free-form gestures and geometric shapes, Chris’s works are designed to engage the viewer up close and from afar, and evoke interpretation on an individual level.

Photography was the first visual art medium to capture Chris’s attention, so much so that he once considered it for a career. Instead, it served as a hobby on-and-off over the years. But in the depths of the pandemic, a very special person put a paint brush in Chris’s hand for the first time – something he describes as ‘life-changing.’

“In an age of uncertainty and isolation, painting provided — and still provides — much-needed doses of immersion, escape and joy. My newfound passion for painting is also proof that it's never too late in life to take on new endeavors, creative or otherwise.” –Chris Brown

We remain open for Artist Submissions for consideration for a future exhibition. 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.

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

For more information on Art at The Acorn and our current exhibition, please visit our website.


Art Attack 2024 – Celebrating 30 Years
The Acorn Hosts Launch Party: Faces of Harbor Country on April 25

, Quarterly Newsletter – Winter 2024

The Acorn celebrates the kickoff of Art Attack Weekend in Harbor Country with a unique art event featuring live portrait creation with notable Harbor Country models, appetizers, cash bar, and live music with Patti Shaffner and Buddy Pearson.

Five Harbor Country Influencers, if you will, will be sitting for portraits that will come to life before your eyes during this live portrait session held as part of the Launch Party for Art Attack Weekend! Allen Turner, Suzanna Bierwirth, Zach Hackett, Bridget Verdun and Abby Voss & Travis Worden each touch our community through the work they do and the energy they bring to the region. Watch as talented artists David Baker, Eric Bradford, Lea Bult, Jessica Hightower and Zech Ray capture the spirit of these notable models.

Portraits will be available for purchase through silent auction. Proceeds of these art sales will be shared equally between the artists and Art Attack.

You might even choose to sit for a quick sketch portrait of your own with guest caricaturist Kenjji.

Come celebrate the biggest art weekend of the year in Harbor Country, and commemorate the 30th year of Art Attack!


3rd Annual Midwest Made Summer Concert Series Returns
Ten Summer Sundays Put the Focus on Local Talent and Artistry

, Quarterly Newsletter – Winter 2024
Our 2024 Midwest Made summer concert series puts the focus on local and regional artists to support their growth. Summer 2024 features six new artists with four returning from the 2023 season.

Our 3rd Annual Midwest Made summer concert series kicks off on Sunday, June 23rd with the eclectic soul music of Sankofa. The Benton Harbor band has performed the previous two years of the Midwest Made series which puts the focus on local and regional artists to help support their growth and celebrate their artistry. 

2024 will feature other Midwest Made alumni – from the heavy blues of Resurrection Blues Band to the enthusiastic mix of funk, jazz, and rock from PlayHouse to the classic sounds of Lake Effect Jazz Big Band. The summer season will also bring music from six new artists – the harmony driven female trio The Backups, indie bluegrass band Help Hounds, rocker Kelly Hoppenjans, folk duo Stone & Snow, rising star Abbie Thomas with her band The Crazy Hearts, and singer-songwriter Tim Stop

Notably, four of this year’s artists are former finalists in our Acorn Singer-Songwriter Competition – Abbie Thomas (2019 and 2022), Tim Stop (2022), Kelly Hoppenjans (2023) and Stone & Snow (2023). An esteemed group of alumni!

Concerts begin at 7pm ET each Sunday night from June 23rd through August 25th. Season tickets are available for both general admission and reserved seating.


Announcing the 12th Annual Acorn Singer-Songwriter Competition
Perennial Fan-Favorite Contest Returns to Support Original Artists

, Quarterly Newsletter – Winter 2024


Calling all singer-songwriters! Our 12th Annual Acorn Singer-Songwriter Competition will be opening for submissions on Thursday, March 7th! Get those creative juices flowing. All the information on how to enter our competition will be coming soon.

Six singer-songwriters will be selected as Finalists to perform on Friday, July 19th. During the Finals, the top three Finalists will be chosen by a panel of judges and will then perform in Round Two. The audience votes on the winner and runner-up. Finalists are considered for other Acorn shows and recommended for other area events. Cash prizes will be awarded.

The contest began in 2013 with James Neary taking the title. Since that time, rising stars such as Joe George, Emma Hamel and Scott Hildebrand have been awarded the top prize, with notable finalists each year as well. Most recently, Andrew Delaney was named the winner of the 2023 competition. Four past Finalists are returning to The Acorn this year for our Midwest Made summer concert series. Who will win the title this year?


Program Recap


Check out some of these recent moments at The Acorn.

, Quarterly Newsletter – Winter 2024

The Acorn rang in the New Year with the one and only Shemekia Copeland! The evening was filled with talent as Nathan Graham took the stage first. Both artists wowed the crowd. Everyone in the house lifted a glass of champagne to a Happy 2024! 

, Quarterly Newsletter – Winter 2024

May Erlewine returned to The Acorn on February 3rd, with fellow Michigan singer-songwriter Eric O’Daly. In a beautiful night of storytelling and songs, the audience was captivated by the intimate performances of both artists.

, Quarterly Newsletter – Winter 2024

The Acorn proudly presented Annie Baker’s award-winning play Circle Mirror Transformation in partnership with Theatre Thirty3 of Detroit in January. Director Dennis North brought his inspiring approach to the project. The cast of incredibly talented actors connected with our audience for three performances and talk-back events. Congratulations and thank you to Peter Carey, Alyssia Rogers, Jeannine Thompson, Justin Gnagi and Ashley Croft.

, Quarterly Newsletter – Winter 2024

(from left to right) Mya Franklin, Claudia Engeln, and Nola Engeln from Sawyer Dance Academy perform Welcome to Wonderland, a tea party themed lyrical trio choreographed by Belle Schmidt. The performance was part of Sawyer Dance Academy’s Acorn Dance Showcase event on Sunday, January 28. For the second year, The Acorn presented a series of Sunday afternoon dance events featuring local dance programs. Sawyer Dance Academy showcased their competitive Sawyer Dance Troupe who say they enjoy this opportunity to perform for friends, family, and their community. Photo credit: Chuck Osgood.


What's Next

Friday, March 01 
Peach Jam - A Tribute To The Allman Brothers Band

Saturday, March 02 
Cesar Rosas of Los Lobos & The Chi-Town Playboys

Sunday, March 03 
Three Oaks Flag Day Prince and Princess Pageant

Friday, March 08 
Despite The Smoke w/ Jack Cunningham

Saturday, March 09 
Glen Phillips of Toad the Wet Sprocket at The Acorn w/ Chris Pureka

Sunday, March 10 
Beth Orton

Thursday, March 14 
Open Mic Night featuring Jack Whittle

Friday, March 15 
Great Lake Swimmers

Saturday, March 16 
Fruition w/ Willy Tea Taylor

Wednesday, March 20
American Red Cross Blood Drive

Friday, March 22 
Church Of Cash

Saturday, March 23 

Friday, March 29 
Frontier Ruckus

Saturday, March 30 
Louisiana Calling with The Sonny Landreth Band and The Iguanas

Friday, April 05 
Miles Nielsen & The Rusted Hearts

Saturday, April 06
Billy Elton — Tribute to Billy Joel & Elton John

Friday, April 12
Kruger Brothers

Saturday, April 13 
The Fortunate Sons: A Tribute To Creedence Clearwater Revival

Friday, April 19 
Midnight North

Saturday, April 20 
Aaron Lee Tasjan w/ Molly Martin

Sunday, April 21 
Alejandro Escovedo

Thursday, April 25 
Art Attack Launch Party: Faces of Harbor Country

Friday, April 26 
An Evening with Patricia Barber - A Benefit for School of American Music

Saturday, April 27 
The Music of Dolly Parton

Friday, May 03 
Earthwork Music Collective

Saturday, May 04 
Marrakesh Express: Crosby, Stills, & Nash — Their Debut Album

Friday, May 10 
Corky Siegel's Chamber Blues

Friday, May 17 
Jackie Venson

Saturday, May 18 
Matthew Logan Vasquez w/ Justin & The Cosmics

Sunday, May 19 
School of American Music Student Recital

Sunday, June 23 
Sankofa – Midwest Made

Sunday, June 30 
The Backups – Midwest Made

Friday, July 05 
The Jayhawks

Sunday, July 07 
Resurrection Blues Band – Midwest Made

Sunday, July 14 
Help Hounds – Midwest Made

Sunday, July 21 
Kelly Hoppenjans – Midwest Made

Sunday, July 28 
PlayHouse – Midwest Made

Sunday, August 04 
Stone & Snow – Midwest Made

Sunday, August 11
Abbie Thomas & The Crazy Hearts – Midwest Made

Sunday, August 18 
Tim Stop – Midwest Made

Sunday, August 25
Lake Effect Jazz Big Band – Midwest Made

Saturday, November 9 
Marrakesh Express: Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young — Deja Vu



    • 2024 Acorn Music Festival announcements
    • Harbor Country Pride
    • The Acorn Dramatic Arts Camp (TADA) for youth 
    • Spectacular Tournament of Playwrights news