Not only is Wilton home to a new non-profit organization to promote the performing arts, but the town will also play host to the group’s first annual Family Day Free Concert, on Sunday, Aug. 26, at Merwin Meadows.

Even more exciting? Headlining the concert is Bakithi Kumalo, who plays bass for Paul Simon. Kumalo was the original bassist on Simon’s Graceland album, and is taking a short break from Simon’s current tour to bring his all-star “Graceland Experience” band to Wilton.

The concert is a kick off for the Connecticut Friends of the Performing Arts, a new organization based in Wilton that is committed to seeing the performing arts thrive in the community. The CTFOPA’s stated mission is to:

  • Promote the outdoor performing arts as well as the development of a performing arts facility at Schenck’s Island.
  • Provide funding for merit-based scholarships to be awarded annually to graduating high school students pursuing the performing arts in college
  • Provide a forum for other non-profits in Wilton to create awareness, drive membership, participation and support for their activities
  • Promote local merchants and stimulate business activity
  • Enhance the image and reputation of Wilton as a fun place to visit and live as well as a recognized show stop between NYC and Boston for performing artists

Kumalo’s work is incredibly memorable, as CTFOPA’s executive director Raymond Bryant can attest. “He changed my world with that bass break on ‘You Can Call Me Al,’ ‘Diamonds on the Soles,’ ‘Boy in the Bubble,’ etc.”.

Bryant is also is part of one of the other acts performing at the concert, opening the show with his family-friendly Jay and Ray duo at 3 p.m.. They’ll be followed at 4:15 p.m. by Idle Kyle, and then Graceland Experience takes the stage at 5:30 p.m..

Bryant co-founded CTFOPA with fellow Wilton resident Andy DiLoreto, who also has a passion for the performing arts. Quickly the two bonded over how that interest could benefit the town, and they’re hoping to keep music front and center as part of the town’s Schenck’s Island/Merwin Meadows renovation plans.

“Ray and I met in the coffee shop. My wife is involved in the Conservation Commission, so I knew about what the town has been trying to do with Schenck’s Island. We talked about ideas around all the pieces to help support our mission–have a downtown area facility for music, help out the downtown businesses, help out local non-profits, it would be fantastic. We have a group of people and it expanded from there,” DiLoreto says.

The concert idea fell into place thanks to Bryant’s professional contacts.

“Ray had an opportunity to participate with the Graceland Band. It was through his connection, the opportunity to bring someone of that quality to Wilton, we were very fortunate to have that,” DiLoreto says.

He adds that CTFOPA wants to have a wholistic impact, for both attracting people to patronize area businesses as well as providing a platform for other non-profit groups in town. To that end, organizers have invited other Wilton-based non-profits to participate and showcase what they do at the concert.  

With the concert happening right before school starts, and Wilton families settling in after summer vacation, it’s an ideal Sunday event. It is free to attend, but organizers say CTFOPA is self-funding and they welcome any donations.

For more information, visit the CT Friends of the Performing Arts website.

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